Faith from the Margins to the Web for the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C:
Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
“We’ve worked all night and yet have caught nothing!”
Well, isn’t that the truth. If I had a dollar for every day that I felt like shaking my fist to the skies and uttering something like that…well, maybe I wouldn’t even need to work anymore! It is our human experience, so many times, that we work to the utmost of our capacity and yet it doesn’t seem like we accomplish what we set out to do.
So, I can relate to the fishers of fish in this Gospel lesson, out there on the Lake, lowering their nets and pulling back an old shoe or a few minnows. Ugh. So frustrating. And along comes Jesus and says, “lower your nets.” Simon is willing to do it, but if I could read sarcasm into the Biblical Greek, I can imagine it was with a bit of, “Ok, whatever you say, Jesus…” Either that, or I’m projecting. It would have been like that for me, at least.
But it occurs to me that Jesus knew that, too.
Jesus knows when we are exhausted, and frustrated. Jesus knows when we have put that net into the water for the 10,000th time only to dredge up nothing worthy. Jesus knows that when the still, small voice of our heart hears the nudge to try one more time, our exhausted frame says, “are you kidding?” even if our dutiful response is, “if you say so…” It might be that the real love is casting that net even when we are filled with doubt.
I think that is what Jesus means here. It isn’t a story of magic or “third time’s the charm.” It’s a matter of engaging our skills to serve the world even when we aren’t sure that it will produce great things. It is casting our cares on God who says, “one more time” and then being delighted by whatever emerges from that haul.
I also note that Simon didn’t try to do it alone. Remember that, friends.
Here at Faith from the Margins to the Web, I haven’t been able to do it alone, either. My nets have been filled to overflowing with God’s grace. I’ve had participants and students and Patience my beautiful friend and photographer. I have more people who want to participate than time to type and cut and curate and post what they have to share. The haul has been greater than I anticipated, or that will fit in my boat.
That brings me to my point here, and why I’m writing this week’s reflection solo. I have so many people who want to participate in groups and bible studies in my context that it’s gotten hard to manage. I’ve decided to spend my time with them instead of managing the flurry of recordings, information and weekly blogging. So, I’m asking my village: is it time for us all to fish for people?
Right now, I write a blog each week, but my hope is that this blog has inspired others to do the same. We are all called to fish for people. Maybe we are all called to bring our own sense of the Gospel to each other as well, crossing all the margins that could separate us so we can see Christ in each other.
So, I’m moving away from doing all the writing and the curating, and inviting this community of readers to help. Pick a week…any week…and sit down with someone you know (or even someone you don’t) and read the Gospel lesson together (you can find the weekly lesson here). Write down what you think. Send it to me, and I’ll post it here (just tell me how you want me to give you credit and list your name!). If you want a copy of the template we use for bible study, just ask! I’ll send it to you. I’ll still be engaging people in bible study here and posting from time to time as well as I’m able…but the boat is full, and I’m reaching out to see who else can help me with these nets filled with beautiful reflections on the holy scriptures that are yearning to be heard.
Let’s fish for people together and see what happens (note from the Gospel, “Don’t be afraid!”)
Stay tuned to see what happens next…
Grace and Peace,