Here’s a children’s sermon on Luke 5:1-11 for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany. I’ve written on it before. (You can find my regular Monday meditation on it here). But today it takes me by surprise.
I’m so used to the way Matthew, Mark and John show Jesus calling the first disciples directly. You know: Jesus walks up to people and says things like “Follow me!”
This is Luke’s version of the same thing. Jesus does not call Peter to follow. He tells Peter he has a new vocation: he’ll be catching people instead of fish from here on. Luke left any explicit invitation on the cutting room floor.
If this weren’t a children’s sermon on Luke 5:1-11, I would probably emphasize either the geography of the story or the miraculous catch of fish, or both.
- The call comes after Peter takes Jesus’ instruction to move away from shore, out into the depths.
- The call comes in the context of Peter’s familiar vocation of fishing.
I suspect these observations connect to deep Gospel truths: we too have to move out of the safety of shore and shallows, and live in the depths. And we too are most likely to find the miracle of Christ’s action in the midst of our daily work, whatever it may be.
God doesn’t act to please the crowd. God acts to reach the soul.
Is there any way to bring that stuff to kid level? I don’t know. But here goes my attempt in a children’s sermon on Luke 5:1-11.
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A Children’s Sermon on Luke 5:1-11
Good morning kids! I’m so glad you are here in worship today. Thank you for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
The last couple of weeks we heard stories of Jesus at the very beginning of his work for God’s kingdom. Today is the story of how some of his first and most famous friends became his followers.
On the Shore
One day Jesus was standing by the lake shore. It was a very big lake. It was so big, and so deep, that some people with fishing boats made their living catching fish there.
Jesus was there on the shore, enjoying the view. Plus he was enjoying the feeling of the sand between his toes. And he was looking around.
There were some fishing boats pulled up on the shore nearby, and their owners were fixing their nets. One belonged to someone Jesus knew: a man named Simon, though Jesus liked to call him Peter. Jesus had come to Peter’s house one time, when Peter’s mother in law was sick. Jesus healed her. So Jesus and Peter were friends
Then Jesus heard a woman’s voice from somewhere up the beach. “Hey! Isn’t that Jesus over there?”
And the woman who had called out came closer. “Jesus, are you going to be teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven today?”
“Sure,” said Jesus.
And as the two of them talked about the Kingdom, another voice called out, “Hey look! It’s Jesus! Let’s go get my blind cousin. Maybe Jesus can heal him!”
One by one and two by two, people started to gather around on the beach to talk to Jesus and listen to him teaching. They came to be healed and to be helped, till the entire beach was full.
And still they kept on coming, pushing Jesus closer and closer to the edge of the lake.
“Hey!” said Jesus, “I’m standing in the water! I need some more room.”
Out in the Boat
Then Jesus remembered Peter was nearby, with his fishing boats pulled up onto the beach. Now Peter was surrounded by the crowd too.
“Hey, Peter!” called Jesus. “Simon Peter! Can I borrow your boat?”
“I don’t know,” said Peter. “I kind of need it for my work.”
Jesus said, “I mean can I get in and you could take me out for a bit?”
“Oh, sure,” said Peter, pulling the boat back into the water. “Hop aboard!”
So Jesus stepped into the boat with Simon and his brother, whose name was Andrew.
“Whoa!” said Peter, when the boat started to rock. “Sit down before you tip us over.”
When Jesus was sitting down, Peter asked “Where did you want me to take you?”
“Just offshore a few yards,” said Jesus. “I need to go out just far enough that this crowd won’t trample me and drown me when I try to teach them.”
So they sailed out a bit farther from shore. Jesus talked to the crowd, across the water, where they were all gathered the beach. Jesus told them all kinds of stories about the Kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus was done teaching, the people in the crowd all went home.
Peter said “That was really interesting, Jesus.” And they talked in the boat for a while about the Kingdom of heaven.
But Peter had a kind of sad look on his face.
Out into the Deep Water
“Why do you look so sad, Peter?” asked Jesus.
Peter didn’t look directly at Jesus. He sort of stared off across the water. “I’m just a fisherman,” he said. “What you say about the Kingdom of God sounds great—but I don’t think I’m good enough to be part of that.”
“Oh, Peter,” said Jesus. “The kingdom of God is for everybody. You know what I think?”
“What?” asked Peter.
“I think you need something to build your confidence,” said Jesus. “Maybe some new experiences. How about adding some adventure in your life? Why don’t you sail your boat out there onto the deep water?”
“Um… I don’t know,” said Peter. “I… um… I think that would make me too nervous. I don’t actually know how to swim. What if I fell onto the water?”
“Don’t you sail this boat all the time?” asked Jesus,
“Sure” said Peter. “But I always stay kind of close to shore. You know—so my feet can reach the bottom.”
“I see,” said Jesus. “Well I think it’s time to take a little bit of a risk. Do something new. How about you sail out where it’s really deep, and do some fishing.”
“No,” said Peter. “I’ve been fishing all night. I didn’t catch a single fish!”
“Trust me,” said Jesus. “Give it a try.”
“Okay,” said Peter—but he sounded pretty grumpy about it.
A Big Catch.
Out they went in the boat. When they got way out from the shore, Peter and Andrew put out the net.
A couple minutes later Andrew said “Hey! Why are we moving? What’s that sound?”
He and Peter looked into the water. Their net was totally full of fish. The fish were pulling the boat, tipping and rocking it. The net was starting to rip!
“What’ll we do?” said Andrew panicking.
“We need some help!” said Peter. He looked to the shore and saw his friends James and John were still there on the beach with their boat.
“Hey you guys!” Peter shouted. “Come and help us! We have too many fish!”
So James and John came out in their boat.
Everybody worked as fast as they could to get the fish into the boats. But soon, both boats were so full of fish that they were getting too low in the water.
“We’re going to sink!” cried Andrew.
“Everybody row!” yelled Peter. “We have to get to shore!”
Well, pretty soon they were all safe on the beach with two huge boatloads of fish.
Peter looked at Jesus in wonder. “How did you do that?” he asked, “How did you know?”
Jesus smiled a sly sort of smile. “That’s the way it is in the Kingdom of God—when you trust me and go out to the deep water some amazing things happen.”
“How can we thank you?” Peter asked.
Jesus smiled that smile again. “What I really want is to give you a new job.”
“But I’ve always fished for a living,” said Peter.
“Oh you’ll still be fishing,” said Jesus. “But from now on you’ll be catching people!”
- I wonder what it felt like when Jesus told Peter to go fish in the deep water?
- I wonder what it felt like when Jesus told Peter he would have a new job fishing for people?
- I wonder if Jesus will ever ask you to to something that feels new and risky?
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