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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Sunday, October 25

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.”
—Mark 1:16-17

Maybe there's a reason why the core of Jesus' followers were fishermen. Maybe there is something about fishermen that opens them naturally to hearing the good news of God that Jesus first proclaims publicly in this passage from the early verses in Mark.

Most of what I know about fishermen I learned from books and movies, most recently The Perfect Storm, based on the true-life story of the loss of the fishing vessel Andrea Gayle. The literature about those who make their living from the sea reveals that fishermen have a deep acceptance of the conditions of their lives. There is a holy reverence for the intransigence and power of weather and sky and sea. They are keenly observant of the signs of the times.

But they accept their frail mortal limits with an almost primitive resignation to the powers of the cosmic stage. Fishermen simply accept the circumstances. Sometimes the fish bite; sometimes they don't. Sometimes it is fair; sometimes it storms.

There is another characteristic of fishermen that comes through the literature. They are remarkably brave. There is a fearlessness in the whalers of Moby Dick and the crew of the Andrea Gayle that allows them to cast their lives into the great deeps held afloat by inches of material in the midst of powers and unseen monsters who have the potency to make sport of their flimsy defenses.

Acceptance and courage are profound qualities. In fact, according to one of my favorite spiritual guides, J. Neville Ward, they are the corresponding virtues to counter the two strongest blocks to a religious life: resentments and fears. (The Following Plough, p. 25)

From the beginning, Jesus' good news is a message of acceptance and trust: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near”—look around and see God's presence now, do not be resentful.“Repent, and believe in the good news”—don't be afraid, all is well, trust and do good.

Grant me an awake, willing and thankful heart today, O God, that I may accept fearlessly whatever may come to me as the outward and visible vehicle of your invisible and spiritual presence. Amen.

These Signposts were originally published on in 2005.