A New Appreciation of the Sacred

Posted: January 31, 2022 in Uncategorized

A New Appreciation of the Sacred

The fishing motif in Luke’s story this morning has traditionally, it seems, been regarded as a kind of recruiting slogan. Apparently, according to someone the US Army had at one time an invitation to be all you can be’. This sounds almost religious today. In traditional churchy language, it is regarded as a ‘call’, or a calling by God I guess to make it sound something special and spiritual. But, I’m not so sure about that anymore because it now seem in church circles to be about recruitment to one’s own congregation, bums on seats that think like me perhaps?

It is interesting to note however that this particular story by Luke doesn’t seem to suggest this recruitment is about ‘follow me’ because these words are only found in the version of the story
by those we call Mark and Matthew. And because we recognise a similar theme in Luke,
as Luke has obviously known about the existence of those stories, we do our own blending of all the stories, into one general story.

So, Luke, it seems to me, is saying something far more radical. Not about ‘call’ or ‘catching’ with all the different images associated with those words. But about coming to a new understanding, being captivated and swept of one’s feet. Being transformed perhaps?

Conversations with this story suggest that Peter and some of his friends are captivated by Jesus.
It’s almost like they are ‘swept off their feet’ by him. Both by being in Jesus’ presence.  And by the life-giving things he is saying. Ian McGilchrist might say that they have been confronted with what they already knew but have become aware and in attendance with ‘aha’ moment. This again is not about recruitment but rather about one’s awareness of what it means to be human and on a higher plane. The ups and downs of life the conflicts of thought, the battle for identity all gelling in the awareness moment of connecting the dots so to speak. This makes different his words “Don’t continue to be afraid. You will be restoring people to life and strength”. Its more than just believing because while belief is required it is not all, while responding the call is obedience or surrender it is not all. You see… for Luke, Jesus was a special human being and we hear more of that in the beautiful birth stories each Christmas. We hear that in this fishing story. And being special made Jesus different. But how was Luke to say that?

There is story by Jack Shea which Rex Hunt has quoted and I think it is worth hearing in this context as we try to get a handle on the Jesus Luke is talking about and trying to convince his readers to meet. The story goes; “Once upon a time, there was a very pious couple. They had married with great love and the love never died. Their greatest hope was to have a child
so their love could walk the earth with joy. Yet there were difficulties.  Since they were very pious, they prayed, and prayed and prayed. With that, along with considerable other efforts, lo and behold the wife conceived. And nine months later there came rumbling into the world, a delightful little boy.  They named him Mordecai. And the sun and the moon were his toys. He was outgoing and zestful, gulping down the days and dreaming through the nights. And he grew in age, and wisdom, and grace until it was time to go to the synagogue and study the Torah, the Law of God.

The night before his studies were to begin his parents sat Mordecai down and told him how important the Word of God was. They stressed that without the Word of God Mordecai would be an autumn leaf in the winter’s wind. He listened wide-eyed. Yet the next day he never arrived at the synagogue. Instead, he found himself in the woods, swimming in the lakes and climbing the trees. And when he came home at night, the news had spread throughout the small village. Everyone knew of his shame. His parents were beside themselves. They did not know what to do. So they called in the behaviour modificationalists who modified Mordecai’s behaviour, so that there was no more behaviour of Mordecai’s that was not modified. Nevertheless, the next day he found himself in the woods, swimming in the lakes and climbing the trees. So they called in the psychoanalysts who unblocked Mordecai’s blockages so there were no more blockages for Mordecai to be blocked by. Nevertheless, the next day he found himself again in the woods, swimming in the lakes and climbing the trees. His parents grieved for their beloved son. There seemed to be no hope. It was at this time that the great Rabbi visited the village. And the parents said, “Ah! Perhaps the Rabbi…” And so they took Mordecai to the Rabbi and told him their tale of woe. And the Rabbi bellowed, “Leave the boy with me, and I will have a talk with him.” Mordecai’s parents were terrified. So he would not go to the synagogue, but to leave their beloved son with this lion of a man… But they had come this far, so they left him. Now Mordecai stood in the hallway
and the Rabbi was in the study and he looked through the door at him and said, “Boy, come here.”

Trembling, Mordecai came forward. And then the great Rabbi picked him up and held him silentlyagainst his heart. His parents came to get him and they took Mordecai home. And the next day, he went to the synagogue to learn the Word of God. And when he was done, he went to the woods. And the Word of God became one with the word of the woods which became one with the word of Mordecai. And he swam in the lake. And the Word of God became one with the word of the lake which became one with the word of Mordecai. And he climbed the trees.
And the Word of God became one with the word of the trees which became one with the word of Mordecai. Mordecai himself grew up and became a great man. And people came to him who were broken inside. And with him they found healing. And people came to him seized with inner panic.
And with him, they found peace. And people came to him who were without anybody.
And with him they found communion. And people came to him, with no exits at all. With him, they found possibilities. And Mordecai often said, “I first learned the Word of God when the great Rabbi held me silently against his heart.”

The recruitment plane failed miserably because it was not aware of the transformation, it manipulated, encouraged, exhorted and belittled but it did not see that Mordecai was special. Nor did the call acknowledge that it is not in some holy or sacred place but in the midst of their ordinary everyday life that awareness happens. In doing what they did most days, sometimes with regular monotony, Peter and some of his friends were captivated by the presence of Jesus.

Just as Jesus was captivated by the Source and Ground of Life, he in his transformation called God. It was what made his story and his message the example of the divine relationship. In our time, with the collapse of belief in the traditional image of God (supernatural, interventionalist),
we have to find and be captivated by the sacred in a new place, in a new way. And the most convincing place of all will be our own human hearts. Not merely in some personal experience, decision or recruitment intervention  because as David Tacey puts it, that is “locked away in the closet of introspection” but perhaps rather the discovery of God in our interiority – heart and mind  
will be the basis for a new appreciation of the sacred in and of the world. Captivated in this way, may we as Michael Morewood puts it. May we always be a blessing to ourselves, and to others.

And may we ever give thanks for the wonderful gift of reflective awareness, the ability to humbly admit we know and now know more. So that we might truly recognise and name the presence of
a Creating Spirit beyond all imagining, in our universe.  (Michael Morwood). Amen.


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