The work day was just about over for Simon, James, and John. It hadn’t been a particularly fruitful night on the water, but in the fishing-game, that happens sometimes. You can’t get too frustrated with fish – they are wild animals after all. Catch or no catch, each day ended the same way, with cleaning and resetting the nets for tomorrow. My job isn’t particularly strenuous, at least physically, but I still know what it feels like to be tired at the end of the day, ready to go home, when something or someone unexpected comes to call. Given that swearing at people and casting them into outer darkness is frowned upon in my line of work, I’ve given my fair share of “Well, we were wrapping up for the day, but we’ll see what we can do” answers, just like Simon Peter tried with Jesus.
The thing about this story from Luke is how no matter how different our circumstance might be from that encounter between Jesus and those who would be his first disciples, it doesn’t take too long to realize that following Jesus can mean all kinds of unexpected work. Whether it is weekly meetings to pray about the rising presence of those experiencing homelessness in your community or sitting in on a stewardship meeting or stepping up to Usher when you thought you might just sit in the pew this Sunday, following Jesus means an ongoing invitation to loving service to God, God’s people, and the Church.
This was made clear to me on Monday afternoon as I sat in the gallery of one of the rooms where Warren County Circuit Court takes place. I was there to offer pastoral support to a member of our community who has made a lot bad decisions over the years. It was a hearing without much hope for my friend, but one which I knew I needed to attend. What I wasn’t prepared for was the three hours of prayerful people watching that would follow. Circuit Court is an interesting place, and for most of the first hour, the din of conversation in the gallery made it next to impossible to understand what was going on in the various hearings, but I was able to discern several things, most of which weren’t really new, but did reinforce old lessons. First, most of the folks who were entering into plea deals with the Commonwealth hadn’t graduated from high school. Second, methamphetamines destroy peoples lives. Third, public defenders have a really difficult job to do. Fourth, judges can be fair, reasoned, and despite the difficult work and too high a standard to which they are called, human.
I didn’t expect to sit in a courtroom for more than three hours on Monday. I had hoped to go to the doctor for a sinus infection and get home early, but the work of following Jesus is often unexpected, and as was the case for Simon, James, and John, sometimes, it comes just as you think your day is ending. Still, to do the holy work to which we are all called – not just us professional minister types – is a gift. Unexpected work often brings with it unexpected joy. Maybe part of this discipleship journey is being able to see the joy amidst the work.