Abundance Hidden In Plain Sight
The Rev Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
The other day, a friend of mine texted me out of nowhere. I've removed the expletives.. “I am so filled with anger and frustration that this pandemic is still a thing. I don’t know what to do with all this and I hate that somehow I am asked to figure this stuff out for my family and my job. Sorry,” she ended with. “Just needed to vent.”
When I asked her what happened to prompt the vent, she said, “My daughter texted that she had a runny nose and eyes and I’m 95% sure it’s allergies but everything seems so complicated and fraught.”
And that’s just it right there, right? That’s the space we’re all living in. The space we’ve all been living in for 22 months now. We’re pretty sure that it’s just a cold or that if everyone is wearing masks we’ll probably be fine or even if we get Covid it won’t be too bad. Pretty sure. But it could also be that that cough is Covid, that even all the precautions we take still won’t work, that even if we don’t get too sick, what if we pass it along to someone who does?
We don’t know. We haven’t known for nearly two years. And in that time everything that once seemed so simple has become so fraught.
I wonder if that’s a bit how Simon felt through the night as he was fishing and catching nothing. It was such a simple thing for him, steering the boat, dropping the nets, catching the fish. He’d probably done it mindlessly for years. But that night there was nothing. The fish were gone, the nets were empty.
And then, just when Simon is ready to head home, maybe get some sleep, here comes this weird guy Jesus who wants to use his boat…to talk to a crowd who’s on the shore? Which is obviously not what boats are for.
Simon is tired from fishing all night, frustrated because he didn’t catch anything, but to his credit, he’s just curious enough to indulge Jesus.
This is Luke’s story of the call to discipleship, and it’s a bit more subtle than its counterparts in Mark or Matthew. Jesus doesn’t immediately call Simon to follow him. He starts first by asking a simple favor: Can I use your boat for a bit?
Sure, alright, Simon says. And Jesus preaches to the crowd on the shore as Simon looks on. No harm, no foul. At worst, Simon loses a couple hours of his day and this guy will move on.
But then Jesus challenges him a bit more. “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
You can almost hear Simon sigh. “We already tried. All night. Nothing. I just want to go home.” But again, there’s something about Jesus that makes Simon pause, makes him trust Jesus. Some unspoken hope latent, ready to spring open. “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” And when he does, there comes an abundance he did not expect. So many fish, they almost capsize the boat.
So I’ve been thinking today about our unexpected abundance after a long night of uncertainty. A night that has felt like futility in a lot of ways. Maybe an abundance so surprising that we don’t think we’re worthy of it. Because I think this pandemic time has revealed an abundance in plain sight.
Covid has made simple things hard, that’s true. This Omicron surge reminded us to think twice before going to a restaurant or making travel plans or coming to church. Just as we were picking up speed and getting back to “normal,” going back to work, going back to school, getting looser about our mask-wearing, Omicron slowed us down again.
It makes me wonder. Are we missing our lesson? Are we missing the abundance in plain sight? And I don’t mean to dismiss the pain of this time. The people who have gotten sick and are still dealing with long-haul symptoms, the people who have lost loved ones. The overtaxed essential workers who didn’t get a work-from-home option Those folks for whom isolation has caused them to slip deeper and deeper into anxiety and depression.
But I also don’t want to dismiss the gifts of this time. Every major change brings with it real pain and real opportunity, real abundance.
This pandemic has made us stop and question things that we once took for granted. The things we actually need. How fast we actually need to go, how loaded our schedules need to be.
Maybe the abundance of this moment is time. Time to reflect on what we value, what’s important to us. Time to get intentional about how we spend the hours that have been freed up by canceled commutes and meetings and the things we used to fill our evenings with. Time to sit with ourselves. To notice all the things we do to avoid feeling whatever we’re feeling.
Maybe the abundance of this moment is intention. Recognizing the difference between things you do to keep busy and distracted, and the things you do because they give you life.
I didn’t say stepping into this abundance would be comfortable.
It wasn’t comfortable for Simon. Once Simon accepts the unexpected abundance, Jesus moves him into a whole different way of living. He leaves behind the nets that were now full of fish. He chooses to leave behind a life that is predictable, comfortable. He chooses to take on a new name, Peter, and he chooses to follow love, healing, abundance redefined. He chooses to follow Jesus.
Maybe Simon was afraid. Probably he was. And I’m sure his new life, this new and different abundance, was hard at times, frustrating at times.
I don’t deny that this unending uncertainty has been hard and frustrating. But I invite us this week to look for the unexpected abundance in plain sight. The opportunities to slow down and pay attention. The invitation into intention. The invitation into new life.