by Fletcher Lowe
One of my favorite memories growing up in Baltimore, MD was fishing trips with my dad on Saturdays on the Severn River. On more than one occasion, we would find ourselves in the midst of a school of rockfish. As fast as we could rebait our lines, we pulled in fish after fish.
That experience reminded me of one of those post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Several of the disciples are at the Sea of Galilee when Peter decides it’s time to get back to work, so he says, “I’m goin’ fishin’.” Now for Peter, it was not a leisure or recreational activity as it was for me. It was his job, his business, his way of making a living. Peter was a fisherman. So off he goes – to work. After a frustrating night of catching nothing, he is joined by Jesus and things change.
This is one of the three times that Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection. Remember the other two? One was with those two discouraged disciples traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus meets them along the way, and things change. The third was in a room where several of the disciples had been meeting, anxious and fearful about their future. Again, Jesus comes into their midst and, with the words, “Peace be with you,” makes a difference.
It’s just like Jesus to be with people on their job or while they’re traveling or when they’re meeting – in short in the midst of the activities of their daily lives. That may seem all too obvious to you, but we don’t always make that connection between Christ and our daily lives. More often than not, there’s a gap, a gulf.
For the Church to see and to live into that connection demands a significant shift in focus. Much of what passes as lay ministry is what lay people can do to help the clergy do their jobs better. In reality, the reverse is the real calling: what clergy can do to enhance the daily ministries of lay folk. For remember, God’s chief arena of activity is not the Church but the world. “God so loved the world… (not the Church) … that he gave his only begotten Son.” An image is the congregation as a base camp – not existing for itself but to support, train, equip, and affirm those climbing the mountain. Our daily life and work are our mountain. Thus Paul in Ephesians points to the baptized community as the place to “equip the saints” – that’s you and me – “for ministry.”
Dorothy Sayers, a great 20th century Christian writer, once wrote, “The first demand on a carpenter’s religion is that he makes good tables. What use is anything else if in the very center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry.” That is the connection between Sunday and Monday, between liturgy and life – the connection that each of us as the Baptized is called upon to make in whatever occupies our daily lives: work / family / school / community / volunteer / leisure.
One Sunday after a service, the rector, as usual, was at the rear greeting the people as they were leaving, Suddenly, a man came up from the street and asked, “When does the service begin?” Before the rector could answer, an astute laywoman replied, “The service begins now!” She had made the connection. So, we have those post–resurrection appearances: Peter at work, two disciples traveling, several disciples meeting – examples for us of where Christ meets us in whatever occupies our daily life and work. And that is where each of us is called – to discover in our daily lives our particular calling and ministry. For that is where Sunday connects with Monday and where our liturgy meets our lives.