Third Sunday after Epiphany-Year A-January 26, 2014
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen.
Are any of your fishers?
I grew up doing a little fishing. Usually when we were camping with my brother’s cub scout troop or on vacation in the Midwest, my dad would take my brother and me out with the tackle box and poles to catch a couple of blue gill for dinner (really more of a snack).
I have only ever fished with a pole. A very singular way to fish. Except for the one time I caught an inch long minnow (without knowing it) and then caught a bass on the same hook…I have never caught more than one fish at a time. I would expect that most other people haven’t either.
That is exactly why commercial fishermen, including those of the first century do not fish that way. Instead of using a pole, catching fish one at a time, Simon, Andrew, James, and John use nets to make their living.
Think about the difference between a fishing net and a fishing pole.
With poles you catch fish one at a time vs. with nets, you can catch lots at one time. Think about this as a metaphor for our Christian life. There are times when we take time to nurture our personal relationship with God, in silent or meditative prayer, through daily devotions, or other private acts of worship. However, the communal aspects of our Christian life are just as important. We are all held and supported in God’s net of love together. We are connected in our praise and worship, our call and work.
Sometimes the body of God becomes a little fractured. When a hole develops, the pile of fish still support one another. There are times when the net needs mending—in times of crisis or conflict—and the community can do that.
Fishing with a net is also a little less violent. Yes, the fish still ultimately die, but if they are thrown back, there is no hole in their mouth, or swallowed hook to worry about. At baptism, we experience a death to sin, but with that comes a rebirth.
Also, the net (Jesus) comes to where they are, instead of having to go to the line. The disciples did not go in search of Jesus; he came to them. Even if we go searching for God, we never have to go far, because God comes to where we are—swimming in the waters of death with, and pulls us to new life in Christ surrounded by the rest of our school—the cloud of witnesses.
We swim into the net…maybe out of curiosity, and find ourselves caught in the net, and ultimately we become part of the net…others supporting us while we hold others and invite them to be part of the net too. I know fish aren’t like bees, so the metaphor isn’t perfect, but we work together as a community telling each other where to find life (as Martin Luther put it: one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread) and at the same time invite them to die.
We find our unity there…in the net…in death…in the cross.
This is the unity that Paul is speaking of. This unity does not wipe away our individualities, our diversity, but simply our divisions. We are all called for the same purpose, but carry it out in different ways. Jesus comes to where you are and calls you to get caught in the net, mend the net, be part of the net. He might not be saying to you “I will make you a fisher of people,” maybe he says to you “I will make you a feeder of people” or “I will make you a nurser of people” or “I will make you a teacher of people.” Whatever your skills and passions, you are integral part of the fishing system.
But as we do our work, we hold on to the paradox:
- It is in our perishing that we are saved.
- It is drowning in the waters of death that we are brought to new life.
The invitation is there for all of us…come and see…follow me. We shave the freedom to refuse, but the invitation remains open. The freedom remains, our options are open, there is a different reality…one of unity and peace, where those who are perishing are being saved, and the foolish of the cross makes sense…power comes from weakness…new life ones springs forth from death.