Weekly Bible Devotional
“What Is Saving Your Life Right Now? Living with Purpose”
May 24, 2020
Scripture for Sunday: Luke 5:1-11
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.
Notes on The Text:
We look this week at the practice of living with purpose as a way to experience the fullness of life. As we do that, we consider the example of the calling of the first disciples and how Jesus helped them see their purpose. This is according to Luke 5. Jesus had been working on the hearts and minds of these people nudging them to see themselves in the larger picture of life and faith. In fact, in the previous chapter, Jesus was in Peter’s home healing his mother-in-law. This was not the first time Peter had encountered Jesus. But on that day, something really shifted for Peter. Peter and his companions were doing what they normally did. They were fishing. This was their life’s work. They provided for their families through fishing. And that day was not a good day on the job. They had worked all night and caught nothing.
Jesus called these fishermen while they were doing their daily work. He helped them see their work as part of God’s larger plan for the healing of the world. Jesus’ way of healing the world was to start a movement of people who saw their work and their existence through God’s eyes and who worked for the values of the kingdom of God in the world.
The setting is Lake Gennesaret/the Sea of Galilee where Jesus was preaching and teaching. There was a large crowd that came to listen to him. He was trying to escape the crowds by getting on the boat with Peter and his fishing crew. Let us consider three elements in the story as they relate to our own experience of living with purpose, no matter where we are on the spectrum of career and vocation.
1. The Time of Day: Jesus’ timing was not all that great. Peter and his companions had been fishing all night! They were tired. They could have said, “been there, done that.” Not only that, daytime was not the best time for fishing. But in the midst of their weariness and hopelessness, they followed what Jesus told them. And that is part of the lesson of the story. There is no right time or wrong time to fulfill our purpose. Any time could be the time God uses if we are open and willing. We just need to believe that our gifts and abilities are adequate enough to do the work of ministry. When the miracle took place, Peter felt guilty and inadequate for such display of the amazing power of God, but that was when he was called by Jesus to use his gifts for fishing to catch people, i.e., to spread the message of Christ to others and to be one of the people in Jesus’ inner circle of learning and ministry. As the rest of the Gospel unfolds and as we read the book of Acts we learn of the importance of the role that Peter played in leading the Church of Jesus Christ.
2. Fishing: This was the main source of income for a lot of people in Galilee. Peter and his fishing companions were ordinary folk whom a rabbi would not have gone out to seek as his followers/disciples. In fact, it was pretty unusual for a rabbi to go out and seek disciples. It was supposed to be the other way around. But Jesus reached out and built his group of disciples in his own unique way. He called ordinary folk, fishermen, to be the leaders of his movement. Fish became an important symbol for Christianity because the Greek word for fish (ICHTHUS), works as an acronym for I = Jesus, CH = Christ, TH = God’s, U = Son, S = Savior (Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter). Fishing could become for us a reminder of how God uses us in our ordinary tasks and daily activities to share love.
3. Into the Deep: The place to which Jesus invited the disciples to go fishing is referred to in our story as going “into the deep.” This would have been a clear reference to the early followers of Jesus to the symbolism of chaos in the story of creation. In Genesis 1 we read, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…” For the Jewish people, “the deep” represented the chaos that threatened God’s order and security. So the willingness of Peter, James and John to go out into the deep is a symbol of their willingness to go to the edge of the abyss for the work of ministry. This could be a reminder for us during this time of great fear that what we do for love matters a great deal. The mission of God’s love is dependent on our willingness to step out in faith to do the next loving thing we are nudged to do. Our call to love God and our neighbors is dependent on our willingness to enter the depth of the chaos of this moment while holding on to love. Being intentional each day to remember that we are called to live each moment with love.
The three symbols or elements of this story of call remind us that living with purpose could happen anytime, with any task, and under any circumstances, even in times of chaos.
What does the practice of living with purpose look like during this pandemic? When the pause orders started, many of us were deemed non-essential workers or businesses. The work (paid or volunteer) we spent so much of our lives on was put on hold or changed to online. All of our assumptions about productivity and work had to be reassessed in light of preserving human life. This reminded me of the many times I have faced the question by the elderly, often in a nursing home or who are homebound: Why am I still here? What is the meaning of my life if this is all I can do? We all face the question about our purpose at different times of transition in our lives.
This week I hope that we can all take a long loving look at our purpose in the largest possible sense as human beings and yet also in the most particular way for each of us.
For the big picture of purpose, Barbara Brown Taylor quotes the 16th Reformer, Martin Luther, saying, “Whatever our jobs in the world happen to be, Luther said, our mutual vocation is to love God and neighbor.” Vocation is larger than a job or a role that you have in life. It is about our larger purpose in life which is to love and to be loved. Our specific ways of fulfilling that vocation are unique to each one of us and our particular gifts and stories. They also vary from time to time in our lives depending on our circumstances. Most of us have multiple careers and activities in our lives. Think about it. Your profession could be a teacher, but you are also a volunteer, a customer, a patient, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a traveler, and much more. Even if you are in a nursing home or homebound, you still have many roles that impact many people. The real issue is not that whether our lives have a purpose or not. It is instead whether we are aware of it and intentional about it or not! Are we living with purpose or not? Our lives have a purpose. Our work is to live each day with that purpose in mind. Our larger purpose of loving God and loving our neighbor can happen anytime and with any activity we are involved in.
Prayer “When I’m in the Messy Middle of Something” by Arianne Lehn:
Slow and Steady God,
Things have changed, and I
know they’re not done changing.
I’m here on your potter’s wheel
where you’re shaping my essence into
something new with your
guiding, loving hands.
But this messy middle time….
it’s painful, and scary, and hard.
The wheel spins and my world swirls
and all I want is to
see the end result.
Becoming the broken-down
lump of clay was a
hard stage too, I might add.
Help me, God,
to commit to the process,
not the outcome.
Help me embrace this messy, middle time
where I must make space
for shifts and questions.
Change my mantras from
clarity to exciting ambiguity,
definition to open-endedness,
known to awe-filled surprises,
timeline to trust.
Help me believe, Lord,
that even what seems like negative change
makes room in me and around me
for something fresh (and good).
You hum a tune of possibility and potential as you work.
With each move of your hand, you mutter,
And, you smile.