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Musings: On The Frustrations of Soundless Invitations!

Well… technology bit us on the bum again yesterday! Things had been going so smoothly for the past few weeks – and then… no sound again! It was kind of funny how I discovered the issue. Luc was giving an update from the Executive, and I wandered to the back of the sanctuary (just because I could) and at that very moment my phone started ringing (silently). It was Judith.

Judith calling me on a Sunday morning when she knows that Church would be taking place?! It must be an emergency! By the time I fumbled with the phone to answer it, Judith had hung up and it was then that I glanced at the laptop that handles the first part of the livestream – the bars that indicate sound levels were blank! Ah! That must be what Judith was calling about!

I am so sorry folks. Jennie and Rowan attempted a work around, but I know the quality was poor. We are o sorry for this as we know that there are a number of folk who count on this opportunity to gather in community!

Jennie and I will do some trouble shooting this week – maybe replacing the USB cable will help. I’ll also be looking into whether a software update is the culprit as it seems each time there is an issue, the laptop has turned itself off?

Regardless of what the fix is, I am thinking that we need to get back in the habit of doing a full sound check each Sunday morning.

Anyways, that is the extent of my Musings for this week… I have included below the text of the reflection that I offered on Sunday just in case any of you were desperately anxious to hear what I had to say on ‘Gone Fishing Sunday’.



Looking Ahead

I am working from home this morning, responding to correspondence, writing and doing a few minutes of reading. This afternoon I’ll be at the hospital to visit a few folk there before going into the office for another meeting.

Tuesday will be a full day at the office and include gathering with the Lectionary Study Group at 10:30am, a lunch meeting, and a webinar as part of my planning for Lent.

On Wednesday I hope to be out of the office for a full day of visiting. Three visits are already scheduled, but I can accommodate three more. If you’d like to see me, please email or call.

At 9AM on Thursday morning I will join with others for our first morning Silent Prayer Circle – after that I will drop Rasta off at the groomers and spend the rest of the day working from home on the liturgy and reflection for Sunday.

Friday and Saturday will be days off and on Sunday I look forward to gathering with you to ponder another story from the gospel of Mark, a story of Jesus healing a persons of an ‘unclean spirit’ (Mark 1:21-28).

Until then, stay warm and safe!

Reflection from Sunday Jan 21, 2024

(I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammatical errors. I do not write my reflections for publication!)

Today I opted to read the gospel text assigned by the lectionary for last Sunday, and the gospel text assigned for today: two stories of invitation and calling. In the first story, the story from John’s gospel, Jesus calls Philip and then Philip tell Nathanael about his encounter with Jesus. If you were listening closely, you would have heard that Nathanael put Philip off with some coarse words, but Philip didn't back away, but uttered three simple words, come and see. Come and see. Nathaniel came and saw Jesus, had an encounter with him, and believed that he was the Messiah.

And in the second story, the one from Marks gospel, there is another encounter with Jesus. In both stories Jesus is beginning his public ministry and gathering followers…

Notice the urgency of the story as it is told in Mark’s gospel. The text says, "he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, " Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him."

Can you feel the urgency, the immediacy…

They could have responded to Jesus, well let us think about it for a while, maybe something even better will come along… Maybe a big school of fish will come and we will not be able to leave… Maybe our wives won't let us… Maybe our friends will make fun of us for leaving our jobs, our home and our families to follow a guy who would will travel around the country side preaching that the time is fulfilled and the realm of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…

But no, the story, as it is told has none of this happening. According to the story, when Jesus called them, they didn't question the call, they didn't think about it, they didn't consult their families, they didn't see if anything better would come along, they went and saw… they followed…

Four years ago when preaching on the Mark text, I referenced an article by G.H. Hanson, “The Galilean Fishing Economy and the Jesus Tradition” in which we are reminded that the four fishermen in Mark’s story aren’t individual workers in a free enterprise system – but rather pawns in a state-regulated enterprise.

"At the time this story was told, the fishing industry in Palestine was fully under the control of the Roman Empire. Caesar owned every body of water, and all fishing is state-regulated for the benefit of the urban elite.

Fishermen can’t obtain licenses to 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."

This is the system into which Jesus speaks and invitation, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people…’

The invitation is to leave that which is known and exploitive, that which benefits others and leaves one feeling used…. and work for the common good of all…

Dianna Butler Bass said this in her Sunday Musings from the Cottage:

“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.”

