Broken Nets

On January 22, 2017, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Broken Nets Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins Jan 22, 2017 John the baptizer offered a baptism of repentance – a ritual that invited people into new ways of thinking, of embracing new attitudes, and symbolizing a fresh start. When John was executed, Jesus didn’t take up that ritual, but he did, the story goes, take up […]

Broken Nets
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Jan 22, 2017

John the baptizer offered a baptism of repentance – a ritual that invited people into new ways of thinking, of embracing new attitudes, and symbolizing a fresh start.

When John was executed, Jesus didn’t take up that ritual, but he did, the story goes, take up the message: Change your thinking, improve your attitude, the time is always right for a fresh start.

In the language of the story, he said, “turn to God because the realm of heaven is near.” Put more succinctly, we could say, “become aware of God’s nearness and let that awareness encourage you.”
But Jesus didn’t just say it – he showed it.
St. Francis of Assisi supposedly said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

So, Matthew tells us that Jesus preached a message of repentance, of turning from one frame of mind to another…but how did he do it? How did he help people turn from fear to hope, from suspicion to inclusion, from devastation to celebration? Jesus didn’t just talk about it, he lived it. Matthew shows us Jesus interacting with strangers who would become instant, lifelong, and very dear friends.

The gospel story today says that Jesus was taking a walk and happened upon Peter and Andrew. They were fishing. Now, why were they fishing? Aren’t we all fishing, looking for meaning, trying to snag significance?

Jesus finds Peter and Andrew and says, “You want meaning? Come with me? I’ll show you how to build community. In relationship with one another is where we find common purpose, shared hope, and renewed joy.”
I’ll make you fishers of people means, “let’s build community.”

Next Jesus finds James and John mending their broken fish nets.
He sees them mending their broken nets and says, “come, join us!” And they didn’t even finish repairing the nets. They just jumped up and joined the party.

They had broken nets…brokenness. And they didn’t have to have their nets perfectly in order to join the team. They didn’t have to wait until their nets were perfect. Just as they were they were welcome. They dropped their nets, that is, they stopped focusing on what seemed to be lacking and just joined the party.
Jesus said, “come with us!” And they did. Simple as that.

Notice what Jesus did in the story.
He saw people…people fishing, longing, wishing, searching…and he invited them to continue their search in community. “Come with me and we’ll fish for people, we’ll build community together.”

He saw people trying to mend their broken nets…trying to cope with their brokenness, their disappointments, their weariness, their fears, their regrets. And he says to them, “hey, stop fretting over the broken bits…just come with us.” And they did.

Jesus saw people, affirmed them, acknowledged them, and welcomed them into relationship, into community. And in that community he shared his message of the omnipresence of divine Love, and as people joined the community they found healing.

We all have wounds that need to be healed, fears that need to relieved, regrets that need to be released, and as we find loving, supportive community such healing takes place…at very least, it can begin.

A few years ago Robert and I met a lovely couple from Pennsylvania on a cruise in the Caribbean. We bonded instantly. We became dear friends, visiting them in their home when the wife was recovering from an illness, staying in touch with them, grieving when the wife died, continuing to stay in touch with the husband. Lives are enriched when they connect deeply with other lives.

On a transatlantic cruise Robert and I met two retired Southern Baptist school teachers. They didn’t know what to make of us at first, but soon we became friends, laughing together, sharing stories and learning about each other’s lives. Every year on the anniversary of that cruise, one of those ladies texts us to remind us of what a good time we all had together. What a remarkable blessing.

And last week, almost 50 of us from Sunshine Cathedral cruised together to the Bahamas. Most of us knew one another pretty well, but now, even better.
And you know what else? We met new people…people from Tallahassee, people from Orlando, people from DC, people from Eastern Europe, someone from Honduras, people from Canada…beautiful people, dear people, sweet people, people who were drawn to our shared joy and who added to it.
Not everyone appreciated us…some were annoyed because of who we were,
some were annoyed because we were always so happy together,
but some saw the joy, the love, the sharing and wanted to be part of it…and we said, “Come on in, the water is warm; you’re just what we needed to make this great party, perfect.”
And now, we have more friends, more love in our lives, and Sunshine Cathedral is touching more people.

Cathy Tullo told people, “We’re drinking for Jesus!” And whether wine or water, beer or root beer, that was true. We were doing what Jesus did…having a party and inviting people to it.

And as we do that, we are all enriched. New ideas, new gifts, new friendships, new sharing, new connections, new experiences…we are re-newed as we form community and welcome more and more people into it. “Peter and Andrew, follow me! James and John, join us! Let’s share hope, love, and joy together and with as many other people as possible.”

Fishing for people isn’t about making people embrace certain prejudices or opinions, it isn’t condemning people for who they love or how they pray or what they look like or where they live, it isn’t insisting that we all call God, Ultimate Reality, the Mystery of Life, the Web of Existence the same name…fishing for people is just about providing a joyful community that welcomes more and more and more people into it. People will leave their broken nets behind to be part of that kind loving, joyful community, and they will find at least some healing in their deepest places as a result.

We all have broken nets…but we can leave some of those old damaged nets behind and enter into the joy of
comm-unity, unity with the God of our understanding and with more and more of God’s children.
And this is the good news. Amen.

© Durrell Watkins 2017

We find God in one another.
We serve God by loving one another.
We worship God by coming together.
And there is always room for more.

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