United Presbyterian Church of West Orange


by Rev. Rebecca Migliore

February 6, 2022


*In our anthem for the day, which will be played after Communion, we hear the familiar words of Jesus as he calls the disciples (and by extension us), “Come, follow me.”  Our composers continue the idea: “Come, follow me, for I will give you rest and bring you peace.  I am the Truth.  I am the Light.  I am the Resurrection and the Life.  And all who seek God’s grace must follow me.”

*On this Annual Meeting Day, it seems appropriate to be talking about being called—just like those disciples so long ago.  And yet, here is where we run into a snag.  That familiar story of Jesus saying “Come, follow me” comes from the gospels of Matthew and Mark.  Here in Luke the story is a little different.

*What happens in Luke’s gospel?  There are these fishermen mending their nets.  Jesus has been traveling around the countryside preaching in synagogues (even in his hometown).  He has been healing (in fact, he has already healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever).  He is not an unknown quantity.  He has been living in and around these fishing communities for some time

*And this day, the fishermen have returned from a very disappointing time of night fishing.  They are washing their nets but they are also aware of Jesus standing beside the lakeshore, teaching (with the crowd pressing in on him).  He gets into a boat belonging to Simon (does he recognize him from the healing?) and askes Simon to put out a little way from shore so more people can see and hear (which Simon does).

*After finishing his talk, he then says to Simon “Go back out and sink your nets for a catch” (even though these nets are the wrong ones for that time of day, and as Simon says, they have already been out and the fish are elsewhere).  They go anyway and the haul is so great it begins to sink their boat.

*We expect Simon to be praising God to the skies, but instead he sinks to his knees and tries to push Jesus away “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  [I wonder if the listeners to this passage would be hearing the prophet Isaiah’s words when he finds himself in God’s throne room “Woe is me.  For I am a man of unclean lips, living amidst a people of unclean lips.]

*Jesus, just as the angel in Isaiah, says “Do not be afraid” and foretells that in the future Simon’s catch will be people not fish.  When they get to shore the Scripture passage says, “they left everything and followed him.”

*Do you see my problem?  Jesus doesn’t say “Come, follow me.”  Jesus, in a gradual manner, invites Simon (and the others) into deeper and deeper involvement—until Simon, like Isaiah before him, decides to make a huge change and follow in the way of God.

*Sometimes we think that being called is like stumbling upon a neon billboard in our road of life.  It is clear.  It is concise.  It is demanding.  There are no other choices.  God has called.  You need to respond, NOW.  But this story suggests something else.  It suggests that Jesus doesn’t necessarily just pop into our lives in a single second.  Maybe God is hanging out with us.  Always at the *periphery of our lives.  Something we hear about now and again.  Someone who piques our interest.  And so, when Jesus shows up in our line of vision, and asks for a simple favor (“can I use your boat”?)—it doesn’t seem too life altering.  And then comes the offered suggestion that you try to do things a different way, and if you try it, it might bring unexpected results.

*I’m fascinated by Simon’s response to this largesse.  FEAR.  This is truly finding yourself awestruck in the face of something bigger and stronger than yourself.  “Get away from me” Simon pleads.  “I’m not worthy,” “I’m not that type of material,” “I’m not ready,” “I don’t want to have to work that hard,” “There must be better people than me.”  It’s a theme throughout the Testaments.  *From Moses “I can’t speak too well;” to Jeremiah “I’m too young,” to Mary, “How can this be since I don’t have a husband?”  Humans don’t think they are good candidates for God’s work.  And God keeps proving us wrong.  In the end of our story, when they get to shore, they leave everything and follow.

This is such a rich text and I have so little time this morning.  So I’ll leave you with a few questions for you to mull over in the coming days.

*1) What steps (even little steps) has God asked from you recently?

*2)  Is fear getting in the way of letting God lead us deeper and deeper into relationship?

*3)  What would evangelism (that is, how we approach the wider world) look like if we used a process more like Jesus’ gradual invitation? 

*4)  How can the metaphor of fishing give flesh to the story of God’s reign at work in our midst?  Where can we cast God’s saving word of justice, peace, and mercy into the deep social waters of hatred, oppression, and greed? (from Seasons, p. 160)

*In Luke, being called is not a thunderbolt from on high—it is like walking out into ever deepening waters.

In Luke, being called is not something without risk, without fear, without genuine soul-searching.

*In Luke, being called is an offered hand, a whispered assurance, an enticing possibility.

In Luke, it is up to us.  We have heard God’s beckoning.  We have seen impossible things.  We have returned to the shore, and pulled up our boats, and now we have a choice to make.

What will we do?


With God’s help, may we live into our answer.

Alleluia, Amen.