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Plenty of 'fish' in the pandemic sea

Plenty of 'fish' in the pandemic sea

Plenty of 'fish' in the pandemic sea

13 May 2020

Auxiliary-Lieutenant Caleb Smith, pictured here with his wife Jennifer, explores what it means to go spiritually fishing while we are in social isolation. 

By Caleb Smith

“153 large fish.”

It’s an unusual detail to record. John, in his gospel, never lists the names of all Jesus’ disciples – but he does write down how many fish they caught one morning! And, of course, he records that they were “large” fish. You can nearly imagine him re-telling the story years later, “Biggest fish you’ve ever seen! One was as long as the boat, honest ...”

It helps to remember, at this point, that John was himself a fisherman.

Let’s backtrack a bit. John 18-20 describes the extraordinary events of Easter: the betrayal, death and resurrection of Jesus. Sin and death had been defeated forever, and the Good News of Jesus was just about to burst onto the world! 

But, in between, there was an odd, disconnected, directionless stretch of time. Saturday and early Sunday morning were a mix of miracles, grumpiness, confusion and utter panic. Everything was different and there were big changes on the horizon ... and the disciples simply didn’t know what to do next.

This may sound familiar to you.

AN UPSIDE-DOWN WORLD

Just like the disciples in John 21, our world has been turned upside-down due to this pandemic. Our lives have become a weird mix of panic and boredom. One minute you can be pondering how to construct your personal identity in a world where everything has changed; and the next, wondering what everyone is doing with all that flour and toilet paper, anyway.

Now, in the midst of all this, we have the words of Jesus in John 21:10 (NIV), “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Here, Jesus and his followers share a meal together, just as they had done so many times before.

Interestingly, Jesus, having been resurrected, did not tell the disciples to get their lives sorted out before their great mission could begin. Nor did he pointedly ask why they were back fishing instead of out changing the world. Instead, he tells them, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Jesus’ mission for his disciples began just exactly where they were, with just exactly what they had. 

SERVING HERE AND NOW

Now, imagine you’ve taken a bunch of photos on a fun, family holiday (holidays! remember them?), and you’d like to post the photos online. Naturally, you’d weed out the photos that are blurry or the shots where you’ve been caught from a particularly unflattering angle.

Jesus, apparently, does not work that way. He does not want to wait around for the perfect, curated, ‘best’ version of you. Jesus’ plan for saving the world begins in the here and now, with whatever you have. The question then becomes: “What is your ‘fish’ and what does Jesus need you to share today?”

Maybe you have a friend who’d appreciate a phone call or a letter. Maybe you have an elderly neighbour who needs groceries and could use a hand (as long as the hand is socially-distanced and has been washed for not less than 30 seconds, of course).

And to those individuals who find themselves up to their neck in other people’s worries, or even their own worries, John 21 offers us a wonderful image of Peter. He is exhausted, freezing, starving and soaking wet. And Jesus invites him for the moment, just to sit by the fire, have a bite to eat and rest.

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it? So then, what is your ‘fish’?

Auxiliary-Lieutenant Caleb Smith is a corps leader at Temora Salvation Army in NSW.

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