‘Here am I, send me.’

‘Here am I, send me.’

"Discipleship is this combination of fear, amazement, and risk-taking."


I want to talk about failure. I shouldn’t of course because failure is failure.  It is not success. It is not a quality we admire. If we say a project was a failure, then we mean it was a waste of time. That it demonstrated a lack of foresight, planning, ability, competence. I imagine that all of us have experienced disappointment, regret, sadness, despair of not having achieved all we had hoped for.

In our Bible readings, we have been in the company of failure (Luke 5:1-11). Peter is a professional fisherman. He was experienced, knowledgeable of the habits of fish in his patch of water. But he has been up all night casting his net in the water, time and again not finding a single salmon, friendless cod, a lonely mackerel or even a lost sprat. Nothing. Nada!

After a debilitating night, Jesus appears on the scene and commandeers Peter’s boat and sits in it to preach. The crowd on the shore are spellbound by this new inspirational prophet. Then Jesus issues this strange command.  Go into the deep water and fish. Peter, the experienced but frustrated fisherman is understandably sceptical. However, he has already seen Jesus heal his mother-in-law. He has reason to trust. So, he and his partners do what Jesus asks. This time they do not fail but pull in a great haul of fish.  There are so many that the boats are dangerously at the point of sinking. So wow, says Peter; you are a really great man Jesus!  I have now found all I need in life. Come on Master, let’s build on this success and catch even more fish.  We could make a fortune! Well he doesn’t say anything like that. He tells Jesus to go away. He knows he is in the presence of someone extraordinary. It isn’t that Jesus is a better fisherman or has some unusual talents. Peter knows that he is in the presence of something much more powerful. Something divine.

He reacts to Jesus just as the prophet Isaiah had done when he was sitting in prayerful contemplation (Isaiah 6:1-13).

He has a vision of God, high and lofty sitting on a throne. He was in the Temple which was filled with the smoke from the enormous bowls of incense. He had a profound spiritual experience of the holiness of God. What else could Isaiah say but, ‘Woe is me! I am lost for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.’ What else could Peter say in that fish-laden boat but, ‘Go away from me for I am a sinful man.’ Peter, along with his business partners, James and John is overwhelmed with both fear and amazement. Jesus reassures them – ‘do not be afraid’. Then he commissions them to become disciples. Jesus needs helpers.

Throughout the Gospel story we read of his followers, a team of men who he sends on risky missions, and a team of women disciples, who care for him, support the ministry and on whom he relies at the darkest moment of his life. Jesus needs people. He needs to them to catch more to build a movement. He is not a lone Saviour, rather he is building a body of people to be his workers. He needs them because ‘the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few’. Jesus needed people to hear and believe his powerful message of the Kingdom of God; this realm of existence in which the values of this world were turned on their head.  The realm where the poor hear the good news, the captives are set free, the blind can see, and the oppressed go free. The invitation to follow Jesus is not an invitation to power and success but an invitation be part of the transformation of this world.  It is to pray ‘your kingdom come, on earth as in heaven’ and believe that this is possible.

I don’t think that Jesus was trying to humiliate Peter by being a more intelligent fisherman. Rather he is acting out his own preaching.  He is demonstrating visually and dramatically what this Good News is all about. In the shallow waters, Peter, James, and John had not found any fish. In the deep waters they encounter God’s overflowing generosity and abundance. God’s net is wide, strong and broad enough for all. The robust rope of God’s wide net, cast into deep and challenging waters is full of God’s mercy and love.

Peter knew, just as Isaiah had known, that our response to seeing and experiencing God’s way with us is to seek mercy, forgiveness.  He had discovered that when Jesus asks us to casts our net into the deep waters of our lives, then we find stability and care, support and enough for all our needs. So this awareness of God’s abundance and Christ’s forgiveness gives us security. It is this grounding which enables us to take risks with our lives. The Gospel says that when the fishermen brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Discipleship is this combination of fear, amazement, and risk-taking. That is what it is to follow Jesus. And then to catch people! This is our challenge. I don’t mean how we can get more people to come to church.  Rather how do we turn our fear, amazement, excitement in encountering the Spirit of Jesus Christ into an impactful engagement with the Kingdom of God in our present reality?

For the message of the Kingdom is as urgent today as it was when Jesus looked at the desperate crowd on Gennesaret’s shoreline.

It is as urgent for people living in fuel poverty as it was for the peasants of Galilee.

It is as urgent for people failed by our police as it was for the victims of oppressive Roman soldiers.

It is as urgent for people on long hospital waiting lists and queuing in ambulances to be taken into A&E as it was for the halt, the lame and the blind pleading with Christ for healing.

It is as urgent for people standing up to injustice, racism, prejudice and discrimination today as it was for the marginalised, exploited, abused of Israel at the turning of time.

Put yourself in this story.

Are you sitting on the shore, desperate for healing, longing to believe and trust the message of the Saviour? Are you sitting in the boat, with salmon, cold, mackerel and sprats twitching around your feet, amazed, but with a deep sense of unworthiness? Or are you leaping out of the boat, without hesitation, committing yourself to proclaiming the kingdom of God. For to proclaim the Kingdom is to be part of a movement of people, who care about this planet, who challenge the assumptions made about strangers, who are committed to making equality a reality and to radically transforming the priorities of our society.

It is more than XR, Me Too, Black Lives Matter – although they may well be a part of it. The commission of Jesus is for his disciples once more to cast our nets into the deep waters of our troubled selves and tormented world. And once more to haul in the net finding an abundant store of human goodness and compassion for our neighbour. Following Jesus is never a solitary endeavour. It is to belong to a movement within history always living in the hope of a new heaven and a new earth – of a restored and redeemed community.

Perhaps before I finish we should pause to bring both Peter and Isaiah to mind. The path which God put them on was not easy. Isaiah was told that he was called to preach to a hard-hearted people. His message was to a people facing potential catastrophe.  God knew that they would not change. God knew that Isaiah was destined to be a lonely, isolated voice amid a cacophony of hostile voices. Sound familiar? Peter too made the decision to follow the One whose mission and movement appeared to end in absolute failure on a wooden cross.  Peter’s discipleship was prefaced by a failed night of fishing and could well have ended his denial of the Master he loved.


Isaiah was called to be a prophet of doom.  His country would become desolate like a forest after a devastating storm.  The trees would be scattered. All that would be left are the stumps where the mighty oaks had once stood. Yet, those stumps bore the seed of new life.  Renewal and restoration would come out of the devastation. Out of the crucifixion of Jesus and the denial of Peter, emerged a beloved community of people across the world committed to sharing God’s abundance equitably, to challenging oppression and standing up for the dignity and worth of all. At Pentecost 3,000 people responded to Peter’s preaching.

Our church today needs the authenticity and integrity of the prophet and fishermen followers of Jesus. Proclaiming God’s kingdom is never fruitless, even if at times it may feel that it is. God asked Isaiah, ‘Who will go for us? Whom shall I send?’ Jesus said to Peter, ‘Do not be afraid: from now on you will be catchers of people.’ In these challenging tumultuous times, we need to leap out of the boat of the church, and take to the shore where the crowd in their desperation, need and longing are waiting.

Let us emulate Isaiah’s simple but courageous response, ‘Here am I, send me.’

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