Fishing and landing a catch is no picnic. By fishing I don’t mean the gentle sport of angling I mean fishing deep at sea by trawler men.
“Because Polperro is a tidal port, the fishing boats can only leave or enter the harbour when the tide is halfway above the high water level, a period of six hours in every 12. At low water, the boats are grounded in the harbour and are equipped with 'legs' to support them. Mooring buoys in the outer harbour enable boats to leave and return at low tide however.
Four factors determine when the fishing boats put to sea:
1. Weather. The boats will usually put to sea every day unless a gale (or worse) is forecast. If they are caught out at sea in rough weather, they may decide to make for an all-weather port such as Fowey.
2. Tide. There is a six hour period (three hours either side of high tide) when boats can leave or enter the harbour.
3. Daylight. As a rule, the catch is reduced at night so fishing is usually carried on in daylight.
4. Fishing ground. Where the boats fish is usually decided by word of mouth and past experience. Most fishermen keep notes of past fishing trips which they use as a guide.
Before putting to sea, therefore, they must calculate how long it will take them to reach their fishing ground then allow for the tides and available daylight. In good weather, they will tend to keep fishing as long as possible, the trawlers often spending as much as 100 hours a week at sea in the summer. Bad weather in the winter months will often prevent the boats going to sea for as long as a week or two or even longer. Overall, most fishermen spend at least two thirds of their days at sea.”
Deep sea fishing is hard graft, scary at times, dangerous even perilous but it can bring rewards. A good catch of fish can bring in a good price at market, although every penny made is well earned. Deep sea fishermen deserve our respect, for they are ordinary people who daily leave the security of home and the land for the insecurities of the sea; braving and battling all sorts of weather and conditions. Fishing is tough but it is a challenge these men rise to almost daily.
Fishing for men or people, as the modern translations have it, is not easy either. To be brutally honest it too is hard graft and rarely as rewarding as hauling in a great net of fish. Yet fishing, for people, is something that all of us here, are called to do. We are called to do so because our faith demands that we do so and our Lord, Jesus Christ expects us to do so too.
That may sound or feel rather dogmatic and pious - but it is what I believe we are called to do. We Christians are not called to experience our faith on our own. We are called by Christ to share our experiences of him and his Gospel message of love, with EVERYBODY around us. The great commission at the end of Matthew s Gospel account charges us to do this:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19
Christ expects us to respond and act upon this command to mission and evangelism.
But how can I do this?
This is a question I often ask myself and ask of God when I pray. More often than not the answer is how can you not do this. You may ask yourselves the same question. Obviously, there is no easy answer but I think St.Paul gives us a clue today when he says:
“For I am the least of the apostles & by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain.”
Despite originally wanting to stop the spread of Christianity and to debase the Christian message Paul became one of its greatest ambassadors. His conversion changed his perceptions of Christ and the Gospel and he took to heart the idea that he had to share what he had discovered. He did not at first know how or why, he just got on with it and did it as the man he was. He realised that Christ had chosen him for the skills he had not realised he possessed. Christ continues to do the same with us today.
We are what we are. I am what I am - Flawed, imperfect and human. But, as a human being we are all blessed with God's grace. A grace that has lavished upon us; gifts, talents and skills to use and share in the spread of the Christian message.
When I was first asked to train as a mission 21 facilitator in 1996, I refused. Saying to my then bishop in Glasgow and Galloway that I didn’t think mission was my thing and that I certainly did not have the skills, talents and inclination to proclaim the Gospel from street corners. He told me that I did have them and that I was going to the training event. As an act of canonical obedience to my bishop I agreed and the training event became one of the most significant experiences of my life.
My eyes were opened, as was my heart and mind to the exploration of how to share my faith and beliefs with others, by basically being me. It still scares me every day but it also drives me and encourages me in ALL I do. What I learned most importantly was that Christ had called me as I was or as I am. Yes, bits of me have changed and I have acquired new skills but basically I am the same me, as I was then. The same person muddling through life; mucking it up, like others but fired by a desire to tell others how wonderful it is to begin to know or believe that one is loved, loved as one is. Loved by God, loved by Christ and blessed by the Holy Spirit beyond measure and beyond human imagination.
‘I am what I am’ and despite all that God still loves me! Pretty amazing - what ? This is what we are called to share with others, this is the bait or the net with which we are called to fish - just ourselves, as we are. It is our imperfections that can help us the most in this fishing because if we allow others to see them, they might believe that they with their imperfections have a place in God s Kingdom and Christ s church too.
This is how we are to engage in mission, how we are to reach out to others - by simply being who we are; and having the courage to tell others that despite it all God loves us and loves them too, even if they are as yet unaware that he does so. By proclaiming who we are we can lead others into the faith. By proclaiming how we are loved we can give hope to others and in all of this we do it fuelled by Christ s love and the example he set us.
Never be afraid of who you are. For you as you are is exactly the person Christ loves beyond measure and exactly the right person with the right skills to bring others to him to be loved unconditionally too.
I am what I am and what I am is no mistake. You are what you are and that is no mistake either.