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Retreat at Home

I know quite a lot of church folk read this blog, and I know that sometimes things I write here can be heard in ways other than I intend - I hope that's not the case here, but just to be on the safe side, I assure you that all is well, and I am simply exploring some tentative ideas that emerged this morning.

Some ministers are super-spiritual.  They get up before God does, pray for hours at a time and read ginormous chunks of scripture every day.  I am not one of them. Indeed, since my brain was fried by chemotherapy almost eight years ago, I've never quite managed to return to the rhythms and models that served me well for around thirty years.

One thing that does work for me is silence (or at least absence of conversation) and doodling, two things that retreats not only permit, they encourage.  So this morning I had a half day of 'retreat at home' and it's been good.

I began sitting in my office and looking up on the internet some worship songs I love, but that, undoubtedly for good reasons, are never sung in the communities of which I am a part these days.  As the music washed over me, I allowed myself to doodle, to let my brain go wheresoever it wished.  I filled three pages with very different doodlings, culminating in the one that I've included above.

As I created the pattern, my mind wandered back through time to summer 2003 and the NBC leavers' retreat when we went to a centre at Blackley in Yorkshire, and were sent out for an hour or so to mull over the story of the great catch of fish from Luke's gospel.  At the time, I had yet to settle in a church, and had twice failed to be called following a 'preach with a view', and it wasn't a nice feeling.  As I looked out over the fields, I became aware of the pylons - the visible expression of the national grid, a network that carries electricity throughout the British mainland (and indeed, beyond).  Let down your net... but where? It gave me permission to express my frustrations and feats, as well as reminding me that somewhere there was a fish to be caught, a church that would call me.  And there was, and there has been again, and God has been faithful.

At the moment there is a lot of change going on in my world, and the one thing that I am confident is not changing is my call to the Gathering Place - this is still where God wants me to be, it is still where exicting things are happening, it is still a place that gives me more joy than not!  So why this story again?

I recalled the two catch stories, Luke and John, and phrases that popped into my mind, and then checked them in a a couple of Bible translations.

So here's what emerged...

From Luke:

  • Put out into deep water
  • 'You and your partners' (GNB) let down your nets

From John:

  • Throw your nets to the right side

Deep water - now there's a challenge!  Paddling in the shallows is easy, almost risk free, but ultimately not going to catch any fish.  So I am starting to wonder what our 'deep water' might be.

'Your and your partners' - the GNB captures the intent of the Greek beautifully, since the 'you' is explicitly plural.  I don't think I've ever heard a sermon that noted the plural language here, because the focus has always been on Peter.  Indeed that's how it was back in 2003, at least as I reflected on it.  The nets are not mine, nor are they yours or theirs, they are ours.  And that's the important point for me, and for us, to be reminded of.  We can't just sit in the boat and enjoy the ride, we all have to muck in together in  the hard labour of fishing.  In a few weeks I will be preaching on Jesus calling his disicples, so hopefully I will remember this idea and work it in!!

Throw your nets to the right side.  We read this, correctly, as throwing the net to starboard rather than to port, yet we never translate it thus.  So I found myself thinking about the other meanings of the word 'right', which historically at least, would have been implied.  Right as 'correct', as 'good', as 'appropriate' or 'best'... I I wondered, what is the correct, good, appropriate or best direction to cast our nets, to expend our energies?  What is the place where the 'fish' are to be found?  Some hints are emerging, some ideas being explored, but it's a really good question to ponder some more.

It was a good morning, and I feel refreshed, restored, renewed.  And those songs? Well here's one of them, should you fancy a listen.

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