I find myself these days feeling like the soon-to-be disciple Peter must have felt all those many years ago. The fifth chapter of Luke describes how Jesus first called Peter, named Simon at the time, to be His follower. Jesus was preaching to a crowd from Peter’s boat. Peter had been fishing all night and day and was disappointed in his catch. As Jesus concluded His sermon, He wanted to show the abundance that a life in Christ brings. He directed Peter to cast his nets into the water on the other side (that is, the wrong side) of the boat. Peter reluctantly did.
The haul Peter brought up was so immense he and his partners had to have another boat come alongside theirs to try to help haul in all the fish. Even then, we are told, both boats began to sink from the weight of the catch. I feel a bit like Peter.
I am here. With you. And I feel like Peter in this place of abundance. First Presbyterian Church has an abundance of spiritual gifts and resources even in times of perceived scarcity. Peter had fished all day and thought he had nothing to show for it, but a great plenitude was right there just below the surface. We might be tempted to compare our present day with our past, but in Christ there is more possibility right here and now than we could ever imagine.
I know the abundance this church can provide. Just as longtime friends of the church have provided a house for us during this season, so many of you have given abundantly of your time, effort, and money to help make this house more hospitable and welcoming to us. We are in awe of the painters, cleaners, decorators, and other gifted servants in this church who have provided food, childcare and other gifts to help us get settled into our new home.
And just when we thought we knew all about your love and generosity, it hit us just what an abundance there is here. It hit us with a mountain of cans and boxes of pasta and fruit and sauces and crackers and popcorn and granola bars and peanut butter and paper products (and more, but you get the picture). All these things you gave us to stock the pantry in our new home. Hauling them out of the church to our car, I felt like Peter trying to haul in his enormous catch of fish. I felt as if I was almost sinking under the weight of the groceries you all provided for us. Sinking, really, in the profound sense of affection, concern, kindness, and love you all have shown me and my family.
We are grateful to be here and (as I have said several times) grateful for each one of you. I will go on saying this.
But I have to admit feeling like Peter in another way. Upon realizing the amazing powers this Jesus had, Peter fell on his knees and cried out for mercy. I am truly humbled—humbled to receive such a blessing as you have given us. But even more so, I am humbled to be called to be your pastor. It is with great awe for God and great affection for you, I begin that call.
For Peter, this encounter was just the beginning. He would walk with Christ and then in the name of Christ for years. This is a new beginning for us as well. I pray that we all, like Peter, will know the mercy, forgiveness, love, power, and abundance of Christ in the years ahead.
In Christian love,
Rev. Mike Ulasewich