Sermon: Caught!

February 10, 2019
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Luke 5:1-11

There are so many ways you can hear the word, “Caught.”

Last week’s Super Bowl showed us the difference between a pass that’s “caught” and “incomplete” or, I suppose, “intercepted.” Last week’s game was the lowest scoring in Super Bowl history, and one of the few in which neither team scored a touchdown with a completed pass. Nevertheless, the most valuable player award went to Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who caught ten passes.

Caught is good.

Unless, of course, you’re a fish in the nets that Simon Peter, James, John, and presumably Simon’s brother Andrew struggled to get aboard their overburdened boats on the Sea of Galilee that day. The fish in those nets did not have a good day.

Caught is bad.

I’ve felt the delights of “caught” on those occasions when I’ve knocked a glass or mug off a counter and rescued it before it struck the floor. Caught is good. I’ve also writhed in discomfort on being caught with a misunderstanding, bad information, or just plain having a wrong opinion. Caught is bad. I’ve listened to my children laugh when I tossed them into the air and caught them again – that was a long time ago. I’ve also sat anxiously in the car waiting for the police officer who’d pulled me over to tell me what I’d done wrong.

Which was mostly driving with a tail light bulb that had gone out.

Simon – that’s the same person that Jesus would later nickname Peter – sounded like one of his own caught fish. “Go away from me, Lord,” he begged Jesus, “for I am a sinful man!”

As if he’d been caught. Not caught in the act of sinning – well, unless strong language while trying to retrieve a big catch of fish with nets whose strands were prating is a sin. I’m not much of an arbiter of sin, but I would guess that’s a pretty trivial one, if it’s one at all. The commandment against taking the Lord’s name in vain – that’s not about using words that make us cringe. No, it’s about lying, which should make us cringe even more.

I doubt that it was lying on Simon’s mind, either, as he blurted out the truth he believed of himself: he was unworthy of God’s attention. He had done things that set him apart. He had forfeited his relationship with God or the chosen ones of God.

D. Mark Davis writes, “It would be interesting to know what Simon means when he calls himself a ‘sinner.’ Whatever Simon has in mind by this statement does not deter Jesus from calling him to become a fisher of people. Jesus does not tell him to repent; He does not tell him to go and sin no more; he does not tell him to sell all that he has. Simon says that he is a sinner and Jesus calls him to become a fisher of people. Boom.”

Boom indeed.

Simon believed he’d been caught for punishment.

It turns out he’d been caught for something else.

He’d been caught to become a catcher.

He was caught as a person, to become someone to catch people.

Curiously, though, he was not caught in the way that he was accustomed to catch fish. He was a net fisherman. They would cast it over the side of the boat into deep water, let it sink, pull lines that trapped the fish inside, and haul it back aboard. It’s a high-volume method. Contrast it to an individual fishing line, which focuses the attention on a single fish. You get fewer fish that way, but you may be able to select a particular fish.

Jesus, I think, chose his fish. All this took place near Capernaum, where Jesus apparently lived up until he began his traveling ministry. Simon and Andrew, James and John: they fished the lake near Capernaum and probably sold their fish there.

Guesses of the population of Capernaum in Jesus’ day are around 1,500.

The chances are really good that Jesus had known Simon, Andrew, James, and John for some time.

He didn’t cast a net over them. He watched them, paid attention to them. He studied them, he chose them. Then he baited a hook, found a good lure, and dangled it in front of their eyes. As Karoline Lewis writes, “We would do well to remember that the extraordinary catch of fish happens in Jesus’ presence. These newly minted apostles don’t haul in the net of fish on their own.

“They don’t leave everything and follow Jesus because they are confident in their own abilities. They leave everything and follow Jesus because they are confident in Jesus’ command, ‘Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’”

That’s how they got caught.

It’s probably how we got caught, too. The longer I spend in faith and ministry, the less impressed I am with my own abilities. The longer I spend in faith and ministry, the more awed I am by the grace and power of God. It’s less and less about me. It’s more and more about God.

As Karoline Lewis continues: “Maybe, the promise of Jesus realized in the extraordinary catch of fish is not in what we can do, and even what our potential future might look like, but in what God can do. Maybe the amazing catch of fish is not to command what the apostles should do as loyal followers of Jesus but to witness to what God has done and will always do. We have ample evidence of God’s abundance made possible and visible in our actions toward bringing about the reign of God. And yet we are more often than not looking to give credit to our own capabilities instead of God’s faithfulness.”

Yes, that last line caught me, too. I may not be as impressed by my own abilities as I used to be, but I’m still likely to take credit for them.

Caught again.

Though Jesus may have caught his first followers selectively, they did end up being swept off in a net, carried away from their accustomed seashore and their well-worn homes. They joined in an extraordinary journey, and that began yet further journeys. Being caught by Jesus means change and movement and transformation. It’s a beginning, and a beginning of successive beginnings.

It could take you far. Or it could root you right here. Kathryn Matthews writes about hearing Mother Teresa speak: “I’ll never forget Mother Teresa’s words, or her calm, non-judgmental voice, that evening. She said that Americans are always saying they want to leave their lives here and go to India to work with her. Her response: ‘Stay here, right where you are, and love the people God has given you to love. Care for people right where you are.’”

Some of us may travel. I’m rather astonished to find that I’ve spanned nearly the entire United States from northeast to southwest. That was not what I’d planned. Some of you come from faraway places, not all of them in the US.

Some of us, on the other hand, may care for the people right where we are. To be honest, I hope that’s true of all of us here, at least at this point in our lives, that we are caught by Jesus to catch others here.

We’re caught by Jesus to catch others: catch them in the sense of rescue, of preventing falling people from striking the ground. Catch them in the sense of delight, a welcoming embrace in the midst of an often frightening world. Catch them in the sense of renewal, bringing to the surface the best of themselves. Catch them in the sense of inclusion, of acceptance into a vital community of love.

Caught, we catch. Catching, we are caught.


Listen to the Recorded Sermon


The differences between the prepared text and the delivered sermon are… improvements. Yes, let’s go with that.

The image is the painting John, Chapter XXI, by Ernani Constantini (John’s Gospel places the miraculous catch of fish after the resurrection of Jesus). CC BY-SA 3.0,

Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on February 10, 2019

Social Networks: RSS Facebook Twitter Google Stumble Upon Digg Reddit

1 Comment

  1. by MARK TROIA

    On February 15, 2019

    GO PATS!

Leave a Reply

close window

Service Times & Directions

Sunday School Classes

Sunday 8:45 am

Sunday Worship Service

Sunday 10:00 am

Adult Bible Study

Monday 6:30 pm, Wednesday 9:00 am

(International Young Adults Association)
Bible Study

Wednesday 7:30 pm

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga

(The Rev. Tevita) Sunday 1:00 pm Wednesday 7:00 pm (Sanctuary)

The United Church of Christ, Pohnpei - Hilo

(The Rev. Ichiro) Sunday 10:00 am (Bdg. of Faith)

The Samoan Church

(The Rev. Sunia) Sunday 4:00 pm (Sanctuary)

440 W. Lanikaula Street
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-1283