Friday, September 05, 2008

A Boat Full of Fish Isn't the Point

So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed him (Luke 5:11).

I’m thinking this morning about Simon’s boat. It’s a minor character in the story, a silent supporting role. But the real meaning of the story we’ve been looking at this week is captured in the boat.

At the start: Jesus is teaching, backed knee-deep into the water by the crowd. What to do? He sees the boat. An ordinary boat put to sacred use. Jesus does that – loaves and fishes, bread and wine, spitting in dirt to heal blind eyes. And speaking God’s word from a boat.

In the middle: The boats nearly sink from the huge draw of fish. Full boats mean strong sales, a good day at market and a significant profit margin. A full boat means success.

Final scene: the boat is unloaded and left on shore. No more fish, no more fishermen. They’ve left it all to follow Jesus.

It seems that the boat full of fish is what grabs our attention. It’s the miracle moment. Simon has fished all night to no avail, but when he goes out with Jesus he gets more than he can manage by himself. He calls for help and dumps loads of fish in the boats.

That’s an exciting moment, but here’s the danger: Plenty of people are waiting for Jesus to fill their boats. But boats full of fish are not the point.

We do better to notice how Jesus takes the ordinary things of our work-a-day world and puts them to sacred use. Nets and internet, boats and board meetings, fish and finances. The purposes of God get worked out in all of those things.

And we should take particular note of the boats left on the shore. The dormant vessel signals the close of one drama and the start of a new one. Catching fish takes a back seat to catching people. Boats pulled up on shore and left there make it clear that Jesus changes everything.

We don’t follow Jesus as the key to getting boatloads of blessing. We don’t obey the word of Jesus so that we’ll be successful and make a killing in the market place. That might happen – but it’s not the point.

The point is Jesus. Grace rearranges our lives. We get a glimpse of who Jesus is and it puts us on our knees in worship and confession. We see who Jesus is, and suddenly our full boats are not as important to us as we once thought they might be.

Must everyone who follows Jesus leave their day job? No. But for followers of Jesus, the day job is a place to serve Christ. That’s a shift from simply asking Christ to bless your day job. A boat full of fish is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the point. Following Jesus is.

Lord Jesus, you are at the center of it all. The story of our life is about you – not about achieving success or breaking sales records or boasting in our full boats. Above all, we want to follow you. We give you thanks for every blessing, and we hold them all loosely, ready to go wherever you might lead us. Amen.

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