Fourth Sunday before Lent – February 6th 2022


The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. (6 February 1952)

Almighty God, the fountain of all goodness,
bless our Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth,
and all who are in authority under her;
that they may order all things
in wisdom and equity, righteousness and peace,
to the honour and glory of your name
and the good of your Church and people;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord




In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.’

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’

And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’

Isaiah 6


My brothers and sisters,
as we prepare to celebrate
the presence of Christ
in word and sacrament,
let us call to mind and confess our sins.

• God our Father,
we come to you in sorrow for our sins. For turning away from you,
and ignoring your will for our lives; Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

• For behaving just as we wish, without thinking of you; Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

• For failing you by what we do, and think and say;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

• For letting ourselves be drawn away from you by temptations in the world
about us; Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

• For living as if we were ashamed to belong to your Son;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

• May the God of love and power forgive you and free you from your sins, heal
and strengthen you by his Spirit, and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.

Jesus calls his first disciples

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding round 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 the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Luke 5


In preparing my talk this morning I want to acknowledge the author Kenneth Bailey who wrote a brilliant book called “Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes”.  I can highly recommend it for giving the cultural context of many of the stories and events we read about in the gospels.


I’m going to start this morning with a question?


How many people here have ever been fishing? 


What do you think of when you think of fishing – is it something like this?

Did you know that fishing is one of the most popular sports in the UK?

Or when you think of fishing do you think of something like this?


Our story today revolves around fishermen – and three in particular who became Jesus’ disciples and his closest friends.  It is a very familiar story, one that I’m sure that many people here will have heard many times.  It is also quite significant because various aspects appear in all four gospels (in Mark and Mathew we simply get the men leaving their nets and in John it takes place after the resurrection) But before we take a look at it, it might be helpful to get some context.


The second picture here is a small trawler – and is probably 24-27 metres (about 80-90 feet)

But the boats that Simon Peter, James and John had were considerably smaller.

How do we know this?


In 1986 the wreck of a shipping boat emerged on the north west shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The boat has been dated to 40 BC (plus or minus 80 years) based on radiocarbon dating, and 50 BC to 50 AD based on pottery (including a cooking pot and lamp) and nails found in the boat, as well as hull construction techniques.  So that dates it to around the time that the event in Luke took place.  Not surprisingly it has become known as the ‘Jesus boat’.  It was 8.2m long (27ft) and 2.3m wide (7.5ft) – so about a third the length of modern small trawler.

In Luke we read that Simon and his partners, James and John, had two of these boats and they worked together on the Sea of Galilee.  So what do we know about the Sea of Galilee? Has anyone visited Israel and the Sea of Galilee?


Well the first thing to know about it, is that it is not a Sea – it is surrounded on all sides by land so is actually a freshwater lake.  And here you can see some of the other names for it.  The second thing is – it is big.  167 square kilometres or over 64 square miles.  That is pretty large.  For comparison take a look at the size of some of the lakes in the UK.  The Sea of Galilee is over 11 times larger than Lake Windermere which is England’s largest lake.


So having set the scene let’s take a look at the story of the ‘Big Catch of Fish’.


Simon Peter and his partners have been out all night fishing.  That made sense because the fish in the Sea of Galilee fed at night and tended to congregate where the rivers ran into it, mainly near the shoreline – apparently they still do.  Plus in the clear waters the fish could see the nets more easily in the day time.  So these men have been up all night, doing a very physical job and are shattered – but before they can make their way home they have to mend the nets in the daylight before they can go out again.  It is whilst they are doing this that Jesus comes along – followed by a large crowd of people eager to hear Jesus speak.


And then Jesus, without even seeking permission, just steps into Simon’s boat and asks him to put out from shore.  I wonder what Simon Peter must have thought at that point.  Did he think – ‘you’ve got a cheek just helping yourself’ or ‘you’ve got to be joking -I’ve been out all night and I’ve had enough”.  Well, you may recall that in the previous chapter of Luke, Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law of her high fever and in the culture of the time it would have been unacceptable not to return a favour.  And Jesus really needed Peter’s help.  In a large lake, boats drift, and Jesus needed Peter’s rowing skills to keep the boat near the waters edge so the people could hear him talk.   So Jesus reaches out for help – he doesn’t offer it.  And it is a genuine need – not something made up just to entrap him – he needs Peter’s skills.


We don’t know what Jesus spoke about that day – that is not the purpose of the story – but Simon Peter would have had a ring-side seat.  Jesus then tells Simon to do something that might have seemed preposterous – to put out to the deeper waters where the sea of Galilee drops off not far from the shore.  Now net casting could be done from the water’s edge – but the experienced fishermen knew that the best catches came at night.  But in the deeper waters of the lake (it can go down 200 feet) the nets would probably not reach the fish who would be avoiding the heat of the day.   Peter is the expert.  Jesus is a rabbi – what does he know about fishing? 


