Port and Starboard

Our scripture reading is an addition to the Gospel of John, given that the Gospel has a concluding paragraph just before Chapter 21 begins. Maybe it’s an epilogue.  Scholars have quite different opinions as to whether it is from John’s hand or that on another.  For the first time the sons of Zebedee, who figure prominently in Matthew, Mark and Luke, are mentioned in John.  From Matthew’s and Mark’s Resurrection narratives we have the story of Jesus appearing to the women and telling them to tell the disciples that he would meet them in Galilee. And it is here, somehow in John’s Gospel, that we read what happened.



 

 

Easter III  John 21:1-14

 

Our scripture reading is an addition to the Gospel of John, given that the Gospel has a concluding paragraph just before Chapter 21 begins. Maybe it’s an epilogue.  Scholars have quite different opinions as to whether it is from John’s hand or that on another.  For the first time the sons of Zebedee, who figure prominently in Matthew, Mark and Luke, are mentioned in John.  From Matthew’s and Mark’s Resurrection narratives we have the story of Jesus appearing to the women and telling them to tell the disciples that he would meet them in Galilee. And it is here, somehow in John’s Gospel, that we read what happened.

 

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

 

Seven of the disciples had stayed together and were now in Galilee, and interestingly enough Nathanael, who alone of this group was not of the lakeside disciples, is included.  Peter can’t stand it any longer and says “I’m going fishing”.  We need to understand how precarious at this moment was the future of the church.  Would these men, whose life until three years before had been all about fishing, put their whole soul into making a living on the water again? 

 

They fished all night and it was in the early morning hours, with empty nets and all hope of catching fish was past, they hear a call from the shore.  The caller uses words that any stranger intending to make a purchase  of fish might.  No, not children, that is a mistranslation, a better translation might be ‘lads’ or as we might say “Hey guys…”    “Have you caught…?”  “No” came their reply.  Then the stranger tells them “Cast the net to the starboard side of the boat and you will.”  The term starboard for the right side of a vessel comes from the fact that before the invention of rudders the right side had a steering board that hung over the side of the ship. So the word ‘starboard’ is a corruption of ‘steering board’.  And it then follows that if a steering board hung over the right side, the boat would need to put into port or dock on its left side, its port side.  That’s where we get Port and Starboard.

 

But to put the net out over the steering board side of the boat was no way for a proper fisherman to fish.  The net should go over the “port” side, not the starboard side of the boat.  It just isn’t done that way.  By the way, to help you remember – the Red light is on port or left side of the vessel, the green light on the starboard or right side of the vessel.  That holds for planes as well as barges and boats.  The reason for that being such a formalized thing is that it enables an observer to know in which direction a plane or boat is headed.

 

I recall seeing women in Japan walking down the street bent double from years of working the rice paddies.  It makes me wonder if spending a life time bent over one way makes it impossible to bend in another.  Gary Budd, a dear friend whose family had a cabin on the same lake that Western Yearly Meeting had its camp, had a sail boat.  He told me that of course a sailor had to understand the rigging on the boat and certainly needed to know which way the wind was blowing – but the first thing he had to know was his destination – then the rigging could be used to take the best advantage of the wind that did blow.  I watched him sail that boat on that lake.  He changed the sails to accommodate the changing winds but his destination remained fixed.  

 

Mary Lowcock, a Catholic Sister from Melbourne, described a task she and her community took on over a decade ago.    The decline in the number of priests, that had begun in the 1970s, was causing people to ask questions about the future of Church.  They tried a number of conventional solutions but it wasn’t until the nineties that they began to consider the issue from a different perspective.  They called their many local congregations to restructure their life together.  They put in place the resources that would encourage local congregations to concentrate on mission. For some it meant changing boundaries, consolidation of neighboring churches.  Some studied their current situations, others their organizational structure and financial practices not unlike what you yourself as a Meeting did several years ago our own Yearly Meeting has done recently.  After years of work, all of which was, in reality, managing change – a new way to understanding who they were and to what they were called emerged.  Leadership worked more closely together and engaged in adult faith education, a change that required the exercise of trust, acceptance and forgiveness.   For Sister Mary Lowcock a single verse from our Gospel reading today summed up her understanding of their planning for the church’s future. She said Jesus told his disciples to ‘Cast your nets on the other side of the boat’ .

Based on last Sunday’s story of Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit and his call to service to the gathered followers there is just no question as to what is the purpose of the Church?   We may argue about method, but without question evangelizing is in fact, to quote a well known Christian body “the grace and proper vocation of the Church, her deepest identity.” ‘The Church exists in order to evangelise…’ What does this mean in today’s world? Does it mean worshipping on Sunday or being involved in the work of Yearly Meeting Boards and or committees –being primarily concerned with the internal workings of the Church – or does it mean seeking to make an impact on the world, on peoples’ lives: the sick, unemployed, asylum seekers, those from different cultures?  Can the Church make an impact on today’s world? Will it have any significance?  Should the mission of the Church be directed toward those already worshipping, or are the worshippers themselves on mission?

 

It wasn’t until their nets were about to break from the draught of fish they caught that the disciples realized that the stranger on the shore was Jesus.  Fish for Jesus was food for hungry people.  He had fixed breakfast for them and invited them to share with him and said that they should contribute some of their catch as well.  

 

What of our nets?  Are we like that boat full of tired fishermen having exhausted ourselves trying to do things the same old way.  “Have you caught?” Jesus asks us.  What struck me in all this is that our boat now has a rudder – there is no steering board to get in the way of trying things a new way, nothing hindering us from throwing our nets over the other side of the boat.

 

Following a panel discussion at Gonzaga this past week one of the other panelists and I continued.  I was challenging his confidence in language getting to the theological issue of what we, as human beings, can truly know of God.  He looked at me with incredulity all over his face and said “That’s Postmodernist!”  And I responded “Sure”  “That’s where our world is, that is the context for our ministry today.”  Throughout the two thousand years since Jesus walked that Galilean shore the church has had to continue the task of presenting the Good News in ever new and meaningful ways – today is no different.   I’m interested in seeing what it would look like for the church today – to throw caution to the wind and approach evangelism in new and risky ways.  It will be like Jesus on the shore, unrecognizable in his appearance but true to his nature by showing care for those who were his followers, nurturing them but encouraging them to take the risk of doing things in unorthodox ways so that nourishment is available for a spiritually hungry world.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Pastor's Page. Bookmark the permalink.