top of page

"Jesus Sought Me" -- Luke 5:1-11 (First Sunday in Lent)

Artwork: “River of Grace” by Lisle Gwynn Garrity

used with permission via A Sanctified Art LLC |

Here we are, on the first Sunday on Lent, beginning our Lenten journey this year with the theme Wandering Heart. Our theme invites us to think of the journey this year – not as a straight-line path, but as more of a weaving wander – yes, a correct step here, but maybe a more meandering one there. Our theme gives us permission to – it invites us to  – wanderand maybe even to wonder along the way.


Every year, we say that our Lenten journey is a journey with Jesus towards Holy Week, to the cross, and beyond. This year, we pick up another travelling companion – as we will travel with Peter – also known as Simon Peter. We’ll try to see this journey through his eyes – or at least with some empathy for his weaving and wandering.


So, as we set off, we probably should begin with some introductions: Who is this Simon Peter?  I bet we already know some things about him. Let’s see.

When you think of the disciple Peter, what comes to mind? (This is where you get to shout out in church.) In a word or a phrase – when you think of Simon Peter, what comes to mind? [The congregation responded, remembering that Peter heart the rooster crow three time and denied Jesus; and that Peter answered the question the question, "Who do you say I am?" by saying, "You are the Christ."]


That’s right. All of the above. Peter has some complexity.


By way of introduction – here’s what we know about Peter from the Biblical stories, and also from what we know about the world he inhabited.[1] Peter was a fisherman. He was a fisherman in a family business with his brother Andrew and their father. We know he had a mother-in-law (remember a couple weeks ago), so he must have had a wife (who doesn’t get mentioned in Scripture). From a couple of weeks ago, we know that Peter, Andrew, and Peter’s mother-in-law – and probably more extended family – all lived together in what was like a family compound – fairly typical for their day.


Archaeologists have found boats from that time that show evidence of being patched, and re-patched, and re-patched – so fisherman were like most folks in their day. They weren’t wealthy – they lived a bare subsistence living – earning just enough each day to survive – they hoped. (So, in today’s story when they’ve caught no fish at night, it’s a real possibility that folks will go hungry that day.)[2]


Simon Peter starts out as a fisherman, and we know that Jesus calls Peter as a disciple. Jesus calls Peter to go off on a wander with him. According to the gospel writers, Peter was in an inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, John, sometimes Andrew), who had intimate access to Jesus. They are there with Jesus for moments that others are not.

When Jesus send the crowds away, sometimes this inner circle gets to remain: There are a few miracles that only they witness; they are there for transfiguration; they are there with Jesus in Gethsemane.

And even so – the gospel writers like to point out that Peter and this inner circle most of the time don’t understand what they were seeing. As Jesus’ life unfolds (and his death and Resurrection), they are right there with us, bewildered. They are wandering and watching and figuring things out, right there along with us.

Peter is a mixed bag. He has some complexity.

He gives up everything and follows Jesus.

He gets that the Transfiguration is something big, but then fumbles around talking about building huts on top of the mountain.

Peter is the one who says, “You are the Christ!” and then, moments later, when Jesus says, “Yes, and I will suffer, and die, and be raised,” Peter rebukes Jesus (No you won’t) – and Jesus rebukes Peter (Get behind me, Satan).

Peter is one of the disciples who prepares the Upper Room. Then, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he falls asleep. When the soldiers come to arrest Jesus, in one gospel, Peter cuts off the ear of one of the soldiers – Peter is fiercely loyal. And just hours later, Peter is the disciple who (as predicted) denies Jesus three times.  

And even so, after Resurrection, at Pentecost, Peter is the one who stands up and explains everything that is going on – Resurrection, Pentecost, Jesus. Peter becomes a leader in the emerging early church – an organizer, preacher, healer, visionary, teacher, and martyr. He will die for all this.

What are we to make of this Simon Peter? As I was reading this week, I started to underline how writers and scholars describe him – pretty much like we did earlier: outspoken, eager, impulsive, loyal, denying, remorseful, trusting, at times fearful, at times courageous, curious, questioning, full of humility and of zeal.

