The least likely

Epiphany 5C

Judges 6:11-24a

Psalm 85:7-13

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

All of the reading this week have in common a protaganist who claims to be unworthy of the task he’s called to. Gideon, Paul and Peter all claim to be unfit for their vocation from God.

That seems to be a theme in the biblical narrative. Israel, this non-people, becomes God’s chosen, with the mission of bringing God’s justice to the world. It’s a theme repeated again and again. Moses claims to be unable to gather this people to take them into their future. Isaiah, Jeremiah, even Jesus asks to be relieved.

It strikes me as odd that Jesus does so much teaching at the lake shore, and few seem to comment on the fact. Actually, the word in Greek, limne, means something like a marsh or a fen. This is no-man’s land. It’s not cultivable, its not city. It’s at the edge. Is there an echo of the people of Israel standing on the sea shore imploring God’s help before crossing over into the wilderness? It would make sense that the people attracted to the new Jesus movement would understand themselves not to fit, to be the new group of non-people, like the Hebrew slave before them.

Luke’s story of the miraculous catch of fish has a number of features in common with John’s post-resurrection story. Peter’s reaction of abnegation makes more sense in that context: after the catch of fish, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” and three times commissions him to “feed my sheep,” rehabilitating him for his three denials. If this is a post-resurrection appearance, Peter is acutely aware of his own failure, and unworthiness to be a fisher of people.

Paul expresses the same unworthiness: he had persecuted the very church he is now upbuilding. Despite our own failures at whatever God calls us to (stewardship of the earth, justice for its peoples, whatever it may be), we are the ones called, and at Jesus’ word we will be successful.

Peter and his companions had success so far beyond their expectations that could leave the whole catch there on the shore (what happened to it? hopefully someone else who needed it took it, rather than it just rotting), and trust their future to God.

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