The Big CatchFebruary 6, 2022 by Carey Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Carey
I’ve had it. This is not sustainable. We’ve put in our 10 000 hours to make us quote unquote experts, but we have nothing to show for it. How are we suppose to live if we can’t catch any fish to feed our people? Only one fish, if you count that one that minnow. Look at those empty nets and we’ve been fishing all night. Now the sun is rising. And the nets still need to be cleaned and mended. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been so exhausted.
Enter: A Conversation between fishermen. In walks Jesus, instructing them to get back into the boats with the already cleaned nets so that he can preach to the crowds gathered.
I thought Jesus was one to give rest to the weary. Not today. Seems like he’s got other plans. Jesus is asking us go the extra mile. The disciples sit back in the boat, they’ve heard the sermon a few times now. Even though Jesus changes it up, they are at the point where they are starting to preach some of the sermon in their heads along with Jesus. The fishermen look at each other and mouth the words. “Blessed are the poor…” Yep that’s us tonight, they chuckle. Jesus catches this interchange between the two out of the corner of his eye and smiles. Good, they have been listening he thinks to himself. They are in a good place to listen and hear what I am about to show them.
While there wasn’t a catch in sight the night prior, the fishermen did make headway. One of their most important skills was to make and mend linen nets weighted with stones. To catch fish, they first needed nets. Even when there weren’t any fish they were preparing for a time when there would be. They worked with their hands. Their hands were acts of service. The service was prayer.
I’m reminded of a quote by Barbara Brown Taylor,
To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger….In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.
Like many others during the last two years, I’ve recently taken to painting my house. The last time I painted a house was at the parsonage in Richmond Hill. I was grieving the loss of a pregnancy. So I got busy and painted and I didn’t stop until the whole house was done. I am no longer in that stage of life. But after two years of pandemic living, of being at home a lot…. it is time for a refresher.
While this isn’t exactly casting into the deep and it doesn’t solve any of the worlds problems, the methodical movements of covering up the old with the new revitalizes.… Hands working creatively better able me to cast into the deep, listening to how God might be inviting us into the unknown depths of God’s abundance.
In our lives, going deeper often comes with some dissatisfaction with the status quo. Of wanting to tweak something to make it better. We want to be a people who can cast in the deep together, even when we are exhausted.
After two years of pandemic living, the dissonance in our lives is louder. After 3 rounds of online school, 3 suspensions of in-person worship, our fishing nets seem to have caught a snag coming up empty without a catch.
We might echo what the fishermen say, this isn’t sustainable.
The larger picture also says that churches are closing at an exponential rate, sped up even more by the pandemic. Yes, churches around the globe face tough decision about sustainability. Next Sunday, you’ll get an opportunity to join the discussion and momentum forward. So when Jesus gets into our boat, asking us a a community to cast out into the deep even when we are exhausted. We are willing. We may even sing, Here I am Lord. We are READY to pull up the nets with some sustainable Gospel abundance.
Yet even when the net turns up empty, we continue to cast them into deeper waters. For the most part, as a community of faith and as a community of people across the world, we’ve been doing this well together. Casting into the deep. Patiently. Consistently. Putting the needs of our neighbours before our own. Being responsible and following mandates (even when they are exhausting) because we don’t want our behaviour to have negative consequences on our neighbour. We are giving up some ‘freedom’ for the greater good.
What is freedom we ask?
Along time ago, Luther wrote something called the Freedom of a Christian. Christians are to freely and willingly serve God and our neighbours. "A Christian is the most free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”
Freedom is not our own, but considers the needs of our neighbour. Freedom is not represented with the ugliness of swastikas, confederacy flags, violence, intimidation - all symbols of intolerance, hate and privilege. Freedom doesn’t ask ‘what is best for me’ but instead what is in the best interest of my neighbour and what is sustainable for how we live together.
We wonder…what is the real issue of the convoy ( that doesn’t represent the 90 % majority of truckers who continue to work and follow mandates). One article in the Record suggests: The real challenge has to do with low wages, safety, gig work and fatalities. Let’s cast our nets into the deep of those real issues. (And yes, this too is sustainability challenge).
Peter and the crew likely had a case of fishing fatigue just like we have a case of pandemic fatigue. Yet, we hear in the Gospel, Jesus encouraging the disciples to cast into the deep waters of hopefulness, promise, optimism, neighbourliness, supportive community. God fills our nets with that which sustains us in relationship together.
What are signs of hope in these fatigued moments?
A conversation between a rock star and a comedian points us in a good direction.
Enter into a late night chat between Dua Lipa and Stephen Colbert
She asks him,
do your faith and your comedy interact?
Colbert says he is Christian and Catholic which uphold the values of love and sacrifice. And somehow these are related and in relationship. Also, he says death is not defeat.
Funny and sad can go together. Sadness is like a little bit of an emotional death but not a defeat if you can find a way to laugh about it. Laughter keeps you from having fear of it.
Colbert continues to reflect with Dua Lipa:
If there is a relationship between comedy and faith it is this:
“Laughter keeps you from having fear of the sadness,” he says. “And fear is the thing that keeps you turning to evil devices to save you from the sadness.”
“If there’s some relationship between my faith and my comedy, it’s that no matter what happens, you are never defeated,” Colbert says. “You must understand and see this in the light of eternity and find some way to love and laugh with each other.”
This pandemic has tapped into a communal sadness on many levels.
And yet what has been caught in the nets cast into the deep is that time and time again - somehow we are finding a way to love and laugh with each other.
What is sustainable?
This my friends, love and laughter might be two of the very few things that sustain us in our life together. When challenges present themselves, which they will, we can tap into the humanity of each other right before us.
Hop into the boat. Jesus invited us to go fishing.
The catch de jour is the gift of love and laughter and sustenance (sustainability).
Taylor, Barbara Brown. Altar in the World.
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