One writer describes him as “a person flawed in character, who is at the same time earnest in following Jesus.”[3] (I guess there’s a compliment in there somewhere.) Another writer calls him, “a close, but not always reliable, companion of Jesus.”[4]

Last week, I said that Peter and that inner circle of disciples – that they stumble and fumble their way toward Jesus. I stand by that. And I can relate.

So, out of all the people in the world, how does Jesus come to seek out and call this eager, but fallible Simon Peter? How does Peter – this fisherman – come to set off on a wander with Jesus – who is turning the world rightside up?

Now, remember, we’re in the gospel of Luke. In Matthew and Mark – whose telling of this story be more familiar – the call to Simon Peter is quick and straightforward. Jesus finds Simon Peter and his brother fishing, mending their nets, and says, “Come! follow me!” and they get up and go.

But here in Luke there’s a whole story to it. Luke takes his time in the telling. Did you notice, that in Luke’s version, Jesus doesn’t even say the words, “Come follow me.” It all unfolds in the telling of this story. How does Jesus come to seek out and call Simon Peter? There’s a lot more to it, but at the outset, maybe we should just say this:

Jesus calls Peter by going fishing with him.

At the beginning of the story, Jesus and Peter are doing what they do, respectively. Jesus is teaching. Peter is fishing. We’re in the Gospel of Luke – where Jesus is turning the world rightside up – he has just announced: The Spirit is upon me. I’ve come to bring good news to the poor, healing for every hurt, freedom for the oppressed – and now, Jesus is living that out. He’s teaching and healing, and the crowds crowd in.  He’s at the lakeshore, and the crowd has him backed up to the water, pressing in, and Jesus sees Peter’s boat. Jesus climbs into the boat and says, “Take me out just a little way from shore.” And Peter does, and there they are, Peter there with Jesus, as Jesus teaches from the boat.

And then, when Jesus wraps that up. He turns to Peter – the fisherman – and says, “Well, now, let’s catch some fish.” Maybe out of gratitude for use of the boat. Maybe because Jesus sees that Peter and his partners haven’t done so well with their catch, and families will not have fish to eat. Peter, tired from a night of futile fishing, says, “Master, we’ve fished all night – they’re not biting.” Jesus persists, “Put your boat out into deep water, and let down your nets on the other side of the boat.” Let’s go deep, and try something different.

And they do, and behold, so many fish. So many fish that they can’t pull them all in. Their nets are about to break – so they call in the second boat – and they all haul in the catch together. Now, I’ve always imagined Jesus on the boat telling the disciples what to do – but what if Jesus helped too. Imagine, Peter and Andrew and James and John and Jesus all straining together to pull in this large haul of fish. So that people can eat.

And when the catch is in – after they’ve made sure that the boats don’t sink from the weight of the haul – Peter takes in the wild abundance of what just happened, and he says to Jesus: “Go away from me, Lord. For I am a sinner.” That’s his reaction. Not wow. Not thank you. Somehow in all that, Simon Peter – the fisherman – sees something in Jesus – something big. Peter sees “the power and presence [and provision] of God” at work. [5]That’s confirmed when Jesus says, “Be not afraid.” (Remember, that’s what angels say when humans encounter the divine... and are afraid.) It’s just a glimpse. But Peter gets it. This something big. Not all of it. But a glimmer. Of God.

As this morning’s Scripture starts, Jesus and Peter are doing what they do, respectively. Teaching and fishing. Not halfway through the story, they are doing it together. And they do it in abundance – beyond what humble fishermen can imagine. Jesus calls Peter by going fishing with him – and in that experience of abundance and amazement, even with a little fear – Peter leaves everything and follows Jesus.

As we set off on this Lenten wander with Jesus and Peter, I want to notice two things.

First, Jesus seeks out, calls, and invites Simon Peter as he is. I’ve been reading Cole Arthur Riley’s This Here Flesh[6] – it’s amazing – she has an essay on “Calling,” where she says she has always hoped for a voice from outside to tell her what to do next. She wonders what it would be like to experience “a calling outside of you calling you to an open door and you walk through that door like there is no other way.”[7] But then she says. That’s never happened for her. She remembers Howard Thurman’s wisdom that before we ask the question, “Who will we be? Who should we be?” the better, more essential (and harder) question is: Who are you right now? She remembers Howard Thurman’s wisdom that our calling into the next new day begins by listening for the sound of the genuine within us.[8]Who are you now?

