May 5, 2019: "Nothing But Net"

May 5, 2019                                                                                     Rev. Rhonda Blevins, DMIN

Nothing But Net

John 21:1-19

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.  When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”


Peter must have been one lousy fisherman.

When we first meet Peter in the Gospel of Luke, he’s washing his fishing nets. He has been fishing all night without catching anything other than disappointment. He can’t even catch a break! Nothing But Net is great in basketball—not so much in fishing. You may remember this “call” story of Peter. As he and his fishing colleagues are beat after their fruitless night of fishing, they’re on the shore there at the Sea of Galilee cleaning their gear. Jesus is teaching a crowd. The crowd presses in on Jesus, so he steps into Peter’s boat and begins teaching them from the boat. When he finishes teaching, he asks Peter to take the boat out into deep waters to fish. Peter, never reluctant to say what’s on his mind, tells Jesus that they’ve been out there all night without catching anything, but whatever you say, Boss. So they go out, drop their nets, and catch so many fish that two boats nearly sink. Peter is so amazed by this that Luke tells us Peter and the others “left everything” and followed Jesus. You can visualize Peter walking away with two boatloads of fish flopping around wondering what the heck just happened.

Three and a half years pass. Peter is one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter is witness to all the healings, all the miracles. Peter has walked with this man. He has undoubtedly shared countless fish tales. Innumerable meals. Peter has shared laughter and tears. Peter was on the mountain when he saw a transfigured Jesus. Peter was in the upper room when he felt Jesus washing his rough and tired feet. Peter was there in the garden when he heard the soldiers approaching—when he heard Jesus rebuke him for his violent response. Peter was there in the courtyard as Jesus faced trial. That’s where Peter denied even knowing Jesus, complete with cursing fitting of a sailor.

And then, Peter was there inside an empty tomb as he saw burial cloths lying there, and the cloth covering Jesus’ face neatly rolled and set aside. Peter was presumably there in the room when Jesus suddenly appeared to the disciples, twice, showing them his scars, even inviting Thomas to touch his scars.

Those final events all happened near Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified. But now, in the Gospel of John, we’re back in Galilee some time later. All of that . . . all of the walking with Jesus and sharing the journey . . . even witnessing the risen Lord . . . It. Still. Does. Not. Sink. In.

“I’m going fishing,” Peter tells his friends. Back to what he knew before. Back to the ordinary, the mundane. Back to life-as-he-has-known-it. Back before Jesus took him away from the only occupation he has known.

You and I know that Peter shouldn’t give up his day job as a disciple, because once again, Peter’s out on the water all night long—fishin’ naked John tells us. This “naked” detail is interesting (and quite funny) for John to add. Peter obviously has no where to go, no one to see, no thing to do. Not even a fish to fry. Once again, Peter’s got Nothing But Net. Emphasis on NOTHING.

And if that isn’t bad enough, some smart aleck on the shore taunts them, “You boys don’t have any fish, do ya?” They look into their empty nets, then back at the stranger. “Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.”

I want to stop here for a bit: Peter, looking into his empty net, wearing nothing but a frown. I don’t want you to miss the irony, or at least the literary genius, of placing Peter back in the same ole’ boat, with the same ole’ empty nets, in the same ole’ situation he was in three and a half years prior when he left everything to follow Jesus.

There were hundreds, maybe thousands of fish all around him, but none were in his net. The thing is, most of us aren’t much different than Peter.  We have hundreds, maybe thousands of blessings all around us at any given moment, yet our attention is on our lack.

Lynne Twist, in her book The Soul of Money, captures exactly what I mean:

For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of . . . We don’t have enough exercise. We don’t have enough work. We don’t have enough profits. We don’t have enough power. We don’t have enough wilderness. We don’t have enough weekends. Of course, we don’t have enough money—ever. We’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough or fit enough or educated or successful enough, or rich enough—ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack . . . What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life. 

I’m convinced that most of us have fallen victim to a ubiquitous epidemic—this epidemic is called the “Scarcity Mentality.” Stephen Covey coined this term in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Here’s one way to think about this “Scarcity Mentality”:

Here we are together. We’re all breathing in. We’re all breathing out. We all need the air in here. I need it. You need it. It’s vital for our individual survival. But are you worried or anxious about having enough air to breathe at the moment? Probably not. There’s abundant air in here.

