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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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An Encounter | Tales of the Unexpected

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Luke 5:1-3

The morning sun skips over the surface of the water as it ripples and washes against the sterns of small, wooden fishing boats. Burly men call to each other as they sort through their catch, and children gather to ‘supervise’ the operation. I wonder what the sights, sounds, and smells of your frontline are? That was (Simon) Peter’s.

But on this particular morning, Peter’s voice is not heard amongst the chattering. No, last night was a complete waste of time. Lots of rowing, plenty of net throwing, a whole load of ‘try over there?’-ing, but to no avail. Not only have Peter and co. toiled all night for nothing, now they have to clean their mangy nets before returning home to a disappointed family, and perhaps a few hours’ kip. I wonder what kind of day you’ll have on your frontline today? That was Peter’s.

On the shoreline, a crowd gathers and bustles around an up-and-coming young Rabbi called Jesus. ‘I wonder what he’s doing here?’ Peter thinks to himself, as he paws a lump of mud off his net before it goes ‘plop!’ in the lake. Peter doesn’t stop what he’s doing, but Jesus does.

The crowds are confused but continue to swarm around Jesus as he makes a beeline for Peter. These are not optimal preaching conditions; what Jesus needs is a platform, and Peter’s boat will do just the trick. But the boat alone won’t do. If it stays on the shore, Jesus continues to be swamped. If it’s just pushed out into water, it will be a drifting and spinning pulpit. Again, not optimal preaching conditions.

‘Peter?’ enquires Jesus, ‘I need to use your boat, but I need you to pull out a little from shore and then do your thing to keep it still. Can you do that for me?’

‘Yeah, yeah I can do that’.

Jesus has this great habit of not just meeting us and working through us when we are happy and in a ‘holy’ place, he equally does these things when we are sad and in a so-called ‘secular’ place. He meets us where we are, he uses what we have, and through us, he communicates something of himself and his kingdom to the people around us. Wherever you are, however you feel, may you too experience the joy of Christ using you and your ‘boat’ today, for the purposes of his kingdom.

Joe Warton