Do you ever feel like life is hard work? I sometimes wonder whether one of the reasons people turn to God or to the Church is because life is such hard work. That in the midst of the struggle and the toil of life we hear the words .. come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest! And in those words we seek comfort and help!
I’ve got some bad news for you this morning .. that is the not the whole Christian message. In our passages this morning we are reminded that when we seek to follow Jesus it can be really hard work!! Let’s re-read our Gospel passage with a mind on how the disciples to-be must have felt in this encounter with Jesus. On what was a normal working day as the fishermen are undertaking the painstaking and yet essential work of washing their nets this man Jesus arrives followed by a great crowd of people.
Now the last thing you want when you are busy doing an essential job is a crowd of people turning up. You know what it is like … you want to get on with something but suddenly there is the hustle and bustle of people watching what you are doing .. asking questions about what you are up to .. children picking things up and knocking things over so that you become so frustrated you almost want to give up!
This is how we find the fisherman Simon. And just as he is about to give up on the days work Jesus speaks to him .. and what does he say .. “Simon come and sit over here and have a rest .. come and listen to my words and relax for a while” .. no not at all Jesus says .. can you get the boat ready again and push it back out onto the lake for me.
How would Simon have felt? We know how he would have felt because we have all been there .. asked to do something which was going to take time and effort , both of which we have already almost run out of .. but Simon agrees. He ties up his robes again and, with not a little effort, unties the boat and starts to heave it off the beach into the water. So Jesus starts to speak to the crowds and all Simon really wants is for the sermon to be over so he can go and get on with his life .. you know the feeling well I’m sure!
So when the sermon is over Jesus looks at Simon and what does he say .. “ thanks Simon I really appreciate your efforts ..let me help tie the boat back up for you and you go home and have a nap .. you look exhausted” .. no not at all .. he says ‘Simon, get the nets you have just finished washing and row out onto the lake .. and not just a little way out .. row into the deep water in the middle of the lake and throw your nets out for a catch!
What is going on in Simon’s head … you have got be kidding … in fact he says as much .. Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything .. what would you or I have said … how often do we feel like this in our call to follow Jesus in our lives and do the right thing .. to obey Jesus command to love and care for one another .. and to pray for one another and our world .. how often when we are at home ready to have a cup of tea and listen to the Archers do we feel a sense of Jesus words to set out in our boat and we respond Lord I am weary and have tried it before and .. well to be honest Lord it feels like too much hard work.
But Simon sets out and the rest of the story we would expect to be one of joy and relief and celebration as we here of this great catch of fish. Try and imagine yourself again as Simon .. tired and weary and suddenly he has a huge number of fish in his nets .. and he needs to find the strength to pull these fish in .. it’s all very well this miracle but it’s even more hard work for the disciples of Jesus when He gives them success .. be careful what you pray for if you want an easy life! Simon not only has to start heaving these fish on board .. but the nets he has been carefully washing and mending start to break!! What a disaster .. I wonder of He is thinking Lord why have you done this .. look at what’s happening .. this is my livelihood being shredded!
The blessing of Jesus is not without it’s burden. This is the message of Simon’s call to follow Christ! Simon has to call for help .. how embarrassing .. asking his fellow workers to stop what they are doing and give him a hand. And things get worse as not only do the nets start to break but the boats begin to sink too .. the friends who have come to help start to shout and complain that Simon’s catch is damaging their precious livelihoods too!!
This is oftentimes what obedience to Jesus looks like my brothers and sisters … we will sometimes find ourselves angry and tired and overwhelmed as we work in the sinking boat of the Church with the breaking nets of our limited resources to try and bring in a catch which has come at the most inconvenient moment at great cost to our own wellbeing and health!
Simon is not alone in this experience .. decades later another disciple St Paul writes to the Church in Corinth by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
St Paul also set out to follow Jesus’ call and found himself shipwrecked and imprisoned and insulted and no doubt at the end of his tether too!
I invite you to reflect on the truth that Christian discipleship is hard work this morning .. not to depress you .. but to inspire you to see that when life is hard work and all your resources are spent .. when your nets are breaking and your boat is sinking .. it is not necessarily because anything has gone wrong .. in fact it can often be a sign that you are at the heart of Jesus plans for you and for the world!
What then can we rake to us encourage us in this journey which is often hard work and demands our obedience even when we don’t feel like following. Well as St Paul puts it .. it is not I but the grace of God that was with me. Don’t be afraid Jesus says to Peter. And he leaves on a journey with Jesus which .. let’s be honest was only going to get worse fo Peter. And yet like St Paul Peter will make this journey through the grace of God. We are called to that very same source of strength .. the grace of God .. to carry us through the moments of tiredness and strain in order that we might live in obedience to God and might follow Jesus in the world!
LUKE 5 v 1-11 and 1 CORINTHIANS 15 v 1-11