This exercise may be a self-guided meditation or may be used by a leader to guide a group. Leaders should allow ample time between the reading aloud the images offered and the questions asked so that participants have space to form responses.
Allow 30-45 minutes, more if you plan to discuss your experience afterward.
INTRODUCTION: Life with Christ is dynamic, ever new and renewing. This exercise invites you to take some time to encounter Jesus as his first followers did, by the sea. Perhaps the fishermen’s encounters with Jesus as they mended their nets by the Sea of Galilee were something like the New Year opportunity described by Howard Thurman.
One of the simple things that is very good and very positive about a New Year is the fact that one does have another chance, that there is available to the individual the fluid dimension of time that has not been frozen and has passed on into the past. It is liquid, living, vital, quick in the sense of being vital. The individual stands in the midst of a stream of vitality, awareness, and fluidity, and is able, by an act in the present moment, to do for him or for the context in which he is operating, something that nothing else in the world can do. Therefore, when we think about the New Year, we think in terms of the sense of alternatives, the sense of option, that are still available to us. It means that all of the options are not frozen, that it is still possible to do something about a situation. Now, this is one of the very simple things. -Howard Thurman, The Mood of Christmas (Richmond: Friends United Press, 1973, p 125-6)
TO THE LEADER: (Invite yourself and others to enter the scripture’s living, vital stream.)
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.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their Synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4: 18-25 NRSV
Get comfortable, take a few deep breathes and imagine you are in the next boat. You are working with your nets beside Simon, Andrew, James, and John, not far off shore. Imagine your muscles taking on the rhythm of casting the net and pulling it in, casting and pulling.
Read the passage again, slowly and thoughtfully. (Dramatic interpretation is not necessary).
How heavy is your net?
What are you pulling in?
Are the nets in good repair, new, old?
Now imagine yourself in your own workplace.
What tools of the trade are around you?
Who are you working with?
If the fisherman could see you at your own work, what would they observe?
Take a few minutes to think about how much your work weighs on you, what “muscles” or abilities it has built.
Here are some things you might consider:
How much energy do you spend taking care of the tools of your trade, fixing, sorting, maintaining, reporting…..?
Are you “fishing” in a fruitful spot?
Do your “casts” come back empty, full?
Whose power do you rely on to do your work well most days?
To whom does your work “belong?”
Where is God in your work?
Howard Thurman once made a terribly challenging statement, “There is no future for the proud, only a past. The gaze of the powerful must always focus on yesterday!” We are taught to take pride in our work. We are encouraged to become empowered. The gospel reminds us that pride can also ensnare us, and bind us to things of the past that we are afraid to loose.
What work were the fishermen asked to put down in order to learn a new style of fishing?
Can you risk laying down work that defines who you are?
Can we risk taking up work that might redefine you?
Do you ever feel a yearning, a tug, a “call” toward gifts beyond your everyday work; perhaps to use your abilities in a different way or perhaps to try casting them in another direction?
Or maybe at some point in your life you’ve heard a call to drop your work and head off on a new adventure altogether.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
If Christ called you to new work what you would you need to drop (perhaps without time to pack it away and not knowing when, if ever, you’d get back to it)
What might make you feel as though your hands are tied?
If your hands were free so that you could put them to work for anything, with no questions asked and all possibilities open, and with the understanding that the only guarantee is being part of the action… what would your new work be?
As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
“Immediately,” Zebedee lost both his best workers and his retirement plan (his sons). Anthony de Mello writes:
When you cling you refuse to let go, you refuse to say good-bye, you resist death. And even though you may not realize it, that is when you resist life too. For life is on the move and you are stuck, life flows and you have become stagnant, life is flexible and free and you are rigid and frozen. Life carries all things away and you crave for stability and permanence.
So you fear life and you fear death because you cling. When you cling to nothing, when you have no fear of losing anything, then you are free to flow like the mountain stream that is always fresh and sparkling and alive.... Do you want a way to measure the degree of your rigidity and your deadness? Observe the amount of pain you experience when you lose a cherished idea or person or thing. The pain and the grief betray your clinging, do they not? -Anthony de Mello, "The Way to Love," Image Pocket Classics, 1995
Imagining yourself again in your own workplace,
Who might you need to entrust to God’s care?
Who might you need to trust to the care of the community God provides?
Who might you be called to work with or to care for, so that someone else’s hands might be freed up r to respond to God’s call?
THE KINGDOM NET Jesus called his first followers to cast caught people up with strands of good news, teaching, preaching, and healing. Think about your own church or ministry setting and ask:
What is our “Kingdom net” constructed of?
What are we casting?
How would you feel about being in the public eye with crowds following?
Who would you rather see go home?
How would you respond when Jesus told you to feed them, to call them brother or sister?
Whose power pulls you into the gospel net?
Whose power can you rely on to help you pull your weight in the Net work?
Close your time of reflection with this thought from Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”
To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us--and He has given us everything.... Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience.
OPTION 2: District (or Cluster) Activity: The Ministry Web
This activity will include creation of pieces for the annual conference backdrop.
INTRODUCTION: The weaving technique for making nets is called “sprang.” What a marvelous, lively word! The living net of ministry reaching out to gather in God’s people must be lively, “springy,” resilient, and made of many interwoven strands, each with its own strength and function.
Read aloud Matthew 4: 18-25
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.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their Synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (NRSV)
This passage names several strands in the ministry net Jesus and his first followers cast including teaching, proclamation, healing.
Name the strands making up the “ministry net” in your District. Make a list on a white board or large piece of paper.
How does each congregation reach out?
Are you parts of other gospel nets beyond the congregation, perhaps local ecumenical ministries, cluster or District ministries, national or international efforts? Name them too.
See how full and diverse a list of God’s work in your community and region you can come up with.
Underline ministries that you might model for other congregations.
TO THE LEADER: (Divide the group into pairs. More than 2 in a group will not have enough time. Appoint a time keeper. Instruct the conversation partners to listen without interruption. They may encourage or ask a clarifying question, but not give advice or start to tell their own story while in the role of listener.)
With your conversation partner:
Take 10 minutes each to tell the story of one of your gospel net strands.
Tell the story with God as the main character.
*Using the materials provided to each District, write the list of ministries on ribbons with sharpie markers. There should be enough ribbons for each church to be represented by one.
*Don’t worry if the marker does not show up well on blue cloth, the words will become symbolic as the these are woven together and not readable in the end. The words will be recorded before weaving and used elsewhere.
*Invite each participant to complete or take a “Take Home Exercise” with them (see below). *For further conversation, read on into the Beatitudes and discuss the quality of the kingdom net!
TAKE HOME EXERCISE:
These will be distributed in booklet form at NEAC 2008. Congregations are encouraged to submit as many as they’d like.
One of our congregation’s most effective ways of reaching out to our local community is…
Here is how we plan…..
Here is how we implement……
We incorporate people by…..
Some of the things we’ve learned are…..
One of our congregation’s most interesting ways of reaching out to our regional orglobal community is…