Tuesday, November 21, 2017

World Fisheries Day

 Image result for canadian fishermen

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers,
Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother,
casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

Matthew 4:18-19 NRSV

I will make you fishers of men,
fishers of men, fishers of men.
I will make you fishers of men,
if you follow me.

Traditional chorus

When I was a kid we used to sing this chorus with abandon, even though the words were, well, boring. We never gave any real thought that such a watery metaphor is central to a religion born in such an arid region. Jesus did spend a lot of time around the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a freshwater lake called Kinneret. He called disciples from its shore, he calmed its unpredictable waters, and he even walked on it, according to one miracle story. There are still fish in Kinneret, the tilapia called St. Peter's fish for the benefit of tourists.
Image result for jesus and the fishermen

Today is World Fisheries Day, a yearly reminder that about 15% of the protein humans eat comes from the seas and oceans of the planet. And that two thirds of the world's fisheries are in decline, some of them in catastrophic free-fall.

A quarter of a billion humans are involved in fisheries in some way, which is quite remarkable. Those numbers are in decline as well. I've mentioned that we spent a month on islands in the North Atlantic this past summer. Change Islands were once all about the fishery which sustained over a thousand people in the community. Now a handful of 200 residents fish for a living and the plant is open sporadically. In one of the nearby outports I served in ministry there are now three full-time fishers. When I was there in the early 80's there were more than thirty.

Through the years I have ministered in communities which focused on agriculture, mining, lumbering, and fishing -- all dangerous. The first three have become safer over time, but fishing is still fraught with danger in Canada, and most other places as well. here was an interesting article about this in the Globe and Mail not too long ago called Canada's Deadliest Jobs and fishing is at the top of the list.

Did Jesus call fishermen as disciples because he needed their courage and ability to respond to difficult and unpredictable circumstances? They didn't always shine under pressure, but he shied away from theologians and academics and he didn't seem to have much fear of the tough going himself.

As followers of Jesus today we can take the risks necessary to protect the planet, including the seas. And we can accept the challenges of "fishing for people" in ways we never considered in the past.

I'll give you some Canadian content with words from a Gene Maclellan song made famous by Anne Murray.

Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
Put your hand in the hand of the man
From Galilee.

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