1On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”9For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Pete (appropriately for this devotional, that really was his name) had grown up in a small farming community in Minnesota. It was the days of the draft and Pete’s number came up. He reported to basic training and started his service. In the course of things, it came out that Pete was a crack shot with a rifle, having been a hunter as a boy. In fact, one day he won the top prize as a marksman for the entire base. He was to be recognized by the base commander, a general. Pete had never really aspired for greatness. He was a shy and unassuming kid. He was still like that many years later when he told me this story.
His sergeant pulled him aside before the ceremony and yelled in his face, “Soldier don’t fall on your —” Pete said it was necessary advice because as he ascended that podium before all his assembled enlisted comrades, he almost passed out. Said he really did not remember much of what happened.
Pete, who told this story, was about 35 years my senior. I was a new preacher; he was nearing retirement. He was still a somewhat shy man who did not seek glory, but he was no longer one to be cowed. He had stood in the presence of our Lord Jesus and taken ordination vows. He had shepherded congregations and faced death armed only with a promise of resurrection.
In this reading another Pete, Peter the Fisherman from the backwaters of Galilee, encounters power which is too much for him. Like my friend Pete the preacher almost did, he fell down and just wished this would all go away. But Jesus did not go away. Instead, Jesus does to this first Peter what he did to my friend Pete. He sends this rustic bumpkin out to be a fisher of people, an ambassador of God’s kingdom of grace and love, a proclaimer of the Good News. This Jesus still calls. What do you hear him saying to you today? What call comes your way?