Advent 20: Patronizing

“But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Potentially smarmy words, these words coming from Peter. Words or at least the tone of words that would sound familiar to most of us.

“I can’t find my keys.”

“Did you look in your pocket?”

“I’ve looked everywhere, but because you say so…”

Hear that tone of voice? It’s the tone that says, “This is what I know. This is my area of expertise.” We know it, we use it, we justify it.

Peter had been fishing all night. Jesus told him, in the middle of the day, the time when there weren’t any fish to be found, the time when only an incompetent fisher would be seen throwing out a net, Jesus told him to fish. In Peter’s mind, Jesus was telling him to make a fool of himself.

Of course, Peter was ready with the explanation: “Yeah, these rabbis, they think that they know everything. Today, Jesus, bright guy, good scholar I’m sure, but no fisher. Today Jesus said, ‘put out into the deep water.’ Yeah, I know. Looked pretty foolish, but he was in the boat. What could I do. Had to humor him.”

That may have been what was in Peter’s head. I know it’s in my head at times. “Yes, God told me to be at peace. But I’ve got this stuff to get done, I’ve got to write and talk and counsel and speak. I’m sure he knows theology, but real life? I just don’t know.”

And then, when we are done being patronizing, looking down on God, and we go ahead and try whatever it is that we are being told to do, we discover that our nets are full.  Peter’s attitude didn’t change until after the full nets were dragged ashore. He didn’t have time to think. But when he thought, he realized that telling the God who had made the fish how not to catch fish was pretty foolish indeed.

But the most important thing? Peter obeyed, even with an attitude. Sometimes God even talks to people who are obeying him just to prove him wrong.

(From Luke 5:1-11)