Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"Follow me and I will make you fish for people."
Since moving to northern New Jersey, my husband and I have enjoyed the fact that we can go visit our daughter Ariel in Allentown with some regularity, since she is now a little more than an hours drive away. On one early visit we made a detour to a huge camping and sporting goods mecca a little distance from Allentown. The store sits as a beacon along the highway, drawing people in at a great distance. We weren't there to purchase anything specific, but more to marvel at all of the items and equipment they sell. They have an indoor aquarium to keep young children and everyone interested and occupied. I have to admit there were many things I had never seen before. Chief among them was ice fishing equipment. My experience with fishing is almost completely salt water surf casting and an occasional trip on a head boat or, more rarely these days, a friends boat. I never knew anything about ice fishing. There were drills of all sorts with which to make holes in the ice and structures to put over the holes to keep the weather off those who are fishing. Most remarkable were the fishing poles which were tiny, a foot and a half or so. Some of the items we couldn't even figure out what one would do with them when ice fishing. Compared to the fishing I had done in my life, all of this seemed both mysterious and confusing. We had a delightful day and continued to talk about ice fishing equipment on our drive home. Neither of us, having any experience, could really make any sense out of the experience, since we had no reference points in our own lives.
Jesus starts his ministry by walking along the sea and calling guys who were fishing to be his partners in ministry. Jesus promised these rough men that they would learn to fish for people. They probably liked the connection he was making with them that day, but I am sure they had no idea what he really meant. I am convinced that they had no real reference points to what it meant to be Christ's disciples in ministry. These professional fishermen would change their profession and all of their reference points. They would learn a whole new way of being. They would not stop being who they were, but would have their former skills transformed into a radical new way of being and working. The early days together must have been mysterious and confusing for those disciples. They would spend a great deal of time away from the water, out of their familiar elements, and try their hand a drawing people into God's love. Into the near presence of a loving and incarnate Jesus, the Son of God. How awkward and remarkable those early days must have been. It is always awkward and remarkable to move through a transition, a new way of being, and into a new ministry and calling. But Jesus promised the transformation was in his hands, he was the teacher, and they would learn in his near presence. He would guide them step by step and walk each road and sail each sea with them.
Today, I pray that we can acknowledge the transitions we are moving through and trust that Christ Jesus is guiding us and walking with us step by step, sailing with us, sea by sea. We are constantly in process. We are constantly growing and changing, and God is constantly calling us beyond the comfortable, familiar places. May we all tenderly hold each other and ourselves in prayer as we trust to God's love our growth and change. Those crusty fisherman could do no more than that. God asks no more than we trust that God's love is big enough to guide us through the present and coming changes. May we who are called to follow Christ, trust that we will learn to catch others with love and draw others from the depths of despair to the brilliant light of God's transforming grace.