Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
There’s a chance that some of you have heard me say this before, but growing up, I could never do a trust fall. Like where someone stands behind you to catch you, and you lean back, trusting the will catch you and not let you hit the floor. It didn’t matter if your hands were 6 inches behind me or halfway to the floor, I couldn’t do it. It didn’t matter who it was, even when it was my own mother standing behind me, I didn’t budge. As soon as I tried to lean back, I took a step back, catching myself, not allowing someone else to help me out. Which is kind of ironic, because in some ways I am the product of an act of trust that led to many other acts of trust. My parents’ first real interaction involved trust – they shared a boss, Lou, with whom my mom was supposed to have a lunch meeting, but she also had a paper that had to be turned in, and it had to be hand delivered in those pre-e-mail days. My dad was just finishing up a meeting with Lou, and when my mom said she needed to get this paper turned in, their boss said, “Don’t worry, Joe can turn it in for you.” So my mom handed this person who she’d just met her paper, wondering if it would really get turned in or not, and if she should contact the professor to check. 8 months later, the paper writer and deliverer were married.
I think this is one of the places where our faith and our culture rub against each other, in ways reflected by the two examples above. My unwillingness to let myself depend upon another person to catch me reflects so much of what American individualism seems to praise – pull yourself up by the boot straps, rely on your own hard work, and believe that asking for help, or admitting you can’t do something, can be viewed as a sign of weakness. Doing what you need to do to get to the top is praised. Trust and vulnerability are too often seen as things that could damage you, not help you. Trust and you could be betrayed, show vulnerability and you could be exploited. True. But the blind trust of handing your paper to a stranger reflects what God says would be best for us, to trust one another, but more so to trust God, and that what God has in store for us is better than we can even fathom. And trusting God means also accepting that we are not in control of everything, including our own lives.
Now I’ll admit understanding what it means to trust God, in correlation with what we are still supposed to do, can be tricky. And even what it means to trust God can seem a little hard to understand. Too often, God has been portrayed as a vending machine God, pray for X, and God provides X. Now some say X could be whatever, including a Porsche, and that if you pray hard enough, God will provide you a Porsche. Now most would say that’s a bit too far, God doesn’t provide luxury items. But what if we’re praying for God to heal someone, to make somebody’s cancer go away. I’ve known really good people, faithful people who had lots of people praying for them, who have died from illness. I struggle with what I think it means when people say, “God answers prayer,” or trust that God hears you, and prayer is a topic that deserves it’s own conversation. Because I do believe that prayer is important, and it’s meant to be a conversation, and I do believe that we can trust that God is present with us no matter what happens, that God wants to be in conversation with us, and that we probably need to spend more time listening than we do talking, more time thinking maybe we ourselves don’t have all the answers.
In tonight’s Scripture, Jesus is early in his ministry, but has already developed a crowd that is following him around. It seems like it’s morning, and Jesus wants to speak to the crowd. The fishermen have come in from being out at night fishing, and have not had a good catch. As they stand at the shore cleaning their nets, Jesus borrows a boat so he can go out to sea a little, creating an amphitheater-like effect. You have to wonder what these fishermen, who would soon be disciples, were thinking as they listened to Jesus talk. They were clearly influenced, and though Simon Peter wanted to rely on his own knowledge that there were not a lot of fish to be caught this day, they trusted enough to take their boats back out, and drop their nets down. The number of fish soon started breaking the net, and they had to use both boats to get their catch back to shore! And then they trusted this guy enough that they gave up their career, and went to follow him and be disciples, fishing for people.
Trusting God means living our lives in a conversation with God, and choosing to trust the voice of God when we hear it, in whatever form that might take. And then it means acting on what you have been told. It means depending on God instead of depending on yourself, relying on God and others to get you through each day. It doesn’t mean sitting around praying for God to do life for you, Jesus didn’t put the nets down for Simon Peter, James, and John. But they listened when he told them, against all conventional and situational wisdom, to put their boat back out to sea. If fishing, and leaving their work to follow Jesus was their version of the trust fall, they leaned back, trusting that God would be their support, and through their actions call us as disciples to do the same. Amen.