But imagine that you and I went scuba diving together. I look over at you with wide eyes and indicate that my air isn’t working. I ask to share your air. Now how do you feel? All of a sudden, your air is precious. Its scarcity is a cause for concern. “What if there’s not enough?” you may instinctively wonder. The focus is turned to lack. Scarcity Mentality.

That’s the same place we find Peter. His focus was on his lack—his failure not only as a fisherman, but as a friend. If you recall, Peter had failed Jesus. Royally. Three times he denied even knowing Jesus as he faced his darkest hour. That had to weigh heavy on his mind. Maybe he decided to go fishing—to go back to how things were before Jesus— in order to try get away from his guilt and shame. But even fishing didn’t fill him up. A failure at fishin’ and friendship.

But then a snarky stranger appears, “You boys don’t have any fish, do ya?” “Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.” “Try throwing the net on the other side.” I can just see them rolling their eyes and whispering to one another, “Who does this guy think he is?” Nevertheless, they did as the stranger suggested.

When they threw their nets on the other side, the story shifted—Nothing But Net to grouper galore! So. Many. Fish. So much that these rugged fishermen couldn’t haul it in. And then through that abundance they recognized, “It’s Jesus!”

Remember the post-Easter sightings in the Gospel of John: Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus through hearing her name spoken; Thomas recognized Jesus through touching his wounds; Peter now recognizes Jesus through abundance.

In the same way, it’s difficult for us to recognize the Lord when we’re looking at our lack. We dismiss a snarky stranger—find him nothing more than nuisance—when our minds are set towards scarcity. Yet this seems to be our default setting as humans. We have to intentionally shift our mindset, in the same way Peter and friends had to shift their nets. We shift our focus not towards abundance, which Brene Brown teaches as the flip side of the same coin as scarcity, but we shift our focus towards “enough.”

How do we do it? I want to suggest a three-step process: stop, thank, pray.

·         Stop. The first step is to catch ourselves in the scarcity mindset. When we wake up in the morning and our minds immediately take us to, “I didn’t get enough rest,” or “I don’t have enough time,” or “I don’t have enough meaningful activity,” or wherever our minds go on default, the trick is to notice, and to stop our brains from taking us down that path of lack, or what my therapist friend calls, “Stinkin’ Thinkin.” Peter and friends had to stop what they were doing in order to pay attention to the stranger on the shore. And when our thoughts of scarcity run amuck, we must tell ourselves, “Stop it, brain! You and your wanton lack aren’t the boss of me!”

·         Thank. After they stopped to listen to the stranger’s advice, Peter and friends shifted how they were doing things—they shifted from left to right—and threw their nets down on the other side. Our shift after stopping the thoughts of not-enough-ness, is to notice everything around us sustaining us in that moment. And more than that, to give thanks. For air to breathe, a roof overhead, food in the belly, money in the bank, a car to drive, a friend to call.

·         Pray. When Peter finally recognized Jesus, his first instinct was to run toward him. We do the same thing when we pray. The specific prayer that we recite as we work to train our brains away from scarcity to sufficiency will be related to “enough.” In the Lord’s prayer, the way Jesus framed this idea was “give us this day our daily bread.” Just enough bread. You may prefer your own prayer or mantra. “I have everything I need,” “I have enough,” “God is faithful to provide.” Whatever works best for you, the idea is to pray or recite this often, daily or more.

Stop. Thank. Pray. Make this your habit, and I am convinced that the world will soon become a more bountiful place because your perception has changed.

I close with a story that I offer to you as a prayer:

A man at the airport overhead a conversation between a mother and daughter, who were facing a final departure, because the mother had failing health. Each wept as they both said to each other, “I pray you enough.” Later, the man asked the mother, “I heard you say, ‘I pray you enough.’ May I ask what that means?” She smiled. “That’s a traditional prayer that has been handed down in our family. My parents said it often to everyone.” When we say, “I pray you enough,” we want the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to daily sustain their life. It means. I pray you enough sun to brighten your day no matter how gloomy it may appear. I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more. I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I pray you enough pain so that you may appreciate the smallest of joys in life. I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I pray you *enough love to always know someone cares. I pray you *enough good memories so you will not forget your blessings. I pray you *enough faith to endure your heartaches. I pray you *enough hope to help you face the future. I pray you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.”[1]




[1] Author unknown.

Debbie Wilson