Together We Thrive
Every year I like to put out a theme for the congregation to live by. If you read my weekly letter you will have gotten a teaser about that from there. I am going to use our scripture for today to flesh out the theme in both how we can see how what I’m proposing exists in this text and how we can apply it to ourselves. The theme that I would like use to adopt for the year is the title of my message for today: Together We Thrive. We’ll get back to the theme as we work through the story together. So let’s take a look at the story now.
Jesus enters the boat of Simon Peter, and as he does that he finds him along with James, John, and others cleaning their nets. They are probably also repairing their nets, as well as getting their boats ready to be docked for the day until they go fishing again the next night. In other words they are getting everything ready and prepared for what comes next. A broken rope in the net or a tangled net or rope is going to make their next fishing trip that much harder. Or if they happened to have lost some weights they need to replace those so the net can sink to the depth they need it to go to catch the fish. The boat needs to be, in well, ship shape as we say.
Something Christians have focused on for centuries is the importance of boats and fishing in the stories of the Bible. This weeks story about the call of Peter, James, and John from their boats, the story of Jesus calming the storm at sea, Paul being shipwrecked several times during his missionary journeys. The disciples returning to fishing after Jesus is crucified. Jesus used boats to travel several times as well.
The symbology of boats became so important that Christians even adopted the shape of boats for the general shape of our churches and cathedrals. Obviously our church is not specifically built that way, but it did permeate Christian architecture for centuries. The central part of a church became known as the nave which sounds like the word navy and comes from the Greek word naus which literally means ship. Many churches and cathedrals had vaulted ceilings built with a ribbed frame to it which resembles the bottom part of the ship. Even the cross on the top of many churches resembles that of a mast on a ship. There are other connections between the shape and parts of a church to a ship but I think we get the idea.
As I was thinking about all the work the three disciples were doing to make sure they were ready for their next fishing expedition and how much Christians have leaned into that symbology of ships it made me think about us here. As we enter this next part of our story together, as the people called to serve this ship we call Bethlehem, what are we doing and what do we need to do to make sure our ship is prepared for the next outing?
Can you imagine what would have happened had any of the parts of the nets been frayed and had in fact broken when Jesus told them where to fish and they were suddenly overwhelmed with so many fish? They needed everything ready for it. Also the other important part about that wasn’t just about making sure that everything was ready for their next fishing expedition because no matter how strong their nets were those nets were going to break without the help of the other boat. Jesus had given them more fish than the boat could handle. There was no way that Simon Peter and the other helpers in the boat could have loaded all the fish. The story tells us that one of two things was going to happen. 1: Their nets were going to break and they would lose all the fish or 2. If they managed to get all the fish on board they were going to sink.
So what do they do to make sure they don’t lose this miraculous catch? They call the other boat that has James and John and possibly others to help with the fish and the net. Even with both boats working together it seems that they barely manage to get the fish onto the boats and even with sharing the load there is still the threat of their boats sinking from the massive weight.
What this tells us is that for all of this to work out and for them to make sure their boats don’t sink and lose not just the catch but possibly a life, they need to work together. Simon Peter, James, John, and all of the other helpers had to work together to make the catch possible. Just like it took all of them to make sure their boats and nets were even ready for the catch. For it is together that we thrive. In order for Bethlehem to thrive, I would like us to work on ourselves, together. I’m not saying that we aren’t healthy, but I think we can all agree that we should always be working on improving our ships and ourselves. It takes all of us working together to really thrive. When I say together I don’t mean one person here and one person there doing something so that everything is covered, but all of us working together and supporting one another in all that we say and in all that we do.
The story ultimately is about Jesus calling the disciples right? Even Jesus knew the power and importance of doing his ministry with 12 disciples. Jesus gives us a model for ministry and I wonder if Jesus saw that teamwork and that reliance on one another to work together and that is what may have ultimately made him realize that these are indeed the right people to work alongside in God’s mission in the world. Let us take Jesus example and serve one another and work with one another so that just as Jesus thrived in his ministry together in ministry we too may thrive.
I say all of this because I ultimately want us to live into not just a one year theme, but a two year theme. This year I want us to work together, within ourselves so that we can do more than live, I want us to thrive as a congregation. Then next year in 2023 I want us to move from thriving in this boat to growing outward. So this year as we build ourselves up I want us to be thinking about and planning how in 2023 we can grow, because just as it will take us together to thrive in this ship it will take us together to grow. Together we Thrive, Together we Grow.
Pray on it, think about how you can help this congregation to thrive together. Think about the gifts and talents you have to help us continue to grow in our health, love and support for one another. For in Christ all things are possible. Christ gave to the disciples in abundance through their catch and gave them in abundance throughout their ministry together with Christ and after Christ. We have that same abundance given to us and we are blessed to be the people of God on this ship we call Bethlehem. Amen.