Transitions

(Last Updated On: January 19, 2024)

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:16-18)

Hi Fighter,

William Bridges’ book, “Transitions”, made quite an impact on me. It explores the common elements experienced in major life transitions – from childhood to adulthood, from singleness to marriage, from childlessness to parenthood, etc. Our lives are demarcated by these major transitional shifts, along with less predictable transitions that can be equally traumatic, such as being fired from your job, losing a loved one or ending a relationship. Each transition is distinct and is, of course, a unique experience for the person transitioning. Even so, Bridges sees three common stages in all transitions. There is a ‘letting go of the old’, a ‘restarting with the new’, and then there’s a ‘wilderness zone’ in between where we have to come to terms with both where we are going and what we have left behind.

In this week’s Bible readings, as with last week’s, our focus is on God’s calling, and on our need to transition to a different sort of future. Our Gospel reading depicts Jesus walking along the Galilean seashore, calling out to some fishermen and inviting them to join Him as disciples. As I thought through the scene this week, I found myself reflecting on the different stages of transition into discipleship. What exactly did these men sign up to? What did they have to let go of? How long did it take them to come to really connect with their new lives?

In the case of Simon and Andrew, we are told only that “they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18). We could say that, both literally and figurately, what they had to let go of was their ‘safety net’. They fished for a living, and we assume they had no other source of income. Perhaps they had a small amount of savings at home. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be any indication from Jesus as to where their journey will take them or how they will sustain themselves. The subsequent account of the calling of the sons of Zebedee doesn’t get us much further.

“As he went a little farther, he saw James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him”. (Mark 1:19-20)

In the case of James and John, it’s not just a net that they leave behind. They leave behind a business with employees. Moreover, they leave their father behind, which would normally have been considered highly disrespectful. Think of the ‘prodigal son’ walking out on his father (Luke 15:12-13).

What was it that drove these men to walk away from their livelihoods and (quite possibly) their reputations, in order to follow Jesus? Did they somehow perceive in Him the incarnate Son of God who had to be obeyed or were they just sick of fishing and yearning for an adventure? The only indication Jesus seems to give them as to what lay ahead was the promise to make them “fishers of people” (Mark 1:17).

I remember in my youth, singing a song in Sunday School – “I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men …”  We were taught that Jesus was equipping us to go out and catch people and bring them into the Kingdom of God (or at least, to bring them to church). That’s probably not how the Galilean fishermen understood Jesus’ words. The Hebrew prophets used the metaphor of fishing a number of times, and always as an image of judgement (Jeremiah 16:16, Amos 4:2; Habakkuk 1:15).

“Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” (Jeremiah 16:16)

In Jeremiah’s prophecy, the calling of the fishers and hunters is more of a threat than a promise. The fishers catch out the godless leaders who are corrupting the country and bring them to judgement. After all, that is what fishers do when they catch fish. They don’t welcome them into their homes as pets. They kill and eat them!

I believe these first disciples – Simon, Andrew, James and John – joined Jesus because they thought it was their chance to make a difference. They saw the desperate need of their community and they were prepared to let go of friends and family and earthy security if it meant they could help end the violence and corruption that was destroying their nation. They made their decisions and then they entered a three-year wilderness zone where they had to work out exactly what they had got themselves into and how they were going to move forward. Eleven of the original twelve made it through to the other side of their transitions. One, it seems, couldn’t completely let go of what he’d left behind.

We are all in transition. Our world is in transition. The question is not ‘will things change?’ but ‘how will we change?’ and ‘how much are we willing to leave behind to embrace the future that God has prepared for us?’

Our Sunday Eucharist

I felt we had a particularly great session with our Sunday Eucharist last weekend. Our theme was ‘guidance’ and I felt well and truly guided by the end of our session. Thank you, John Jegasothy and Rob Gilland, for your wonderful support on the panel, and thank you too to all the wonderful people who contributed their input via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter

Joy made the point early in our Bible Banter that seeking guidance is not just an individual task but a communal responsibility and, indeed, I thought last Sunday’s session was a wonderful example of how communal wisdom can be pooled. Take time to listen to the recording below if you weren’t with us live. I felt we achieved a level of wisdom between us that was even greater than the sum of what we each had individually!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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