Sunday, 1 March 2015

Second Sunday of Lent

Gulls escort a trawler into port at the end of a fishing trip, hoping for that small share of the harvest which humans aren't interested in.
The working day for seafarers hunting fish may have started eighteen hours ago, keeping vigil in the darkness after casting nets. Waiting for shoals to shift with tidal currents, waiting for the moment when enduring in patience is rewarded with the first of several tries to land a catch. The work is tough, the journey may be risky when the weather is uncertain, no matter how much better conditions are now than they were in generations past.

Lake Galilee is not the ocean, but today's fishermen would recognise that those who worked on much smaller craft bringing home fresh water fish to eat or to sell two thousand years ago, needed the same qualities as themselves to earn a living. Patience, endurance, strength, resilience, courage, and the ability to rely on each other to stay safe while bringing home the fish.

It's not surprising Jesus sought out a handful of fishermen to accompany him, to be his first partners and inheritors in the mission of God's kingdom.

Jesus called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34)

Many in his audience were women. Their daily labours in the fields and at home weren't the same yet his words would equally be understood from their experience of taking second place, supporting  and feeding their spouses and children, caring for others, putting them first - the burden of responsibility and trust, as well as any burden of suffering and enduring in patience which life might present.

For many of us today in wealthy western society life is far less arduous and insecure than it was in times when physical labour was the dominant means of earning a living. Other kinds of hardship and anxiety burden us, different kinds of crisis come to test us. Are we ready? Does the discipleship of faith in God through Jesus Christ give us the essential training and self discipline needed to be ready for anything? How can we find out if we really have such strength of character? The lifestyle change proposed to us by the season of Lent gives us an opportunity to find out.

Sundays in Lent, as all Sundays, are festive days, albeit a little restrained and sober. Days when we celebrate Christ's resurrection, his victory over evil, sin and death. It gives us a momentary respite, but also an opportunity to reflect on the progress made with our Lenten choices this past week. How did I do? How focused was I, how easily distracted? How well would I cope if life was really tough? How easily would I forget the graciousness and generosity of God? How well could I be relied upon to be the person I think I'm meant to be?

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