Now, you may be saying, ‘Well that’s all well and good, but I’m still not keen on this fishing idea! I mean the idea of trying to hook people, to reel them into God just doesn’t sit well with me…”

Well, it doesn’t sit well with me either – and it’s important for us to understand that this is a deeply contextual story. Jesus uses the image of fishing for people because that’s what those whom he was inviting into community and service understood…

Had he come upon one cultivating a garden he might have said, “Follow me and I will make you cultivate community.”

Had he happened on one building a shed he might have said, “Follow me and I will make you build up people.”

Jesus’s call to the four in this fishing story is specific and particular. The call is rooted in the language, culture, vocation and the urgency of context that his hearers know best.

Urgency of context…

What is urgent for you these days? What in the world urgently needs the world’s attention? What stokes your passion?

The story is told of a large group of people standing outside a very large and ornate cathedral in Europe and they were admiring the very fine craftsmanship, the detail work, the care and the love that seemed evident in building such a fine place to worship a loving God. One person turned to another in the group and said, "Why can't we build so today? Why can't we build with such pride, such craft today, and the other person replied, "They had convictions; we have opinions."

Jesus is inviting those who know the tools of their trade, whatever it may be,

the limitations of their bodies, the life-and-death importance of timing, their experience of humility, attentiveness, and discretion – to bring them to bear in the building of God’s realm… to address that which urgently needs attention…

Most of all, Jesus knows that these four know the water. They know how to respect it, how to listen to it, and how to bring forth its best for the good of all. They understand and respect the reciprocity at the heart of their enterprise. They know not to take more than they need. They know to care for the life cycles of the fish. They know to pay attention to the health and sustainability of the marine environment that nourishes them and their families.

As Debbie Thomas puts it:

“…when Jesus calls these tried-and-true fishermen to follow him, they understand the call not as a directive to abandon their intelligence, intuition, and experience, but to bring the best of those gifts forward for the sake of a more beautiful and peaceable world — a world where all are nourished. The call is to become even more fully and freely themselves for the sake of God’s realm.”

What would it be like to find a more nuanced way forward?

What would it look like to return to Jesus’s urgent invitation, and learn how to “fish for people” in ways that are hospitable, loving, generative, and nourishing?

Can we learn to preach repentance and the building of community in the way Jesus preached it — not as condemnation, not as cultural erasure — but as Good News?

I think we can. I think that in many ways our denomination is on this journey -but in order continue on that sometime narrow, obstacle strewn pathway, it is imperative that we remember two additional important elements of this this story:

First, we are not now or ever called to evangelize in the abstract – there is no such thing as good news that is universal… to use the fishing analogy again, we must know the water and we must know the fish…

Second, we’re not commissioned or sent forth to hook, entrap or ensnare, but instead, we’re called to live, move, speak, and “fish” in ways that are reciprocal, respectful, and mutually life-giving – and call people out of the systems that they are trapped in...

In other words, as says Debbie Thomas “if we’re going to follow Jesus at all, we have to do it in the highly specific particulars of the lives, communities, cultures, families, and vocations we find ourselves in. We have to trust that God prizes our intellects, our memories, our backgrounds, our educations, and our skills, and that God will multiply and bring to fruition everything we offer up in faith from the daily stuff of our lives.”

Ched Myers says, “Jesus is inviting common folk to join him in his struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege.”

These two stories, with their welcoming, curious and invitational refrains of “Come and see… and Follow me… are opportunities to consider that which urgently needs attention in our world and to respond as we are able.

Come and see… Follow me, and I will make you…

This is a invitations to cultivate, not to sever. These are invitations rooted in gentleness and respect — not violence and coercion. These are invitations that are rooted in the promise, that when we dare to let go, the things we relinquish might be returned to us anew, enlivened in ways we couldn't have imagined on our own.

Most importantly, it is a promise from God to us — not from us to God. As Barbara Brown Taylor so aptly puts it, Mark 1:14–20 is a miracle story. Jesus calls, and the four fishermen “immediately” follow. No hesitation, no questions asked. Is this because they’re men of superhuman courage or prophetic foreknowledge? Of course not.

These are the same guys who later in the Gospel doubt, deny, and abandon Jesus. They’re as fallible and as ordinary as the rest of us, and their own volition can’t get them very far.

And so, I’ll say it again, we are not called to cajole, manipulate, trap, bully, or even persuade others to “accept” Jesus, or join our church or community of faith, or serve in one role or another within the Church… it is God alone who captures the imagination, God alone who makes the vision of the realm of God come alive in a human spirit.

Our task, as followers of the way, as fishers, as teachers, carpenters, truck drivers… and any other vocation, is embody the vision in the particulars of our lives, reflecting into the water of creation the profound beauty of vision Christ offers, and invite others to join us as we step away from the systems that control us and oppress us…. The rest is up to God.

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