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January 19, 2006
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the poor and victims of natural disasters or war, through the work of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.


How Easy, How Hard, How Light, How Dark

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea -- for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them,"Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nest and followed him. As he went a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
Mark 1:16-19

It sounds like Jesus was walking along the shore of the lake, and Simon and Andrew were in their boat. We know James and John were in their boat -- it says so.

But of course, you can cast a net from the shore. Along the shore of the Bay of Bengal in southern India, I have seen an enormous tall fishing machines, built of wood, which operate something like a seesaw, one end a lever for a huge fishing net attached to the other end. A team of people tips the large net into the water by pushing up on the machine's opposite end and later pull it back down, lifting the net full of fish out of the water at day's end. They are very efficient, these mechanized nets, and ancient in design, I think: they use no power save the power of those who lift and pull the great levers.

So it is in India. It doesn't sound like Peter and his brother had such a machine along the Sea of Galilee. Unless they had another ancient machine on board -- a winch -- they were pulling the heavy nets straight up out of the water with their own strong backs. Hard work.

I wonder if a life on the road with Jesus looked easier than the life they left? They certainly left it readily: left their fathers and their hired hands right there in the boat, left their nets right there for someone else to use. Perhaps the life of a disciple looked triumphant to them, especially if they already thought he was the Son of God. This is brilliant, some of them may have thought, I am getting in on the ground floor of something that's going to be really, really big.

Oh, it was big, all right. But not in the way they hoped. It cannot have been what they expected -- we know that from the kinds of things we hear them say as their journey with Jesus unfolds. Who is the most important among us? Who will sit at his right hand and his left?

Don't ask. You may not like the answer. In this season of Epiphany, we see how wide and how high the presence of God among human beings extends. A later season will show us how deep it is, and how costly. We follow the light easily. It's the darkness that will cost us.

Jeremiah 3:21-4:2
I Corinthians 7:17-23
Mark 1:14-20
Psalm 130

And here is the ERD meditation:

Helping Those who Help Themselves

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. - Mark 1:19

Good news: this meditation will not contain the weary "If you give a man a fish, he will eat today; if you teach him how to fish, he will eat for the rest of his life" adage. Well, I guess it does contain it now.

But the fishers of Tamil Nadu don't need anyone to teach them how to fish. They've known how for millennia. They are experts in harvesting sustenance from waters they could navigate in their sleep. They know everything about the sea, their vessels, their nets, the tides.

To fish for a living is to work on your boat and your nets constantly -- cleaning, painting and chipping, tying repairs into your nets. Repair and maintenance is a routine part of being a fisherman. Nothing was routine when the tsunami hit, though. The best seafarer in the world couldn't have repaired those splintered boats, those shredded nets. Almost an entire fishing fleet would have to be replaced.

The count from us, so far? Through our donations to Episcopal Relief and Development: 125 catamarans, 63 fiberglass boats. Many, many fishing nets. And a commitment to remain in partnership with the Church of South India in the years to come for participation in restoration of housing, schools, orphan care and care of elderly displaced by the tsunami. An enormous task, one that will take the better part of a decade.

But the result is not in doubt. The fishermen of southern India will recover because of their own hard work and practical wisdom. Our respectful support contributes to what they do to help themselves.


To learn more about ERD's work or to make a donation, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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