Sunday, 10 February 2013

The desert sea

GospelLuke 5:1-11 

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

  When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

  When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

Jesus doesn't only step into Simon's boat; he steps into his life. It seems a minor inconvenience to ask Simon to put the boat out again; only a few yards; only an hour or so. Yet Simon has every reason to be 'put out' himself; the end of a long and unsucessful night's fishing still means a couple of hours of mending nights and washing down the boat; still means a few hours of sleep before another night's work. Gennesaret (another name for the Galilee) is part of Rome's store cupboard and the fishing is constant and demanding.

Perhaps the poor fishing is why Simon relents; a rabbi may bring good fortune to the night ahead; perhaps God will smile on his labours. A bit of one-up-manship? A superstitious hope? A  Little does he know.

His sacrifice, begrudged or otherwise, serves the community. With the boat rocking in the midstream of the inlet, Jesus' voice carries to many. The boat seems to hum with promise. The unaccustomed sun warms Simon into a state of meditation. Sitting next to Jesus, Simon feels the vibration of his voice through the soles of his feet; feels a silent calling answering something deep within. He considers tying in the dropped anchor; to lift the sail against the heat of the day; to share thoughts and dreams that had never come into his head until this moment.  

Jesus' next request startles Simon into polite obedience 'Yes, Master...if you say so..' After all, he wouldn't want to chance his blessings. Under his breath he probably grumbles along with the crew at the foolishness of setting sail; shrugging helplessly at the misfortune of a day lost twice. 

The day is not lost; God's thanks for Simon's hospitality is extravagant and includes others in His generosity. Superstition becomes a challenge of faith. A challenge that Simon feels he has failed. 

The denial is brushed aside; to be 'sinful' is to 'miss the mark'. Today Simon listened to Jesus' voice and the 'miss' became a bullseye. Jesus names it - fear of the unknown and of the All knowing - and a fear Simon managed to overcome this time. 

Jesus sees the courage in Simon that Simon never sees in himself. The extraordinary ability to let go of his patriarchal ego for no other reason except trust in this man, Jesus; a carpenter not a fisherman; a healer not a fighter; a friend not a master. 

There is a rhythm here - a deepening from the shallow encounter and comfortable expectation of who Jesus is from Simon's point of view to the letting go and acceptance of who Simon is from Jesus' point of view. 

That reflection of ourselves may only be seen in Jesus' eyes. In Lent we often describe this period of stillness and emptying as being a journey into the dry and forbidding desert. 

There is another desert-like space that Jesus spends time in; the Galilee is a wilderness of open water, complex currents and fitful storms. As changeable as  our own lives it is a place we may imagine we know like the back of our hand until it all goes wrong.  

This too is a Lenten journey; to sit in the bows of our life and not know; to accept Jesus as our guide into places we believe are barren; to be willing to be led into the deep water so as to gather the treasure earned through trust; through friendship; through love.

In Jesus name.



Anonymous said...

"To be willing to be led into deep water" - love that Word! Great way to think about lent, because, like Peter, we sometimes sink....but need to remember to reach out to the hand that is always extended. Thanks for this!

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Andie, when I thought about it it was a striking model of the Lenten journey. blessings

claire said...

A wonderful wonderful meditation, Word. Many many thanks for this!

Word in the Hand said...

((( claire )))