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Musings... From Sunday!

Yesterday was a holiday and I took a break (Well for some of the day anyways!). In place of a new musing, I am offering the reflection from Sunday in written form. A number of folk have asked that I make publishing my reflections a regular feature. I'll continue to think about this... I believe sermons are meant to be primarily heard, not read, as there is a sacred interaction that occurs between the speaking and the hearing... convince me otherwise and I'll consider regularly publishing the Sunday reflection!

I apologize in advance for any spelling and/or grammatical errors. As above, these spoken words were not intended to be printed for public consumption.

(Luke 5:1-11)This story of Jesus teaching from a boat – not just any boat – but Simon’s boat… so often becomes a story about a result – a story if you will, with a moral attached to it – do what Jesus says, put out to the deep water… do it (the youth program, a new idea to attract new comers) do it one more time… try one more thing… let your net down on the other side of the boat…

If I had a penny for every sermon that’s been preached from that perspective. – well, I’m sure I could by us all a nice fish dinner! And all too often those sermons skip or gloss over weariness of those first fishers… words spoken by the main character of the story; the man called Simon.

"Rabbi, we've been working hard all night long and have caught nothing; but if you say so, I'll lower the nets."

Can you hear in his voice the weariness of being caught in a system over which has no control. A few weeks ago you may remember that we heard this same story from the perspective of the writer of the gospel of John – and, you may also remember that I spoke then of how the fisher folk of Jesus’ day were not individual workers in a free enterprise system – but rather pawns in a state-regulated enterprise.

They were caught in the net of empire. Caesar owned every body of water, and all fishing is state-regulated for the benefit of the urban elite. They could not fish without joining a syndicate. Most of what they catch is exported — leaving local communities impoverished and hungry, deprived of the dietary staple they’ve depended on for centuries — and the Romans collect exorbitant taxes, levies, and tolls each time fish are sold. To catch even one fish outside of this exploitative system is illegal.

It is against the backdrop of this exploitation that Simon, exasperated, says to Jesus from his place in the boat: “"Rabbi, we've been working hard all night long and have caught nothing; but if you say so…”

“If you say so…” Simon is conditioned to experience this one who has stepped into his boat as one more person who wants to control and take advantage of him… if you say so… If you say so… mutters the one under their breath who has no sense of self-worth. If you say so cries the one moves who through life feeling like their life is not their own to live.

Dianna Butler Bass writes,

Simon and Andrew weren’t middle class. They didn’t run a successful business. Maybe they owned their own boat instead of renting it. But most likely not. They weren’t even what we think of as working class. They were peasants on the bottom rungs of an extractive and abusive system. And those peasants were often in conflict with the politicians and tax collectors who stole from them. They resented imperial control of their homeland and its lakes and waters. They swam in a sea of injustice.

To say their sense of self-esteem, their self-worth suffered – would be a giant understatement…

Even when confronted by abundance, the nets are breaking… even when his mates come quickly to his call for help, even as he is literally standing knee deep in fish, the product of his own hard work, he falls down before Jesus and says, "Leave me, Rabbi, for I'm a sinner."

Maybe we don’t use those exact words. But we’ve said it and we’ve heard it said. Those of us in this deeply privileged vocation of ministry know what it is to sit across from another who is wracked with remorse, guilt, shame, regret… and the list goes on… “Leave me, Rabbi, for I’m a sinner.”

To which Jesus replies, "Don't be afraid; from now on you'll fish among humankind."

Don’t be afraid. That’s the encouragement. From now on you’ll fish among humankind.

That’s the affirmation.

Affirmation and encouragement… we all could sure use a little bit more of both. You are good enough. You are worthy. You are beautiful. You are creative. You are valued. You are gifted. You are talented. You are…come and take part… contribute to this project… offer your ideas, join your voice with ours and sing!

Did you catch that first line of the hymn we sang just before the prayer of reflection… tune my heart to sing your grace…”

I’ve often said, and I’ve said it from this pulpit, “I can’t sing. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” I’ve even gone to such great length as to ensure that Jennie mutes my mic when we are singing as a congregation… because I sing out of key or out of tune or something, and maybe it is related to my hearing impairment and not being able to hear the notes…

And still, my mother tells me almost every time we speak after the Sunday service, that I should sing more… that I should sing louder… and yes, she’s been doing that for my whole life…

I was interested to learn, that though we often use singing out of tune and off key interchangeably, that singing out of tune generally refers to singing a melody inaccurately, so that the notes sung do not match the intended pitch of the song. and that singing off key usually refers to singing in a different key or pitch than the accompaniment or the original song, which can create a discordant or mismatched musical effect.

Tune my heart to sing your grace… not that we all sing the same song in the same key… but we sing the same song each in our own way, the song that proclaims we are worthy and precious and loved…

One strikes a tune fork to find their tune… (thanks to Janet for the use of this tuning fork) it is not about being in one note, or one range or the other it’s about recognizing that your voice has value that you are worthy, and that you have something to contribute.

All too often the world tells us that we need to sing in one key, or another, and Simon demonstrates that he just needs to find his key with the striking of the tuning fork to find worth and offer himself for service in the world. May it be the same for us.

Friends, might your heart, like that of Simon’s, be tuned to hear God’s grace – the eternal song that you are good, beautiful, worthy, valued… that you are a child of love… and may you find your tune in singing that song in ways that others, through your living know that they too are good, beautiful, worthy and valued…

On Tuesday, I knelt at the bedside of a beloved member of this community and listened as they spoke of what they hoped to leave behind… they longed to see Bridge Street revitalized and even from their hospital bed continued working toward that goal… and I said to them in that moment, and say to you now,

“Yes, the building of physical things is an admirable goal… but the real work of faithful living is in touching hearts… of tuning hearts to love… and I went on to list all the ways that this person had touched and changed the hearts of so many…

Let us go forth from this place and ‘fish among people’ touching hearts with love and hope. Amen.

Looking Ahead

This morning I am in the office. The Lectionary Study Group meets at 10:30AM and when that is done I am off to Moncton for meetings and visits at the hospital there, followed by visits at the Sackville Memorial Hospital and two more meetings in Sackville. A full day.

I will be taking Wednesday morning off as I have meetings and pastoral visits scheduled from 1PM through to 8:30PM, including the Executive that starts at 6:30PM.

On Thursday I will be away attending a rescheduled appointment with the Cochlear Implant Assessment Clinic in Halifax followed by a couple of evening meetings. I will be reachable by phone.

Friday and Saturday will be days off (but likely spent writing a reflection as I still have not learned how to write while driving) and on Sunday, following our Sunday Gathering, I hope the weather will allow me to get over to PEI to see my mom and dad.

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