A net full of fish and the fear of the other

There is a story in the Bible where several of the disciples are fishing and they come up short. They are instructed by a man on the beach to put the net on the right side of the boat and when they do the net is full of fish. The man on the shore is Jesus and the number of fish are over 150. 

The meaning of the number of fish has been debated for as long as this story has been told. Why the number is very specific - 153 - and it seems like it should mean something. Some have said that it is the number of fish types known at that time. Others have used this number as some sort of "code" that reveals a secret message. I have no idea what the number means. What I am most interested in is the note that the net did not break.

Religion has a history of setting boundaries up to define who is in and who is out. There is an underlying fear that if we let just anyone "in" that the line between in and out will be blurry and perhaps the whole thing will come undone. We see this when someone in Christianity talks about universal salvation. Some fear universal salvation because if anyone "gets in" then that means that all that I know to be true (there are saved people and unsaved people) is undone.

When I read about the net being so full and overflowing but not breaking, leads me to believe that all the fear that I have about what happens when the boundaries break, or the anxiety that I have when my social structures are broken down, or the worry that I have when I consider what would happen if I really let everyone come to the table, are all a matter of my lack of faith. 

When our borders are removed it may not mean that our nets will break. Having faith is trusting that the net is strong enough to support everyone. 


Salvation within the Church community

The following is taken and slightly adapted from a sermon delivered on October 5, 2014 at Saginaw United Methodist Church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
— Acts 2:42-47

Traditionally we read Acts 2:42-47 and think that the early church was experiencing rapid numeric growth. That is to say that everyday the Lord added new people to the church community.

I am sure the early church grew in numeric "metrics".

But could it also not be the case that all this face to face time with their neighbor and face to face time with God that more people who were already in the community were being saved?

If you did not have to worry about food. If you had a group of people you could count on to be there for you when times were difficult. If you feel the Peace of Christ in your life every waking moment. If you did not have to worry about paying rent when you lost your job because a community would help you out in your time. If you did not need to worry about your medical bills because you had a community that would sell what they owned in order to ensure you were treated. If you had all these things and more, would you not be saved?

Saved from anxiety, worry, fear and isolation.

Sometimes we talk about the world needs to be saved as though we are not the ones we are talking about. We need to save those people out there by getting them in here. And if we did that then the Lord would add to the number of people being saved.

I would argue that all of us need salvation (aka: health and wholeness). All of us need a community. All of us need meaningful relationships. All of us need face to face time in the relationships that nurture healing and wholeness.

Why I don't say "I was saved"

In some Christian circles it is commonplace to be able to share the time, place or date of when you "were saved". Some Christians, like myself, don't have a moment in time that I can point to and say, "this is the moment". But that is not the reason I do not say "I was saved". Mine is more theological rather than biographical. 

I believe that salvation has little to do with what I do, say or feel. If there was a time that I "was saved" it was in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I do not say "I was saved" in some moment in my life because God's action of reconciling all things predates my existence and actions. 

It may also be worth noting that what we are saved "from" is a large topic of discussion. And, as far as I can see, there is no one thing that everyone needs to be saved from. There are a lot of things. While some need to be saved from our pride, others need to be saved from our self hate. Some of us need to be saved from starvation and others of us need to be saved from slavery. To say all this is "Sin" may be generally accurate it also removes the specific need. God so loved the whole world and in this love God saved the world. 

The good news is we are saved and we did not do anything to earn it. Now, we get to live in thanksgiving, humility, gratitude and grace. And we have faith that living with the posture of thanksgiving, humility gratitude and grace leads to life eternal.