In the story of Simon’s call in Luke 5:1-11, Jesus sees a hidden potential in the fisherman Simon, an unlikely candidate for the role of disciple. Jesus sees past the clutter of stereotypes, past any gruff exterior, past Simon’s protests of being a sinner, of not being worthy and sees the potential that lies beneath. He believes Simon can unlock that potential in his service for God. Perhaps that’s what discipleship is. Yes, it is an invitation to follow God through Jesus, but maybe being a disciple also means unlocking our own potential and becoming who God has designed us to be.
Simon moves from his familiar life into an unknown future because of this Jesus guy who sees something in him and tells him not to be afraid, not to fear letting his potential out. Of course, call stories always beg the question: is Jesus calling us too? Does Jesus see some potential in us that we’re too afraid to let out, that we keep cluttered and covered with the activities of everyday life?
We all have potential, but one thing that stands out for me about Simon is that he seemed willing to trust. After Jesus is done teaching, he asks Simon to pull his boat into deeper water and cast his nets to catch some fish, despite the fact that Simon had been fishing all day and caught nothing. Simon doubts and complains but does it anyway. He’s willing to do what Jesus asks even if he doesn’t think it’s going to work. Simon’s journey to unlock his potential, to become a follower of Jesus, begins with a simple act of trust, that act of getting back in the water even though it didn’t make a lot of sense to him.
That small act of trust is rewarded with an over-abundance of fish in which Simon gets a glimpse of the Divine breaking into the world. Simon’s reaction, however, is to become scared and overwhelmed and he tries to send Jesus away. We often get scared when something good happens to us because we wonder “what’s next?” and aren’t sure if we’ll be able to handle it, whatever it is. In a way, Simon was right to be scared because Jesus was about to ask Simon for an even bigger act of trust: to let go of his fishing business and follow him in his ministry to help the poor and the oppressed.
Although it was Simon’s story, to be called by God doesn’t necessarily mean we have to drop everything and become an itinerant preacher. So what does it mean to be called, to become a disciple? I think it at least in part means, like Simon, being willing to:
* unlock our potential, even in the face of our fears of what might happen next
* step out in trust, even when we have doubts about whether its going to work
* try again if we fail; to get back in the water and cast our nets again
* un-clutter and let go of what is hiding our potential, like Simon did with his fishing career
We might begin with small acts of trust to start unlocking our potential, getting our feet wet before moving to the deep water. We might begin by asking God and ourselves some questions through prayer, meditation, and discussion with others: What are our talents? What are our passions? What gets us excited and feeling full of life? And, then: How does God call us to use those talents and passions? How can we use them to follow Jesus? How can we use our talents and passions to make the world a better and more loving place?
With Simon, God took an unlikely person and started doing unexpected things because Simon was willing, despite his doubts and fears, to trust what Jesus was asking him to do. Despite having already failed at catching fish that day, Simon was asked to get back in the water, to trust and try again. May God give us the courage to get up and follow as well, that we may clear the clutter away and realize the talents and passions God has given us, that we may unlock the potential of the love that God has filled us with, that we may weave that love into a world of hope, peace and justice.
(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, January 22, 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)