No shortcuts

I found these seemingly random quotes written down on a single piece of paper on my (shockingly cluttered  – well, at least it would be shocking if it weren’t completely normal for me, sigh) desk:

Seth Godin: “Don’t fall in love with proxy measurements. Gaming the system is never the goal. The goal is the goal.”

Pete Wilson: “You can’t microwave spiritual formation.”

Thomas Merton: “In the spiritual life there are no shortcuts. Those who imagine that they can discover spiritual gimmicks and put them to work for themselves usually ignore God’s will and his grace.”

Dave Schmelzer: “The Holy Spirit is like soft rain on a hard sponge.”

(Sorry, I have no references.)

Yesterday I talked about the convergence of hard work and the miraculous. The first place this convergence must occur is within the self. Spiritual formation requires both a miraculous transformation that is quite beyond our capability and also a great deal of hard work over a long period of time. Both elements – miracle and work  – are absolutely necessary for you to develop spiritual maturity, to grow in character, to live up to your great potential as a human being and a bearer of the divine image. You can live an amazing life filled with power to heal and transform yourself and others. God wants such a life for each of us. I see no reason to settle for anything less.

Red Letter Year: 7/2

Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me — I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.


This is a pattern we are going to see throughout Luke: Jesus speaks (the word of God in v.1), then demonstrates the authority of his word with a display of power, people respond in faith to the word and power, then follow Jesus. The miracle here is unlike the ones so far (healings and exorcisms); here Jesus shows authority over nature. The catch of fish is even more amazing when you consider that these were trammel nets used especially for night fishing. They were visible to fish during the day and had to be washed after each use. The fishermen had worked all night and caught nothing and then Jesus asks them to throw down a now visible net into water they know is empty of fish. Simon’s response of incapability and yet a willingness to obey echoes Mary’s response to the angel in chapter 1 – ‘what you’re saying isn’t really possible, but okay, here goes…’

Peter then identifies himself as a sinner, one not worthy to be in the presence of such a powerful prophet. This is another Lukan theme – Jesus is the friend of sinners. Not only does he not leave Peter alone, Jesus ends this scene the way he began it, speaking an authoritative word over Peter. The miraculous catch of fish foreshadows another amazing catch – of people on the Day of Pentecost.

One final thing here. Mark and Matthew have abbreviated accounts of Jesus calling these disciples (the only other Gospel story close to this one is the post-resurrection story in John 21), so there is not much to compare to Luke. Except that Matthew only says they left their nets, while Mark only says they left their boat (with their father and servants). Luke makes a point of telling us they left everything. Leaving everything to follow Jesus is another theme that runs through Luke (and into Acts) as the proper response of the person who responds in faith to Jesus’ authoritative words and powerful deeds.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.