There I was, in Cessnock Parish Church, the church where I was baptised. I was singing. ‘Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping, listen to them fall, every one for Jesus, he shall have them all. ’ As a child, I wondered what did Jesus do with all the money we gave him (that’s when I put my offering in) and wasn’t he being a bit greedy ‘having them all?’
Then, as a closing song for our busy Sunday school we burst into ‘I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me’. I wasn’t old enough to realise the exclusiveness of the language but I did wonder about Sandra, who sat close to me in the Sunday School and made my heart race, what she thought about the whole fishing analogy.
My only experience of fishing was off the pier at Rothesay and the thought of actually catching anything put me off the sport. ‘I will make you a fisher ‘ but I didn’t want to be a fisherman, I wanted to be a police officer and ride a motorbike like CHIPS (Californian High-way Patrol).
I didn’t want to be something else, I wanted to be me.
Gospel stories can be hard and challenging to understand, not just as a child, but also as an adult. But now, when I think about it, Jesus wasn’t calling the likes of Andrew, Simon, James and John to something different, but something familiar, something closer to home. He didn’t want them to abandon who they were, but to be their more authentic selves.
His invitation to those who followed was rooted in the specific and the particular, rooted in the language, culture and vocation they knew best. What metaphor would fishermen understand but the metaphor for fishing for people?
These men knew the patience needed and the dangers and perils of the sea and how to use the tools of the trade, the limitations of their bodies, the importance of timing, humility and discretion.
This is a New Year and we have much to look forward to. One thing, mentioned elsewhere in our Magazine, is our plans for 2020 vision: Pentecost in the Park. We, as a church, believe it would be good to celebrate in Naseby Park something of what the church is about: to showcase, if that’s the right word, much of what the church is in-volved in, the charities we support, the organisations we provide, the connections we have in our community both with old and young.
We will also have a reflective space allowing down time, a time to think, to hope, to pray. Our intention has always been to say quite simply with this event that ‘we are here’ , but we also believe that God is calling you, in your own specific way. It won’t be in the language of ‘fishers of men‘, it will be in ways which are authentic and true to who you are as a person and the skills and gifts you have.
The most powerful transformations I have experienced have been the ones often most close to home, the most ordinary. Many people, looking back, might have been surprised that ‘George Mackay‘ ended up as a minister, that God called the likes of me. One of the nicest comments I have ever received was ‘you don’t look like a minister!’
Whilst that might open Pandora’s box, I was always pleased that it was me people saw and hopefully, through me, the man from Nazareth I’ve tried to follow.
This year, listen to that call anew, not as a fisherman or woman, unless you have that skill, but how you can show and tell how he has touched your life. We don’t catch or cajole, all we can do is to try and embody what the Kingdom of God is about. The clue is in the words ‘Follow me and I will make you‘… follow me, follow Jesus, now that’s a different matter.
‘Dropping, dropping’ but what does Jesus do with all that money
Your friend and minister,