And yet – there is something about Jesus that makes Simon do as Jesus asks – however absurd it sounds.  So he responds ‘Master (or teacher) …. Because you say so I will let down the nets’. 


And we all know what happens next.

Peter and his crew catch so many fish the nets begin to break – so signal to the other boat to come and give a hand (note that they don’t shout as sound carries further in open water and he probably doesn’t want his competitors to know about a new potential source of rich fishing waters).  And they catch so many fish the boats begin to sink.

Peter and his partners have hit the fishing jackpot.


And yet Peter knows that much more has happened here.  Something miraculous that could only mean that he was in the presence of the divine.  We heard about a similar response in our reading from Ezekiel.  Peter acknowledges that that he is a sinful man and falls to his knees calling him Lord.  In a short space of time Jesus has moved from being a teacher to being his Lord.  And he tells Jesus to get away from him.  In their culture the unclean, which Simon now knew himself to be, could defile the clean.  And yet Jesus turns things on its head – for the clean (Jesus) can purify the unclean.


And then, in a day of the unusual, a day that had turned Simon’s world upside down – Jesus says something else astonishing.  First of all he lets him know there is nothing to be afraid of and then tells him that from then on he would catch men.  The Greek word for “catching” used here (zogron) is rare in the New Testament, but means “to catch alive.” Of course, all fish are caught alive – but a different word is used for that sort of catch as they caught for food.  Here Jesus is saying that the people Simon and his friends will catch will have life (and I couldn’t resist this image as we know from later stories that they caught more than one person at a time)


And finally, we read that they pulled the boat up on the shore, left everything and followed him.  

Bailey comments that “the exaggeration in the text marks it as a genuine Middle Eastern story where dramatic effect is achieved and sincerity demonstrated by exaggeration”.  So they wouldn’t have simply walked off that day – they had things they needed to organise  to ensure the fish were not left to rot and their families to starve.  We know that at least one of them was married and arrangements needed to be made to ensure these families were cared for.  But they did then leave and follow Jesus.  What a commitment.



So what can we take away from today?

  1. Jesus meets people where they are – and can use whatever skills they have in the furtherance of the kingdom. Jesus does not ask Simon to get his act together, his resume prepared, and then come back for an interview. Rather, Jesus encounters him as he is, tells him not to be afraid, and calls him to a new mission of catching people. God calls them as they are and then works on shaping them into faithful servants.


  1. Do we resist Jesus’ claim on our lives because what he is calling us to do seems too crazy, too impractical? How often do we avoid putting out into the deep waters of following and bearing witness to Jesus because we are convinced that we will not see any results? What might it mean for us to go deep-sea fishing with Jesus — to trust and follow him outside our comfort zones, to let go of our certainties, to have our lives radically reoriented?


  1. Peter sees who Jesus really is – and it is that that transforms his life. Our job as followers of Jesus is simply to show other people Jesus and invite them to follow him.  And we can all do this – in how we live our lives, in how we treat other people, the priorities we have and yes, being willing to sit down with others and talk about Jeus.  It doesn’t matter how young or old, rich or poor we are – it is something we can all do because God can use everyone.  Show people Jesus – and let God do the rest.





Young People with Fish Activity

Eucharistic Prayer

• The Lord is here His Spirit is with us.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give thanks and praise.

• It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;
in your love you made us for yourself.
When we turned away you did not reject us,
but came to meet us in your Son.
You embraced us as your children
and welcomed us to sit and eat with you.

• In Christ you shared our life
that we might live in him and he in us.
He opened his arms of love upon the cross and made for all the perfect
sacrifice for sin.

• On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body
which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me
Father, we do this in remembrance of him: his body is the bread of life.

• At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine, he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood
of the new covenant,
which is shed for you
for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.
Father, we do this in remembrance of him: his blood is shed for all.

• As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.
As we eat and drink these holy gifts make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.

• With your whole Church
throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join
the eternal song of heaven:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

We break this bread
to share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body,
because we all share in one bread.

Prayer after Communion

Almighty God,
we thank you for feeding us
with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.
Through him we offer you our souls and bodies
to be a living sacrifice.
Send us out
in the power of your Spirit
to live and work
to your praise and glory.

Blessing and Dismissal

Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory
and gladden our hearts with the good news of his kingdom;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer
be with us all, now and for ever.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.


The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.


If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to