17 January 2021
With the Foreshore and Seabed act under review and being one of the central issues in the official Waitangi debates, we have a wariness about who owns the riches of the inner waters and the seabed,. And, more importantly, whom has the right to fish, run shellfish farms and use the waters and minerals below the high tide mark. Whatever compromise may occur we can be absolutely sure that in the end there will be taxes paid by any who use it.
The Sea of Galilee was well taxed and I guess the Romans would have claimed ownership at the time of Jesus although the fishermen of Galilee might well have had other ideas. Fishing was a big industry.
The town of Geneserat, on the lake edge was where the soil was rich and fertile, where walnut, palm, olive and fig trees, which usually need different conditions, flourished together. .The words "God's blessing" [in Deuteronomy] were interpreted as meaning the valley of Gennesaret
There was no catch from the lake that early morning when Jesus commandeered a boat. Simon and the other fishermen would have known Jesus, maybe even listened to this travelling rabbi. They were cleaning their nets. A tedious job that had to be done every time the linen nets came in,. the debris removed, the holes mended and washing them to preserve the life of the fine linen netting. A considerable amount of their work was looking after these trammel nets. They were lightweight and effective, and needed two to four men to cast them in the water quietly and carefully in the darkness of the night when the fish couldn't see the netting. But on this morning there were no fish to remove and process, no income despite all the hard work, there was no pay - in fact it wasn't that great a morning. . So they stowed the nets, all freshly washed and did what Jesus asked and the boat became a pulpit for Jesus to talk to the crowds..
We're not told what Jesus said but we are told what happened next.
Jesus looked at the tired fishermen with their empty nets and said to Simon. "Go out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch". Simon looked at him, "We've fished all night and caught nothing".
They'd just washed the nets and they would have to do it all over again. There is one other detail that everyone who heard this story at the time would have known.. Their nets were great by night, but not by day. In the daytime the fish could see the linen threads and avoided them. No commercial fisherman would use those nets in the daytime.
Simon knew they couldn't catch anything. You, me, who know nothing about fishing with trammel nets on the sea of Galilee would probably say "alright - there's always a chance", but Simon and the others knew it wouldn't work.
Its like asking a dairy farmer whose cows are drying up, who has just finished milking and cleaned down the yards to go and get them and try again.
But there was something about Jesus and his request so Simon said "If you say so, I will let down the nets."
They took the boats out into the deep water, where they couldn't touch the bottom and let down the nets - James and John along with Simon.
Simon just does it because Jesus has asked. No running to do it, absolutely no expectation of a catch, but he is willing to have enough faith in Jesus to tiredly go through the familiar motions.
Then! its all on!!! He's totally unprepared and he knows it. The precious nets that they've put all that time into, begin to break.
The church buildings that have been so carefully tidied and kept just this way can't cope , the life that has been so organised, so planned and predictable is suddenly challenged with change.
The nets are filled with fish, they get help from the other boat and their boats fills with fish. And in case you've not got it yet, both boats, never mind the nets now, start to sink , way out there in the deep water where the bottom of the lake is a long way down. They are sinking, overladen with the enormous catch that they never thought could be there.
And Si--mon is becoming Peter
Simon Peter realises he is out of his depth. His unbelief, his unpreparedness, his breaking nets and sinking boats and they'll need help to get the catch in, then to have it ready for the market.
Simon Peter the proud tired fisherman, KNOWS. Its not his expertise, his great fishing skills, its Jesus who has done this - he simply didn't believe it was possible, but its happened anyway, despite his doubt.
In the face of this amazing catch, this abundance, a wave of shame flows over him..
Peter knows he is in the presence of someone who has the power to call him into places where he is afraid to go. This is deeply scary, There are depths Peter hasn't even realised were there. He can suddenly see that this rabbi Jesus is far more than he has ever guessed and he's not sure he wants to be where he is at this time. Jesus is the Master of the Lake, the one who can command even the fish. Who controls the sea.
Peter is in the presence of holiness. Here on his familiar lakeside, with fish all over the place, in the midst of what he knows best, he is encountered by the overwhelming, undeserved, huge catch of fish..
He sees himself.....and he falls in front of Jesus "get out - leave the neighbourhood"
Jesus says to all of them, Don't be afraid, from now on you'll be catching people.
Right at the time of his best business success, when he has the biggest catch forever. Peter and James and John have a choice.
They can cash in on the catch and have a good day - How often is it that the call of Jesus comes just as other things are going well, or something just come to fruition, or we are comfortable settling in to a new way of being? . Or they can step into the unknown.
In the life of a congregation, over and over I have seen where a parish gets comfortable and wants to cling to what its got, things are going reasonably well, and they refuse to take the next step, to travel into the deep waters where God is clearly calling them.
How often in our lives do we accept something that is good because its safe and predictable and refuse something that is better, God's urging into deep waters that we are not even willing to test?. There is of course a time for everything but for Peter, James and John their time is now, at work, on the landing at Generserat..
By the time they had returned to shore they KNEW. They had glimpsed who Jesus is, and they really had no choice. They left their nets, boats and their business opportunity. The ownership of the huge catch of fish was now irrelevant. They went to become fishers of people, trusting the one who sent will provide the catch as long as they did their part.. So they followed Jesus.
The waters of Waitangi are pretty deep for our nation. I guess the incredibly mixed motives, political, colonial, desire for the benefits of European technology, including guns, trade on both sides in the signing of the treaty of Waitangi can obscure that will for peace and mutual respect. That was the hope of those Christians who were among those who drew it up, Maori and European, the missionaries and chiefs who acknowledged Christ as their chief.. We must not lose sight that this document is a promise to respect and recognise each cultures, and to protect the Maori property rights.
At Waitangi, now in a different time and place.. The loudest voices will be made prominent and will promoted as division by a conflict hungry media, healthy debate will be interpreted as dissension. But debate and discussion is easier to have now that at any other time, and within the treaty is the understanding that there is space for everyone and we all have a responsibility towards one another.
There is work to do which should not get caught up in how big the catch is, or who owns the fish, work in building relationships. which respect one another. When the relationships are right then the rest comes into place. People are Jesus' focus, not the nets or the fish.and those who follow Christ can bring great gifts of relationship building.
We are called to trust and share the love of Christ. and to be willing to leave the tools on which we rely and to go into the deep water. Each of us will know where the water is deep, there will be differing depths for each of us, but once you can't touch the bottom its really all the same. It is often then and only then that we see clearly that the amazing grace of God has been there all the time, waiting for us to catch on and be encouraged
God we ask that we will be able to recognise when we are being called to follow Jesus. Give us the faith to realise that you give us the resources for your work. Please keep us focused on you and the love you have for us and the people you ask us to love.
In the name of Jesus.
Robert Linthicum http://www.piut.org/epiphany5c.htm
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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