Casting nets – let’s try our luck over there.
Sorting fish – too small; wrong kind; wow, nice big one.
Delivering fish – let’s get these out of the sun before they go off.
Repairing nets – agh, that hole we fixed has opened up again.
Simon and Andrew and James and John are fishermen. They work hard, and they work long hours, and they have strong calloused hands, and they know their way around on the water. They are fishermen, which is also to say that they have little power or prestige in their culture. One New Testament scholar describes the status of first century fishermen in these terms:
While the fishermen have some economic resources, their social ranking is very low. In Cicero’s ranking of occupations, owners of cultivated land appear first and fishermen last. Athenaeus indicates that fishermen and fishmongers are on a par with moneylenders and are socially despised as greedy thieves. Fishermen and fishmongers have a socially inferior and economically precarious existence under Roman control.
The work of fishermen is in some ways vital to their society, for without fish a significant part of the local diet and a source of nourishment is lost. But perhaps it will come as no surprise to us that those who did such vital work were not valued in themselves. In our own time and culture we outsource a great deal of basic and vital work overseas – and those workers or labourers receive levels of pay we would never consider acceptable for our own family members or friends. Continue reading
Image you know someone who has always dreamed of visiting the Great Wall of China. It probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that someone would want to visit the Great Wall. Parts of that wall were built as long as eighteen hundred years ago by the first emperor of China – most of it was built about 500 years ago during the Ming Dynasty. It’s an historic, long and winding wall that was first built for the purposes of security and defense, and later was used as a means of regulating trade along the Silk Road. The oldest parts of the wall were made of earth and stone and wood – while the majority was constructed from brick and stone. The Great Wall of China now measures 9,000 kilometers or more in length and of course is a UNESCO world heritage site. There are tens of thousands of people who dream of seeing the Wall – this amazing feat of human engineering – tens of thousands who dream of having those ancient bricks and steps beneath their own feet.
So imagine this person you know, who has dreamed of visiting the Great Wall of China – and imagine they are finally able to make the trip. They save up enough money to pay for the airfare. They put together an itinerary; they make reservations at hotels; they book a seat on a tour bus. And the day arrives when they finally get to the wall – they step out of the bus and walk up to the wall. Oh it is glorious. They see it stretch of endlessly in one directly and in the other – they walk up the few steps onto the wall, and for a few minutes they look this way and that.
And then they turn around, go back and get on the bus, and take their seat. “Okay, I’ve seen it, I’m ready to head back to the hotel whenever you are.”
Now that would be a very strange ending to the story, wouldn’t it? That great dream; that hope of seeing the Wall; those months of saving and planning. Only to get there, have a quick look, and turn around to leave. Continue reading
My sermon from this past Sunday.
“Jesus, shall we command fire to come down from heaven to consume them?”
The Samaritans are enemies of the Jews. There is intense animosity between these two peoples. Jesus is travelling through Samaritan territory on his way to Jerusalem, and while he makes this journey he sends a few disciples to a Samaritan village to find a place to stay or rest or eat. But that village refuses to create a space of welcome for him. No place to rest or eat or sleep. The Samaritan village rejects him, refuses him. So the disciples ask: “Jesus, shall we command fire to come down from heaven to consume these Samaritans.”
It’s not like the disciples didn’t have precedent for this. Back in the book of 1 Kings, Elijah the prophet did something like this. He called down fire to destroy two separate companies of soldiers sent to him by King Ahaziah. King Ahaziah had sought the advice and wisdom of the god Baal – rather than seeking the advice and wisdom of the God of Israel. And so when these two companies of soldiers come to Elijah, telling him to come visit King Ahaziah, the prophet says to each group: “If I am a man of God, as you say, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” And that’s exactly what happens in the narrative. Judgment for King Ahaziah’s unfaithfulness to the God of Israel – judgment for his refusal to worship and serve the God of Israel.
So there’s some kind of precedent for this response. This Samaritan village has rejected Jesus, denied him – this village has refused to offer Jesus the hospitality he deserves. The disciples are offended and angry. “Jesus, shall we command fire to come down from heaven to consume them?” Continue reading
A sermon in my series on ‘biographies of faith’.
A couple of weeks ago we began a short series on biographies of faith. Over these few weeks I am doing something just a little different in my sermons as we consider the lives of women and men who are for us examples of the Christian life. As we sketch out these portraits of lives lived, we are answering this question:
What does it look like when someone is following Jesus?
And we are answering that most important question for ourselves:
How do we learn to really follow Jesus, to live a genuinely Christian life?
Two weeks ago we considered the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died as a martyr at the hands of the Nazis in 1945. This morning we turn to another biography of faith – to the story of a woman who is our contemporary. Continue reading