Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It’s Summer – Time For A Fish Story

Summer arrived last week in central Maine.  After an odd spring with March temperatures in the 80s, a reversion to winter cold, a dry spell that pushed the fire index off the chart, weeks of damp chill, too much rain and a few glorious days of sun and spring temperatures, June 20 saw temperatures over 90 and humidity worthy of the tropics.

It turned my mind to a time many years ago when our family spent our vacations in a cottage on a lake known throughout the area for its fishing.  A short paddle at dawn or sunset virtually assured a fine catch of yellow or white perch, maybe some pickerel, and on occasion we’d get a nice small bass.

One of those summers a bass actually teased us.  I mean a real bass - the kind you read about in Field & Stream.  He made daily appearances, not fifty yards off our beach.  One or two good jumps, just so we could see him, and then off to who-knows-where.  On the occasions when we grabbed our fishing gear and went after him, we came home frustrated.  A couple of good hits that may or may not have been our quarry, and that was all for the day.

It was the sort of thing that keeps fishers awake nights, turning otherwise sane and sensible folk into little Ahabs, feverishly pursuing a miniature Moby Dick around the lake, casting hopefully in one direction only to hear the slap of a tail on the other side of the canoe.

Recalling that summer it struck me that we humans are prone to behaving bass-like toward God.  Far fetched?  Remember that Jesus called certain of his followers to become fishers for God.  What did he have in mind?

I’ve always thought of Jesus and the disciples casting nets when they went fishing, and on the Sea of Galilee, a good many fish are caught that way.  But there’s more to fishing than that.  Every angler who stays with the sport soon learns that you need different gear to catch different fish.  You jig for cod, cast for bass, troll for mackerel, and you might toss out a line with a bobber on it for sunfish or yellow perch.  Your bait may include worms, flies, spoons, clams or minnows.  You may go after different species from a boat, the shore, a canoe, a dock, or in waders.  That’s because each kind of fish is unique, and you have to take its habits, habitat and daily rhythms into account.

People are no less diverse than fish, and catching us is no less a challenge.  Consider the lengths to which some will go to avoid even admitting God’s existence...or, conceding that, to resist Jesus’ invitation to find peace and reconciliation with God...or, accepting Christ, to keep their faith comfortable and at arms’ length.  Even when we determine to follow Jesus, we are prone to resist deepening our faith or building our lives around it.

Judging from the gospel accounts, God’s tackle box is stocked for those contingencies and more.  There are gracious invitations, careful reasoning, humor, unexpected acts of love, stern warnings and much else.  As such a well-supplied box implies God’s fishing goes beyond simple conversion.  Converted years ago, I still find my response can be distinctly bass-like whenever God is trying to move me out of a rut, stimulate me to a new task, deepen my faith, or use me in ways I find uncomfortable.  Seldom am I caught on the first cast.  I avoid the lure, and need to be played before I am landed.

Now the bass has good reason to elude human fishers.  We always have in mind a memorable meal, and we want him as the main course.  But that is where things are different with God.  The Divine Angler wants to invite us to a banquet where we are on the guest list, not the menu.

Pause for a moment this summer and ask yourself if you are behaving like a bass.  Do this with tongue in cheek - if you take the image too seriously it won’t work.  But take it seriously enough to read Luke 15:11-24, and Revelation 3:20.  See what God’s invitation to constantly deepening discipleship may mean for your life.  And remember that with God what may look like a lure is no hook, but a hand extended, not to harm, but to restore and heal. 

Howard MacMullen
© June, 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment