Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, February 10, 2013:

First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-13]

Psalm: Psalm 138

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

Today's Gospel is one we must have heard a gabillion times, if we've been going to church for any amount of time at all. As the Gospel becomes familiar, perhaps the rich symbolic language loses some of its power. The symbol of the fisherman is one we find across church cultures; the mission of fishing for people, too, is one that most faiths hold in common.

Let's look at the Gospel again, to see what we might have missed. In these times of longer work days for those of us still lucky enough to have a job, I'm struck by the fact that Jesus comes to call Simon Peter and his friends and family during their work time. Christ, too, is on the job. The familiarity of this Gospel makes me forget that first verse, that tells us Jesus is preaching when he slips into the boats. I wonder what the crowds who came to hear the word of God made of that?

Jesus slips into the boat of weary fisherman who have had an unsuccessful night. What convinces Christ that these men are the cornerstone of his work on this planet?

If you were setting up your new ministry--or any other kind of venture--would you choose the men that Jesus chose?

In hindsight, it's easy to say "Of course." But take a minute and consider the story for today.

We see fisherman, and unsuccessful fisherman. In the Palestine of Christ's time, these men wouldn't have been at the bottom of the social ladder, but they'd have been close, viewed as solidly working class or lower. It's hard, heavy work to do this kind of fishing--and dirty work, as there are fish and nets to clean.

These are not men who own land, the kind of men that would have had status. These are not men who have been trained by religious authorities, as we might have expected Jesus to choose for his ministry.

Jesus chooses regular, ordinary people. These are not men with gifts of oratory, not first. These are not the best and the brightest, at least not at first. But Jesus chooses them. In similar ways, Christ still calls us, if we can hear.

There are several powerful messages for us here in this Gospel. We, too, have been offered this invitation. And what are we to make of this invitation? How do we respond? Do we tell others? Do our lives change? Can other people tell that we've been changed?

One of the tasks that God calls us to do is to transform the world we live in, to make the Kingdom of God manifest here on earth. No small task. But God has given us an example of how to do this: Christ's experiences on earth show us the way.

At this point, perhaps you echo John the Baptist, "I am not the Messiah." Perhaps this knowledge that God still invites us to be part of Kingdom building makes you feel tired, instead of excited. You think of the chores you have to do each day, your family responsibilities, the work tasks.

The men in Luke's Gospel were no different. In the previous chapter, Jesus has healed Simon's mother-in-law. These are not young, single men, fishing on a boat to pay for college. Just like you, these men had families and work and lots to accomplish in a day.

But Christ calls, and they respond. Perhaps it's because of the nets that are so full to bursting that they almost sink the boats. Perhaps they realize that on their own, they have empty nets, while with Christ in the boat, they're successful in ways they didn't think they could be.

It's a potent metaphor. Christ wants to join you on the boat. Will you give him a place to teach the world? Christ wants you to try again, when you're convinced that only failure can come from casting down your nets again. Will you follow Christ? Will your nets be empty or full to bursting?

Cast down your nets. Cast them down again and again and again until you are a different kind of fish and a different kind of fisherperson.

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