Summary: For Earth Day -- We continue to deplete resources, but there are more to be found. We cannot ignore the mandate to make sure that all have material as well as spiritual needs met. God’s call is to care about all aspects of all people and all the earth.
The universal symbol of a person taking his ease – the sign on the door, “Gone fishing.” You came to the medical office to get a checkup, but the doctor decided he had done enough for one day; “Gone fishing.” You came to the lawyer’s office to put First Baptist Church of Gaithersburg into your will, but you were met with a locked door and a hastily scrawled message, “Gone fishing.” By the way, come back another day, if that’s what you want to do, or contact the Executive Director of the D. C. Baptist Convention Foundation – that would be me – for I am always fishing for people willing to make legacy gifts. End of commercial!
“Gone fishing”. Not just the sign of a person taking his ease, but all too often, the sign of a person who is tired, someone who has worked too long and too hard, who needs peace and quiet and something to do that just removes all the stresses of the moment. “Gone fishing” – it means, “I am fed up to here with all the stuff I have to do. I’m outta here!” “Gone fishing”.
And so seven men wandered to the lakeside one warm spring afternoon. Friends they had been, and fellow travelers. The last three years or so they had invested themselves in an enterprise that had had its ups and downs. But nothing like the events of the last few weeks. Those weeks had been full of incredible happenings – a march to and through the city, a series of nasty encounters, and then – it still pained them to remember it – the arrest of their leader and his swift summary execution. This little band of men had experienced that forboding feeling you have when you can see where things are headed, and it’s not good; and then that crushing grief when you realize that everything you have given yourself to for three years has been swept away. A lot of stress in all of that, enough to make anyone want to go fishing and get away from it all.
But that was not the end of it. The death of their leader was not the only thing they had dealt with. Beyond anyone’s capacity to expect, three days later He was alive again. Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph over His foes, and they saw Him with their own eyes. They met with Him in an upper room. They traveled with Him on the road to Emmaus. Jesus of Nazareth, their incomparable teacher, who all along had demonstrated that He was not like other men, was now alive and among them.
Joyful though that was, they also found it stressful. They could not cope with the range of emotions they felt. There is, after all, something called eustress as well as distress, but, good or bad, it’s all stress. So, what do you do after your world has been turned upside down? What do you do when you need time to make sense of such extraordinary events? You get away for a while. You go fishing.
But, you know, sometimes even the things we love to do do not heal the wounds or ease the pain. I don’t go fishing, but I do love music. And so when I feel overwhelmed, I go to my piano and start playing. Sometimes it works to move with Mozart or to bask in Bach. But sometimes even that does not work, for my fingers fumble and my memory lapses and the music just won’t come. I am in worse condition than before I started because I cannot make the notes come together into harmony. Music, fishing, whatever your escape is, sometimes it just won’t work.
And so there they are, the seven of them, out in a boat, getting nowhere. Dip the nets and draw them up; seaweed. Dip again and draw up again; the splash of the water reveals nothing, no catch. And their tensions deepen. Will they ever be relieved of all their stresses?
And then on the shore, Jesus, giving guidance. A hundred yards away, so near and yet so far, the Lord of life, offering leadership. And when they follow His command, and put out their net on the other side of the boat, the net is filled with so many fish they can scarcely manhandle it into the boat. Jesus! He always makes a difference. He always brings something new to life. He always has a solution to the issues. And He always has an invitation. The invitation this time? “Come and have breakfast”. Have you gone fishing and came up with nothing? “Come and have breakfast.”
I remember the first Earth Day, in 1970. I remember it because the University of Kentucky, where I was Baptist Campus Minister, was among the schools that put on an Earth Day observance. I had been asked to offer the invocation at that assembly, and did so gladly. I came to wish, however, that I had been invited to do the benediction instead, because I seriously wanted to tell the Lord how mistaken was the speaker of the day. Marlow Cook was one of Kentucky’s United States Senators, and he spoke about the Book of Genesis and its command to multiply and replenish the Earth. Said the Senator, who in the next election suffered a well-deserved defeat, “We have made a mess of things by following that Biblical command.” He was talking about over-population, of course, but I didn’t like it because he was not respecting my Bible. I got hung up on Bible interpretation and didn’t really listen to much else that he said that day.