Spirited Reflection: When called to paths toward reconciliation
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany 5 – February 10, 2019 Luke 5:1-11
we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets. (Luke 5:5)
For me, 2018 was a year that was very much about vocation. In January, as circumstances in my context were taking shape, a friend and mentor said to me “you need to pray deeply about whether or not you are open to that calling.”
I knew she was right. And I thought, “I don’t know how to pray that deeply.”
I met with my Enneagram-based life coach, and I talked with friends, to discuss “how do I pray about this?” Fortunately, I learned something about my capacity to pray. I also began to notice, and deeply appreciate, the element of God’s calling in what many people are doing as they seek justice, show loving kindness, serve their neighbours, and create a path towards reconciliation.
The call to seek reconciliation is long and hard and true and necessary. I find the story of Peter’s calling to be encouraging.
Jesus tells (calls?) Peter to “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” There are many blind-spots, distractions and fears that lead away from going deeper. When we hear a clear call to “Please try the deeper water,” we should pay attention.
Peter’s response is “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” What I hear Peter saying is “What we are doing is not working! We have tried everything! We are frustrated. We are tired. The only reason I am going to try again is because you are calling on me to do so.” In terms of seeking justice and reconciliation, there are moments when what we are doing doesn’t seem to be working and we seem to be getting nowhere. One way to respond to a call is say, “Jesus, I hear you. I am not sure how to go on. All I can do today is to choose to try one more time.”
What happens next is that Peter suddenly finds there is an abundance of fish. So much bounty that the boat is sinking. Certainly part of the current call I hear is to ponder deeply what it means to live faithfully with privilege and abundance. That the abundance is ripping the nets and sinking the boats is, perhaps, a metaphor that should not be ignored.
Peter has an interesting take on the abundance: he feels sinful. What does that mean? Perhaps he is aware that the fish are a gift that he doesn’t deserve. Perhaps he is perplexed about how he ended up with all these fish. Maybe he has started thinking about how much money he will make in the market and has stopped thinking about what Jesus had been teaching. Maybe Peter is admitting how close he came to not letting down those nets at all.
Jesus has an interesting take on Peter’s guilt: he seems to suggest that what Peter is truly feeling is fear. I can’t help but think that Peter is sensing a call in Jesus’s presence, words and actions. Peter is scared to leave the life he knows and head in a new direction.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus says, “focus on the people.” They seem to be the perfect words for Peter and his colleagues; They leave everything and follow Jesus. That is remarkable commitment.
In our Mission Statement, KAIROS describes itself as “…. a faithful ecumenical response to the call to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).” I am grateful for all the ways that you are living out this calling: through KAIROS, through the church and throughout your neighbourhood.
There are many reasons to be afraid and some days I doubt will ever figure out how to actually faithfully respond. Nevertheless, I hear the call to deeper water. I hear the call to try one more time. I hear the call to be honest about my reluctance and to be open to the possibilities. I hear the call to be unafraid and to focus on all the relationships.
God calls each of us to seek justice, show kindness and walk humbly. What a wonder we find ourselves leaving it all behind and following this path.
Dear Jesus: teach us from our boats; speak to us from the shore; point us toward the water and the land; name our deepest fears; renew our relationships; and call us to follow you on paths of justice, kindness, humility, reconciliation and love. Amen.
Rev. Paul Gehrs serves as Assistant to the Bishop, Justice and Leadership, for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and is the Vice-chair of the KAIROS Steering Committee. He lives on Treaty One Territory in Winnipeg, MB.