Sermon for Sunday, February 6, 2022 – Fifth Sunday after Epiphany  “There is Abundance Here”

Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Good  Shepherd Lutheran Church    Decorah, Iowa

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

Simon, James, and John have fished all night long. Again and again they’ve cast their nets, and their hopes, upon the waters. They’ve thrown themselves into their work, trying to drown out the ques- tion that gnaws at them every night, “Will we catch enough to survive another day?” They are barely subsisting, barely providing for their families. Every single cast of the net carries so much weight. Every time the net comes up empty, their hearts and their hopes sink further and further down.

Our lives differ greatly from theirs. Yet, we too know what it is to work so hard with nothing to show for it. We know what it is to pour ourselves into a project, a person, a plan that does not pan out. We know what it is to cast our hopes out into the world only to come up empty and how very heavy that emptiness feels. 

Simon, James, and John finally decide it’s time to give up, cut their losses, wash their nets, and head home. But then Jesus shows up and boards their boat in order to teach a huge crowd of people. When he’s finished speaking, he turns to Simon and says, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 

Simon is reluctant, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” Even as Simon doubts, he follows Jesus’s command, a command that proves trustworthy and true. What comes up brings Simon to his knees: abundance beyond measure, a lavish, extravagant catch. Now it’s not their spirits that are sinking, but their boat. It’s overflowing with fish.

Now these fishermen’s most pressing question is not, “Will we catch enough to survive another day?” but, “Who will help us take in all this abundance?” The central question of their lives changes from, “Will there be enough” to, “How can more people experience this?” As author Jan Richardson puts it, “Fish aren’t the only catch of the day; Simon and his companions are hooked. Captivated. Called.”

Simon feels sinful and unworthy in the face of all this, yet Jesus says to him, “Do not be afraid.” In me, Jesus says, you have enough, you are enough. You can receive this abundance. You can participate in it, even drawing others in, gathering them into God. Leave behind a life of worry and scar- city, let go of the single-minded focus on your own survival. Simon, James, and John listen and fol- low; and they are fed as they become part of something so much larger than themselves.

This is what Jesus does then and still today. Jesus shows up in the heavy, empty places of scarcity and fear. He comes where we have given up, where we have stopped expecting anything. He commands us to keep on using our nets, our energy, our gifts to keep on keeping on. We may doubt that it will do any good, that anything can change; but Jesus’ command is trustworthy and true.

God’s abundance is here, even when we cannot see it. We can put down our nets again to receive it and share it.

Good Shepherd, we can persist in following Jesus even in this strange time. We can continue to pay attention to COVID recommendations and find creative ways to worship, serve and nurture faith. We can keep on doing antiracism work. We can persist in advocating for justice, welcoming Afghans, offering legal clinics, and caring for others.

We each can continue to follow Jesus’ command to love by practicing kindness and patience and gentleness in our homes, families, schools, and workplaces. We can persist in using our own nets, our own gifts, for the work God has given each of us in daily life. Like Simon, James, and John, we are caught up and drawn into what God is doing in the world. The questions we ask change. Our purpose is reframed.

We can do this because Jesus meets us in the heavy and empty places to feed us and draw us into something so much larger. Jesus comes to us today in the simple gifts of bread and wine, water, word, song, and community. He says, there is abundance here that you did not expect. Put out your nets into these deep waters and draw this all into your small boat. Look to others here to help you. You will be filled in body, mind and spirit; you will be lifted up. You will be drawn into God’s lavish, extravagant care.

You may feel unworthy, sinful, overwhelmed like Simon. Yet Jesus says to you, again and again, 

“Do not be afraid.” You have enough, you are enough in me. Leave behind worry and scarcity. Let go of that tight, heavy focus on your own survival. Stop asking if there will be enough and start asking how more people can experience God’s gifts.

Beloved, God’s abundance is for you and for all people. Draw it in and let it flow through you for the sake of the world.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.

As we pray, I invite you to close your eyes and notice your breath.

Notice that your breath is waiting for you in each moment – pure gift.

As you breathe in, draw in God’s abundance for you.

As you breathe out, let go of worry and fear.

We’ll breathe and pray together for a few moments.