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The Function of the Church

Luke 5:1-11 NRSV

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He 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. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So 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. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and 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.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

This is a dramatically rich chapter of Luke. There are so many vivid details and memorable stories contained in this fifth chapter. Jesus cleanses a leper, heals someone who is unable to walk, finds himself in the company of the tax collectors and sinners, and answers doctrinal questions.
In your own devotional period, read the entire chapter of Luke. Do you think Christ could do the miracles of this text if he had a more selective target audience?

Today’s lesson will focus on the function of the church.

Read the scripture out loud together. What’s happening in this passage?

Jesus sees two boats. As he reaches them, he finds that the fishers are washing their nets. He gets into Simon’s boat and tells him to put his net out. Jesus began to teach the crowds that gathered from the boat, and then encouraged Simon to put his net down deeper in the water. Simon thinks this is useless because they have “worked all night but have caught nothing.”
In obedience, they did what Jesus told them. And there were so many fish joining the net that they began to break. Simon Peter fell down and asked Jesus to leave him. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.”

What do fish have in common with humans?
Both fish and humans need safe places to exist between point A and point B. When you go fishing, you’ll need to keep them in a contraption called a “live-well,” something that keeps the fish fresh while on the boat. Modern fishers can buy more fancy equipment, but early fishers would have to be mindful about how they store the fish that have been caught. Fish that are caught and just left aboard the boat can more easily decay and serve as ideal hosts for dangerous bacteria. This will make people sick. One way that some fishers keep their fish fresh is by keeping them in a tank, others make the fish go dormant by using a cooler or with shaved ice.
Likewise, humans need a safe place to exist as they go from point a to point b. For us, we need places that will help us “live-well” as we go through life transitions. We need supportive communities that will be around for us during births, school celebrations, difficult mental health moments, marriages, divorces, funerals, and more. Jesus tells the fishers that they’ll be catching people, not for the sake of eating them (like the fate of fish) but for the sake of us living well.

What do you think about Jesus’ advice to drop the net deeper?
The fishers didn’t think they’d get fish if the nets were dropped. They were used to staying in shallow waters. They had been working all night and had no luck. Jesus tells them “Go deeper.” And sure enough, the nets began to break.
As this is happening, the people are gathered around the boat. Are there issues you think we need to “go deeper” on as a church? Not just at Concord, but as a worldwide community of faith? What are some of those topics?

What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?


Second ImageKe’Mari Cooper, a ten-year-old from Tallahassee, went viral for being a fisher with his dad. While on a fishing trip, he caught a magnificent seven-pound fish. While he catches the fish on video, he squeals in excitement. “Daddy, this is a good one! I knew I was going to get a good one today!”

But then, he leaves the fish with kind words.
“Let’s put this baby back in the water. My personal best! I hope you go back and be better. One day we’re going to meet back again. I’ll see you later!”

His dad was pleasantly surprised at Ke’Mari’s sweet encouraging words to the fish. Mr. Cooper said of his son,

He’s a bright young man, and I just wanted to pass on the genes that my father taught to me. It kept me out of trouble. It kept me humble. Fishing keeps me patient.

Journal: What are the deepest needs in your community? How do you know this is a need?

Closing: Listen to Sesame Street, “We Are All Earthlings.”


Dear God,

We need safe places to be encouraged. The world can be a cruel and toxic place. Sometimes, those attitudes find themselves to us even in our most sacred hour.

Give us a clean heart, one that is free of jealousy, intolerance, hatred, pettiness, and cruelty. Make us agents of your perfect peace, love, and curiosity. Help us to make our Church a soft place for weary travelers to land.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.