1Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Reflection: Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.
We have all felt depleted at times. Nothing is more difficult than working with all your energy at a task and then realizing that your efforts have not produced the fruit you expected or desired. Early in my ministry a church I was pastoring had an opportunity for revitalization – new life and ministry with a changing neighborhood demographic. Everything we needed was seemingly there – most importantly God’s presence, but also pastoral energy, conference support, financial assistance, and a strong mentoring network. But the church decided against the revitalization plan. These were well-meaning people who loved Jesus deeply. They had worked for so many years in faithfulness, but had continued to decline. They had been lowering the nets without catching anything.
I believe Jesus was saying to us as a church: “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” The continual struggle for that community, though, had left them feeling depleted. We had forgotten that the one who had sent us out would also equip us. Ultimately the church closed two or three years later (the church went into part-time ministry after they rejected the revitalization proposal, and as a full-time pastor I was moved) and is now being used by another church in the area for a satellite campus that is doing ministry similarly to what we had envisioned.
It was a very difficult experience for a young pastor, but God gave me a couple years at a beach church to rehab! One thing I have learned from that experience is that even when you feel depleted, God offers you the depths of his grace and abundance. All he asks of us is to lower the net one more time and trust. God will take care of the rest.
Perhaps this year has not started off the way you wanted. Maybe you are carrying around a lot of failed expectations that have accumulated throughout your past. You have lowered the net so many times and come up empty. Listen for Jesus. Right now he is showing you where the deep and full waters are. At that moment in which you feel like you might break, God might be ready to break your nets, instead, with heavenly riches and spiritual blessings.
Journaling Focus: When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.
Recall a time in which you experienced abundance. It might be a time when a relationship was especially rich, or you were connecting clearly to God, or someone made you feel special by the way they treated you. Reflect on this experience as you write in your journal this week. What did the experience of abundance feel like? What was its source? Did you recognize it as abundance at the time, or only as you reflect back on it? There are often seasons in our life that seem richer than others, but this is not always clear in the moment. Sometimes we do not know that a prior season was abundant until we go through an especially barren season. Where is God in the barren times and how does God sustain you in those “in-between” seasons?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Listen to the song, Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore. This is a beautiful hymn that has become quite popular in the recent years. It has often been sung at ministry conferences and events meant to prepare men and women who are wrestling with a call into vocational ministry. However, it has a powerful message for all men and women who follow Christ. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.
For those who have been in the church since we were children, we have heard this call often. Fish for people – it is our evangelistic responsibility as followers of Christ! But do we ever consider what kind of “bait” we use? This week, pray that the living of your life might become a hospitable act of embrace to the world around you. Ask God to make you a sweet offering to those who have only tasted the bitterness of life. Trust that God will use you to communicate his love and grace daily, wherever you find yourself. If we trust God to make us into such people, our fishing nets will be filled!
Meditation Focus: Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
What an amazing experience it would have been to sit and listen to the teachings of Jesus. One of the foundations of imaginative prayer in the Ignatian tradition is to place yourself within the Scripture story and engage the setting with the fullness of your imagination. Take a moment to still yourself and then picture yourself by the lake shore. Smell the warm, humid air around you. Hear the waves lapping the shore. Look at the birds as they fly overhead. Touch the sandy soil beneath you, letting it run through your fingers. How do you feel in this setting? What needs are you experiencing? Now notice Jesus, just a little in front of you, sitting on the boat. As he speaks, notice how he is speaking directly to you. What is Jesus saying? How do his words address your deepest needs?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- Where is God calling me to cast my net?
- Where have I experienced scarcity?
- Where have I experienced abundance?
- What am I being called to leave behind in order to more faithfully follow Jesus?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Fill someone’s net this week. Help them find the deep and full places of God’s grace and abundance. This can take many, many forms. God will lead you into the right expression of this for you. Remember, filling someone else’s net will often require self-denial. To live in self-denial, we must first trust in God’s resources of abundance. How will you allow God to fill you so that you can fill the life of another?
Breath Prayer: LORD God, fill us with your love.