Epiphany 5 C 2022 Do You Like to be Surprised
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do you like to be surprised? I guess it all depends upon what kind of surprise it is. If you are leaving for work and discover you have a flat tire, I think that would be a bad surprise. But if you discovered that your spouse had noticed you had a flat tire and changed your tire without telling you and then went on his or her way to work, that would be a good surprise.
We love good surprises. Who doesn’t enjoy the unexpected arrival of friends whom we have not seen in a while, or a surprise birthday party, or the announcement of a pregnancy, or the discovery that you have the winning Powerball numbers? The Powerball surprise has not happened to me, but I suspect that that would indeed be a good surprise.
Can you imagine the surprise the Peter had that day out on the Lake called Gennesaret? Peter and his partners had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing when Jesus tells Peter “Push the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch.”
Peter at first objects. He tells Jesus “We have been out all night and have caught nothing.” Peter knew from experience that that night was not a good night to catch fish. He fished for a living. He had nights like this before. Peter knew that sometimes the conditions were not right and the best thing to do was to go home and try again on another night.
But something made Peter pause for a moment. And out of respect for Jesus, he decided to do what Jesus told him to do. And my, what a surprise Peter and his partners had when they rowed out to the deep water and let the nets down.
Even though that night was a bad night to go fishing, the text informs us that they caught so may fish that their nets were beginning to break, and their boat was beginning to sink from the weight of all the fish. The nets were so full of fish that they even had to signal the other boat to come and help them. Oh my, what a surprise.
Can you imagine the scene? Peter, the man who knew all about fishing, was astonished at the number of fish that they had caught that night. Think about it, all these fish even when the fish were not biting. Now that was a miracle.
And how did Peter respond? Peter fell at Jesus’ feet, recognizing that he was in the presence of God. And like Isaiah before him when he saw “the Lord sitting on his throne, high and exalted,” Peter had a deep sense of his unworthiness. Peter shouts out “Go away from me Lord! For I am a sinful man.”
And it is at this moment that Peter is hit with a second surprise. Peter, the rough, tough, loud talking, pig-headed fisherman is called to be one of Christ’s disciples. Even though Peter had no special training and no qualifications, and that he himself regarded himself to be unworthy to even be in the presence of Jesus, Jesus said to him “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” And when the boat finally came ashore, Peter and his partners left everything and followed Him.
Surprises. Who doesn’t like to be surprised? Did you know that God is a God who is full of surprises? Last week we heard about Jeremiah whom God had called to be a messenger to his people. And we heard that Jeremiah was surprised that God asked him to confront the wickedness of his society with God’s word. He was young and inexperienced. Who, he wondered, would listen to him?
And what about Goliath? Goliath must have been surprised when the Israelites sent out a young boy named David to fight him. And to the surprise of everyone, David defeated Goliath.
We know that Mary and Joseph were surprised when the Angel Gabriel told them that Mary would soon give birth to a Son and name Him Jesus.
And Jesus surprised the local synagogue folks when He ate with tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus surprised onlookers when He said to people who were hopeless sinners “Your sins are forgiven.”
And Jesus surprised His own disciples with parables about the Kingdom of God that emphasized that it is the small and the least in the Kingdom who are the greatest.
Yes, Jesus was full of surprises. But the Bible tells us of the greatest surprise of all. The Bible informs us that even though you and I keep on doing things that hurt God and make God sad, and even though we are self-centered most of the time, God loves us.
In fact, God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. Now, that is a surprise. Who would have thought that with all the bad things that we have said about other people, and all the sins that we have committed that God still loves us and that our sins have been forgiven?
And so, my friends, just as Peter was surprised by the big haul of fish in spite of the seemingly unfavorable conditions and then further surprised by the invitation to participate in Christ’s Redeeming Activity, we too are often amazed and surprised when we discover the plans that God has for each one of us. But that is how it is with God’s love.
As God surprises us with his love, God softly and tenderly says to each one of us “Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Go and receive with joy the surprise I have in store for you.” AMEN.
Let us pray: Almighty God, you sent your only Son as the Word of life for our eyes to see and our ears to hear. Help us to believe with joy when we are surprised at what the scriptures proclaim, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.