Jesus said to Simon, “Let down your nets for a catch.” They caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break … and they filled both boats, so that they began to sink. When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:4-11 excerpts (NRSV)
What happened to the fish, please?
Remember? The net-breaking number of fish? The boat-sinking quantity?
The story’s narrator wanders off after Simon Peter, who wanders off after Jesus. But I’m still there on the beach, wondering. What are they gonna do with that fish?
The thing about Jesus’ miracles is that no matter how spiritual their effects might be, they always involve the stuff of the world. It’s not just hearts that are changed; the world is changed, too. Fish and bread and jars of wine pile up.
One obvious job of the church is to bear witness to the miracles. The perhaps less-obvious job is to ask—especially when it comes to miracles of abundance—what happens then. Do we leave the leftover bread on the ground for the birds, or do we gather it up, twelve baskets full? And then what? Who needs it? Who deserves it? Who gets it?
Jesus’ miracles of abundance always have leavings. Even the ones in your church’s life: unused rooms in the building, last year’s budget surplus, unoccupied heated spaces in a frigid winter, a 501(c)(3) status with room under the umbrella, leftovers after the meal. And before everyone wanders off to the next worthy thing and just leaves those collateral blessings lying around, I hope somebody will ask:
What will happen to the fish, please?
For the miracles you perform, and for the miracles you expect us to perform after the miracles, thank you.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.