- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon given by the Rev. A. Knighton Stanley at Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ in Northwest.

On my visit to Israel … I awakened to the noise of fishermen just outside my hotel. I went to the window and caught my first glimpse of the Sea of Galilee in the daylight. …

As I looked across the lake toward its eastern shore, I recalled that the point at which the land ascends from the shore was the place where Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount, where He walked on water and calmed a violent storm.

I thought that it might have been just beneath my hotel window where Jesus taught the multitudes. I remembered that it was from the shores of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus called His disciples.

But at the same time that my soul looked back in wonder, I was struck by how ordinary this scene was. The so-called mountain on which Jesus preached His famous sermon was hardly the size of most foothills I have seen. The Sea of Galilee didn’t begin to compare in size and beauty with the Great Lakes of North America.

Even so, as I studied the ordinariness of this place, a miracle, a transformation, began to happen within me. As a student, I had studied the New Testament in a scholarly fashion, and as a pastor, I had continued to do so. Intellectually, I was well-acquainted with the Good Book.

But suddenly, on that morning, the characters of the New Testament seemed to leap out at me. They seemed to take on life, not only on and around the Sea of Galilee, but in my spirit — in my heart.

I remembered Jesus’ encounter with Peter the fisherman, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Peter, James and John had fished all night to no avail, but Jesus said to them, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter, perhaps to be sure that Jesus had an appropriate perspective of the situation, said to him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” When I remembered these words, I knew that, perhaps even unknown to Peter, they were about something other than fishing.

In the nighttime of your life, have you ever toiled with all of your heart and might and resolved nothing? Have you ever become discouraged because you have toiled with a major issue of your life and solved nothing? I’ve seen couples give up on marriage because they’ve fiddled with it for years and it remained a mess. They toiled all night and achieved nothing.

When Peter said to Jesus, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing,” was he speaking only of fishing? Certainly not.

Especially [then] did he begin to understand that his speech moved beyond fishing for fish when Jesus began to fill the net of his life with a new vision, a new glimpse of what his life would begin to mean. …

But what convinces people like you and me, people of experience who have tried and failed in so many things in life, to go on back to the deep water and fish again? As I stood looking out of my hotel window toward the Sea of Galilee, I found myself trembling for reasons I could not explain. I remembered how after Peter declared, “Master, we have toiled all night and have caught nothing,” immediately he said, “But at your word, I will go back out there and let my nets down again.”

When does this new vision of a new way of doing and being possess us? Perhaps it comes when, as the Psalmist says, “deep calls unto deep.” Whenever and however it comes, it comes because we take Christ at His word and because we trust. We willingly cast our nets not once or twice, but time and time again.

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