Pastoral Letter (May 2019)
From Revd Catherine Bowstead
Picture: Stephen Levett
In March I spent a few days at Treloyan Manor in St Ives, Cornwall for some training. It was a very intense course and we had very little free time, but the weather was beautiful so straight after breakfast I went for a short walk to see the sea. On the cliff path, among a row of cottages I came across this sign on a cottage wall. From here someone kept a watch on the sea, they could see where the shoals of pilchards were and they directed the boats so that the fishermen could make a good catch. What a clever idea! The fishermen on the water were too close to see where the fish were, but someone with a different perspective could see.
It reminds me, of course, of the story we looked at one Sunday morning a few weeks ago where Luke records the story of a miraculous catch of fish in his account of the calling of the first disciples. Jesus directs the fishermen to where they catch an enormous quantity of fish – so big that they need the assistance of another boat. Jesus tells the fishermen – disciples "From now on you will catch people."
In John's Gospel, we read a similar story, but John places it at the end of his Gospel, in one of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Again Jesus, on the shore, directs the fishermen to where they will make a huge catch, this time he cooks some of the fish they caught for their breakfast and in a private conversation with Simon Peter, reinstates him as the leader of the disciples.
This miraculous catch must have reminded the disciples of the other catch right at the start of their journey with Jesus and would have reminded them of their calling to "catch people".
This miraculous catch is one of the inspirations for our fish mosaic, which, despite all the delays, I hope very soon, will be installed on our outside wall. It will be a stunning art work that will attract people to our church building and encourage them to enter. I am convinced that this will give us wonderful new opportunities to share the Good News of God's Kingdom with people and see them come to faith. But if this is to happen, then we have some work to do.
We need to see the opportunity. We need to look and see when we have an opportunity to share and talk and offer God's love. The obvious place to start is with our own family and friends, not to bore them or harass them, but to gently be on the lookout for opportunities to share about how God is at work and make them aware of God's love for them. But let's be on the lookout too for how we can share the good news with the people who come to Café Mosaic and the people who use our buildings.
Then we need to make the effort for it takes effort and work to share our faith. Just imagine the physical effort needed to pull in that great big catch. We too must put in some effort in so that we work at our relationships together, we make our church community a welcoming place where people can discover God's love. And we put effort into sharing God's love, telling of God's love, drawing people into the Kingdom. Maybe that's through volunteering to work in the café or responding to a God-given opportunity to talk about your faith with someone.
But we also need the resilience to try again. Perhaps this is most difficult of all - to keep going. Many of us have been part of the church for our whole lives, we've seen numbers in the church in continual decline, our society has become more and more secular. People are less and less interested in the Christian faith; we get tired and disheartened and find it hard to keep going. We've tried to share God's love so many times and we've failed, even our own families don't want to be a part of it, it's as if we've been fishing all night and not caught anything.
The encouragement of the miraculous catch of fish is "don't give up", keep on living faithful lives, make one more effort, try one more time, and maybe, just maybe, a miracle will occur.
Of course, the disciples didn't have to fish for people on their own, they followed Jesus to learn from him and follow his example. After Jesus returned to Heaven, they received the Holy Spirit to empower, inspire and guide. We too have the Holy Spirit, we are not asked to fish for people on our own, and we have each other to inspire, encourage and work together.
We have a wonderful opportunity this summer to share our excitement about God. So, let's work and pray that we might have eyes to see opportunities, willingness to make the effort, and the courage and resilience to keep on going.
With every blessing