Luke 5:1-11 Once…  Reflection and most photographs by Mart the Rev

I’m taken with the way the call of Peter begins…

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake…

It sounds like an accidental and casual sort of thing… just one day among the other days when he was down by the lake.  But on this day, the crowd pressed too close and he thought he might have to stand in the water… But on this day he saw a floating pulpit that just happened to be one of the two boats belonging to Simon Peter and the two sons of Zebedee…  Is this how disciples are called… on one day among other days… when something serendipitous happens – the lake, the crowd, the avoidance of wet feet, the boat… the calling?

Maybe it is exactly how it happens.  You and I have received our own callings – these nudges from Jesus.  No two callings the same.  These callings taking place in spaces familiar to us, but, on our calling day, on that particular day, Jesus comes close.

Some calls are out loud (or they seem that way) – the call and our conviction – very powerful!  Some calls are more subtle – a gentle warmth like a swelling of our hearts and a sense of connection with something primal, as if heaven and earth are meeting right there, in us.  Some calls are unfolding ones… slowly weaved in our hearts and minds, and though we find no one moment of a-ha, nevertheless we find ourselves, this far on, wearing a finely woven korowai/cloak, and it fits to the point that we wouldn’t be who we are if we no longer wore it.  I am so grateful for the way Jesus came alongside me all those years ago and spoke, as it were, from my boat.

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake…

I love the understated ordinariness of this storytelling.  The lake in the story is Gennesaret – the Sea of Galilee. It is 30kms from Nazareth where Jesus grew up.  I imagine there were a few overnight trips when he was young.  Which lake is ‘your’ lake?  You know, which lake is the one that stirs you?  My mother’s lake is Wakatipu.  Her happiest childhood memories are school holidays at Queenstown when her father worked up there as a government auditor.

My lake is Tekapo.  Just get me there and I am happy.  Eight or so years of summer holidays, as a child, at Mt Gerald Station, sealed it for me.  The lake, the water, the heat and the shimmering light, and a growing sense of usefulness and purpose – it all happened there.

Things happen beside water.  If the water is still you might think of the One who leads you beside still waters.  If the water is choppy you might find it mirroring challenging aspects of your life.  Whatever is going on, the lake can invite reflection and wondering.  Time takes on another aspect by the lake.

Recently, I stood beside Lake Wanaka at dawn to photograph the famous tree.  There it stood – nonchalant and resilient… ah… the kiwi spirit… It was good to be in its company!

I like that Jesus stood beside a lake.  It could have been any lake, it could have been ‘my’ lake.

Once while Jesus was standing beside…

It could have been he was standing beside me at the lake.  That’s how the disciples would talk about it as they reflected on their respective calls… that day, at the lake, he came beside me, and called me.

Anne and I will be walking our second day on the Camino de Santiago in exactly one month’s time.  On that day we will make our way some 200 metres up Alto del Perdon.  Up there is a monument to the medieval pilgrims with their heads bent to the westerly wind as they make their way to Santiago de Compostela.  Santiago is ‘St James’ in Spanish.  It is alleged that the same James, who Jesus stood beside at the lake, took the gospel to Galicia in northwest Spain, and some of his remains are buried on the site of the cathedral in Santiago.  Once Jesus stood beside you.  Where has that lead you?


Once upon a time.  All the best stories begin with ‘once.’  In storytelling the word ‘once’ is used to invite us into something that happened – something from the past.  But of course, in the telling, the past becomes present.  It enters the now.  This once upon a time enters our time and becomes part of us.

The use of the word ‘once’ locates the story somewhere at some particular time but then it becomes timeless.  The best stories are timeless.  We remember them and retell them because they still fit us.

 Once upon a time, writes John, the brother of Spanish-bound James, Jesus happened by the lake and got into my business partner’s boat and turned my life on its ear.

We could look at this as just a story from the past, except this Jesus has not remained in the past.  His Spirit presence lives and continues to take hold of people – people like us – and us-people here, now.  We retell the story because this once from way back then, when the sun came up, and the waters sparkled with colour, is also now.  Now, as in us, today.  We who hear the story, if we are still, we might just catch Jesus looking us in the eye and hear him declare that we, each of us, and all of us, are born for a day such as this.  What’s to stop this?  Isn’t this how he works?  This might be the day where we sense, again, Jesus standing beside us, calling us.  This might be the day that we tell about in the future, beginning with the word ‘once.’  Why not?  Why ever not?