The Economy of Fishing

Sermon by the Reverend Christian Baron, 3 Epiphany, Jan. 22, 2017, Year A, Matthew 4: 12-23

“When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.”
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit… Amen.

Good morning… For me, it was a bad week. In fact it was a very bad week. Anybody else? I had no idea that the busyness of my week and the inability for me to ice fish because of sloppy conditions would have that kind of effect on so many of you… I’m constantly amazed at how the life of the clergy in a parish can affect so many people…

But the Universe has thrown me a bone this week. I drew the long straw. I get to preach on a fishing passage… And not only that… but I get to preach on the “fish for people” gospel passage…

But before we get to fishing, we need to do the preparation that must happen first…

 

You can ask my kids or ask Jodi… the night before I go fishing… the entire house turns into a sporting goods store… There are rods and reels all over… fishing line spools are everywhere… I have gone to the bait shop to stock up on hooks and netting… Maybe I have YouTube showing videos of fishing… At first the kids groan, but then they watch along with me and marvel at what comes out of the water. After the lines are all set, I go to the fridge where the fish eggs have been thawing… Maybe I have chinook salmon eggs, or brown trout eggs, or steelhead eggs. I gently unwrap them.
Even the process of preserving the eggs was meticulous and tedious… but if you want eggs to fish in the winter, fall, winter and spring, you need to take the time preserve the eggs properly… I then spend at least the next hour tying up little netting squares with the tiny sticky eggs. It is a special time. Just me and my little spawn sacks…

And like that preparation, this gospel text is full of important information before the fishing… If you’ve ever hired a charter captain, like I have, you may not realize how much work goes into the prep, the night before…

The text starts like this… John is arrested… We know how it turns out… He is beheaded by Herod… Jesus knows it is bad… John knows it is bad… Remember a few weeks ago when, from jail, John reminds Jesus, that it’s now or never… If you’re going to save the world Jesus, the time is now…

In the passage today… Jesus knows things are bad. The text says, “he withdrew to Galilee.”
When I first read this, I thought… Oh, even Jesus is scared.. It maybe even sounds like Jesus is acting cowardly doesn’t it?

Don’t be fooled like I was… by going to Galilee, Jesus is going into the heart of Herod’s territory…

Not only is he going into Herod’s territory, but he has picked up John’s torch of proclaiming the gospel through the phrase, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This phrase is actually the phrase of all of God’s prophets, but this is the first time Jesus uses it in the gospel of Matthew.

By appropriating John’s mantra… John’s tag-line, the mantra of the prophets, and walking into the heart of Herod’s Kingdom after John had been locked up, the author of this gospel wants the reader to know, that Jesus was beginning his dangerous and lethal ministry of speaking truth to power.
In the midst of a Kingdom ruled by a self-serving leader, who imprisoned and executed those who refused to swear loyalty, Jesus declares God’s Reign…

Jesus declares a new Kingdom…

a Kingdom in opposition of all that Herod stands for.

In a Kingdom that exploits and executes its subjects… that taxes the poor to feed the rich… that embodies injustice, Jesus declares that there is a Kingdom that supersedes Herod’s reign…

Jesus declares that there is a Kingdom that collaborates and that invites partnership between the human and the divine.

And then, the author shows what that kingdom looks like.

Jesus finds the common laborers… the blue collar workers… Those who had been exploited… the working poor… those who lacked power… who lacked status… those on the outside…

and calls them to his side… to the inside…Jesus calls, those who fished.
And, if you are a Roman who happens to govern a quarter of the Roman empire…like Herod Antipas was, this is shocking and in fact is an act of treason. And if you are a part of the religious authority… those who govern and run the Temple, the fact that Jesus chooses his followers from Galilee, is a subversive way of challenging and refuting their authority… Jesus, threatens the agreed upon structure of power.

If gentiles wanted to become faithful Jews, there was a way to do that… It was reckless for Jesus to insinuate that Gentiles were somehow now inside or closer to being inside the walls of God’s Kingdom… that somehow God would extend his Kingdom to other people. To include those who were intentionally thought of as separate… Galilee was mixed with relatively half Jews and half Gentiles. It was not a good place to start ministry… Certainly not an authorized place.

It would have been controversial…
It IS controversial…

In so doing, he is critiquing both of the established groups in power. He says, to the Rome (and to Herod)…

“your Kingdom is too small… let me tell you about a great Kingdom… A kingdom where all are treated equally… where no-one is oppressed or subjugated… Where the poor are cared for… Where the rich are accountable to the poor and to God.”

And he says to the Temple authorities …
“Your systems are too small. God’s Kingdom is expanding… Indeed it has expanded… into Galilee and into all of the world… It includes the Jews and the Gentiles…”

In this act of defiance and radical inclusion.

He has effectively dismantled everything…

It is literally an unimaginable paradigm for all all of us…

By challenging the Romans and the religious leaders, he proclaims God’s abundance. He tears down the walls that divide and gathers all together as image bearers of the Divine.

This is key in the Kingdom of God because for those who operate under an economic paradigm of scarcity, there are limited resources… There is not enough to go around.

When resources are scarce, things must be stored in silos, so that when things get bad, they will be safe and so that they will not perish.

Jesus, chooses his leadership team to fit the economy of this new Kingdom… He fills it with people that only know an economy of abundance…

Fishing is an economy of abundance…

it is an economy based on the principle of “give us this day, our daily bread.”

Fish, like mana, could only be stored for so long before it spoiled…

These fishers needed to go out daily… to make a living… to feed their families.

They depended on the chaos of the water and the generosity of the divine creator to supply their needs.
It makes sense why Jesus would choose folks who fished…

It’s almost February… when I was in junior high… my girlfriend was Andrea… We had never spoken… Before we had the chance to have our first conversation, she broke up with me… It’s true… shocking I know… But my friend Matt did what every good friend does when his friend gets dumped… he said to me…  “There are always more fish in the sea.”

There are literally always more fish in the sea. This is a terrible idiom, but it is the perfect example of a fishing economy.

There is an endless supply.

Because…Fishing is based on a divine economy.

This is very good news.

It is good news for the Roman Oppressors, for the Religious elite… for the Jewish contingent and for the Gentiles.

For the rich and for the poor.
For Presbyterians and for Baptists.
For all races and ethnicities…
For Republicans and Democrats and Independents.…
It’s even good news to the Creator of the Universe.
Because there is enough to go around…

In a few minutes, we’ll walk to this rail and give thanks for God’s abundance…

There is plenty for all…

Like Jesus told his disciples, Take. Eat… a big hunk of bread… and take… drink… a big swallow of wine…

there is more than enough…

And then, we’ll head into Hand Hall after Church… there will be plenty of food for everyone at the potluck…

Even if you forgot to bring food or if you are new… no, especially if you are new… please come and share in the richness of God’s grace.

And then stay for the annual meeting… We will celebrate God’s abundance of 2016 and look at the ministries of this place and how we hope to, daily, live into Divine Hospitality and Divine Abundance…
Come… let us withdraw to Galilee together… Amen!