Jesus seeks out Peter just as Peter is. We started this morning asking, “Who is this Simon Peter?” Maybe as we set out with them on this Lenten wander, a worthy first question for us might be: Who are we now? Who am I now? Who are you now?

And the second thing – and this is the one that’s really blown my mind this week. In this Scripture, what Jesus is calling Peter into here is a relationship, not a transaction. I think we can think of calling as transactional – like a job search – what’s the next thing I should do – or as I say, what’s the work that is ours to do. Let’s figure it out. Let’s get busy with the taks.

That’s fresh on my mind as we renewed my call here last week – and I said, “I feel very called to be here.” What did I mean when I said that? As I’ve thought about that this past week, what I feel called to is to be in relationship with you in community here. Using that lens, and then reflecting back and doing some re-framing: When I was called to the seminary – it was into relationship in that learning community through a time of particular distress. When Janie invited me to be one of her lawyers, she called me into relationship in a community of advocacy. Every call – was into a relationship, into a community. I didn’t think that at the time, but of course it was.

Also fresh on my mind is that the Nominating Committee will be getting underway in the next month or so – discerning who will lead this community and how. What if we thought of those conversations not as an ask to do work, definitely not as an imposition – but as an invitation into relationship

·      an invitation into relationship in the community of the deacons - -these amazing folks who live out tender mercy;

·      or an invitation into relationship in the justice-centered community of Church and Society, working together to figure out we might house a refugee, or how we can be better neighbors to Marin City, or how we might stand against the horrors unfolding in Gaza, and for the people there;

·      or an invitation into relationship in community that cares for these buildings and the hospitality we extend here – or the part of our community that shapes and leads our lifelong learning here.

As we take these first steps in our Lenten journey, with these Wandering Hearts, maybe that too is a good first question: What relationship are you being called into? Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, whatever the challenges and joys of this particular moment – What relationship are you – are we – being called into? And then – a close corollary of that question – or maybe a help in discernment: These relationships that we are being called into – how might they like good news for the poor, healing for every broken place, and freedom for the oppressed?

In this Scripture, Jesus seeks out and calls Peter into relationship – into community – not first and foremost into the work that is his to do – that will come – but primarily and essentially – into life together – life that is turning the world rightside up. Jesus calls Peter into relationship,

·      into the community that will wander through towns and villages healing and teaching and bringing good news.

Jesus calls him

·      into the community that will gather at the table at the Last Supper;

·      into the community that will grieve the deep horror and loss of crucifixion;

·      into the community that will experience the wonder and new life forever of Resurrection.

Jesus seeks out and calls Peter as he is – such as he is.  And Jesus calls him into this relationship of teaching and learning; of brokenness and healing; of fumbling, stumbling, and correction; of always welcoming in; of life, and death, and life all over again.

I wish this were a communion Sunday, so I could say that invitation out loud as we move toward the table – and say that it is Christ’s own – and say that it is for everyone – and say that it is for you – and then ask: Won’t you come?

© 2024 Scott Clark

[1] For a good summary article on the Apostle Peter, see Pheme Perkins and John Y.H. Yieh, “Peter, the Apostle,” in The New Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible, vol.4 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2009), pp. 475-81. For general background on this Scripture and the Gospel of Luke, see R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters’ Bible Commentary, vol. ix (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), pp.115-18; Warren Carter, Commentary in Connections, Year C, vol. 1 (Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), pp.235-37; Terence Lester, Commentary in Wandering Heart Lenten materials from A Sanctified Art; Gay L. Buron, Commentary in Feasting on the Word, Year C, vol. 1 (Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), pp. 332-37.

[2] See Perkins, p.480

[3] See Perkins, p.479.

[4] See Carter, p.235.

[5] See Byron, p.335

[6] Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh (New York: Convergent Books, 2022).

[7] Id. p.42.

[8] Id. p.47.

24 views0 comments


bottom of page