Reading – Lk 5:4-11
Reverend Corin Child, Norwich School Chaplain, gave an insightful assembly to the whole school on 'feeling wobbly'.
"Many of you will have been to Norwich’s ski slope in Trowse. And some of you will have been there to have a go at “tubing”, where you go down the slope on a large inflatable doughnut. One or two of you may also know that NS pupils help out at the ski slope for their community service, helping children with disabilities and learning difficulties. Skiing and sliding are wonderful things for disabled children to have a go at; it puts these great big grins on their faces.
My daughter has learning difficulties. She has lots of friends at the special needs school that she goes to, and last year she invited a group of them to go tubing at the ski slope for her birthday party. The instructors were patient and explained everything carefully. And as we stood at the top of the slope, wearing those funny helmets and looking at the drop we were about to go down, an instructor asked if anyone had any questions. One boy in the group, called Charlie, put his hand up, and said, “Erm – will it hurt?”
Not many people would think to ask that question at that moment. Of course, the instructor gave him all the extra reassurance he needed that it was quite safe. But maybe Charlie was just saying out loud something that lots of people think quietly to themselves in all sorts of situations. Is this going to be OK? Have I bitten off more than I can chew here? How is this going to end? Will it hurt?
Those thoughts may have crossed your mind already this term if you’ve put your name down for something that’s out of your comfort zone. It’s natural to have those thoughts before a sports match, for instance. (Adults as well as children; I’ve no doubt that experienced international rugby players will get the jitters before every game of the World Cup).
Feeling wobbly like this is a fairly universal human experience. Very often there is help and advice to be found on universal human experiences in the Bible, which is why we open its pages and consider a passage every week. This week we heard the story of Peter the fisherman and the miraculous catch of fish. Jesus sees that Peter and his friends don’t have much to show for a night’s work. He suggests that they have another go – even though they didn’t normally go net fishing during the daytime. It is as the nets fill to bursting with an impossible number of fish that it dawns on Peter that this is no ordinary passenger in his boat.
And Peter has a wobbly moment.
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man.’”
I suspect that a lot was racing through his mind just then – not only his unworthiness to stand in the presence of someone so overwhelming. Perhaps he also thought about where all this was leading, what the holy man wanted with him, where all this was going to end. Peter is the reckoned as the patron saint of net makers, shipbuilders, fishermen, locksmiths cobblers and foot problems. I think we should add one more to that this; he is the patron saint of people who are feeling a bit wobbly from time to time.
The thing is, though, that there is a feeling that comes after you feel wobbly. I wish I could describe to you the look on Charlie’s face as he arrived at the bottom of the slope on his inflatable tube – or the enthusiasm with which he got back up the slope for another go. In the case of Peter, Jesus tells him not to be afraid and follow him. And so begins an adventure way beyond the expectations of a small-town fisherman.
Feeling wobbly may not pleasant – but you can think of it as a “pre-feeling”. It’s how we always feel just before we do something amazing and go beyond what we thought we could do – whether it’s an adventure with God (like Peter), or an adventure in life experiences (like Charlie), or an adventure at the beginning of a new school year. At first we ask: Will it hurt? Where will it lead? But after apprehension comes exhilaration; the cry of anxiety is followed by the cry of delight.
Here’s what Beyonce Knowles says about how she is before she goes on stage:
“I get nervous when I’m not nervous. When I am nervous, I know I'm going to have a good show.”
Bear that in mind if you have a nervous moment or two at the beginning of term. It may just mean you’re going to have a good show."