Bible Readings: Job 18:1-6, Job 38:4-16 & Luke 5: 1-11
There’s a TV show on SBS called Trawler Men. It is a documentary that focusses on the crew of a fishing trawler fishing off Peterhead in Scotland on a boat captained by one Jimmy Buchan.
The show intrigues me as these brave and skilled men carve out a living in this very dangerous job on some of the roughest oceans in the world.
Why is it that day-by-day they are called out upon the waters?
I guess that’s why I got ‘hooked’ on the show [no pun intended].
We too are called out upon the waters – to take a step of faith and trust to see where we are led and what we might find.
Let’s spend some time now considering the story of the trawler-men and what we learn about our Christian activity through them and our Bible passages for today.
In Job 38, God is giving his answer to Job and his friends about the plagues and misfortunes that Job has suffered. But, the answer God gives is not the answer we might expect of why bad things happen to good people.
Instead God as the cosmic creator, beyond our comprehension, talks about his majesty and turns the question back on Job by saying – ‘who are you to question my goodness – for it is I who gave birth to all creation – I set the stars in place and named them. I Made the clouds and the mountains, the waves and the oceans and the recesses of the depths.
God is not to be tamed, to be brought down to our level of understanding – marvel instead at the wonder of the creation that God made for us.
The trawler-men know this also about the ocean – it cannot be tamed. It, like God, is mighty. Instead they, like Job after God’s statement in chapter 38, realise that they have to work with creation and what they encounter in life. They respect the ocean, they don’t take it for granted, they don’t over-fish and they steward the waters which are their livelihood.
I wonder when we speak up for Christ with others and the fishing we do to bring them into the kingdom, whether we always respect who they are. I would hope we don’t pollute the waters with judgment or dishonour.
The second thing we learn from the trawler men is that their activities upon the waters are essentially about team work. Often in the show, an apprentice is brought on board to learn the trade. Sometimes they try to do it all themselves and become independent of the others – not listening to their advice, counsel or commands.
Being a trawler man means you not only work with the elements you must work with each other as a team to get the work done and to get home.
In Luke 5, from this week’s lectionary reading, we see Jesus gathering the disciples, as the disciples had previously gathered the fish.
When I think about why Jesus chose the ones he did – I’m reminded that he needed the different types of men with different skills and traits to make a complete team.
He needed the impetuous Peter as much as he needed Thomas who wanted the full experience of Christ. He needed Simon – full of zeal – as much as he needed a big thinker and a man of love and peace – John. Tax collectors, fishermen, tradesmen, even the keeper of the purse, all had a role to play.
Thirdly, the trawler men know that the life they lead if full of heartache and hard work, and sometimes even danger. At times the hard work pays off and at others it does not. The fishermen often return to their families without the promised catch, but they come back instead with mounting costs.
Sometimes lives have been lost, equipment smashed and all seems out of control.
Job encountered this well and truly. The disciples, like Peter, would learn to walk on water – but from time to time they would sink and encounter hardship – just as we do in our Christian journey.
This is a costly and sometimes dangerous activity we undertake [especially our Christian brothers and sisters in some overseas countries].
Yet at the end there is a promise that this brings us to the fourth point about trawler men and the ocean. There is a bounty in the depths. There is a promise of restoration of our fortunes. It is wonderful to see the joy on the faces of the trawler men and hear it in their voices when the ocean offers up a bounty, and I can see also in the incident on the Sea of Galilee which Luke relates to us.
For we too, are fishers of men – called out upon the waters of secularism and unbelief to declare our allegiance not only while in church – but out there, beyond the safety of the boat.
Jesus tells us to be ‘salty’ Christians, full of flavour.
Out there on the ocean where it is untamed, dangerous and unknown, we need to respect its wildness and work as a team
We will experience loss/cost as well as experience the incredible promise and bounty.
The salt is to be tasted on our lips.
Do not be afraid for Christ was there first – creating the waters as God and walking out upon them as a man.
May we too always have enough faith to be called out upon the waters and to tread a risky and salty path.