This past Sunday I did something I have not done in quite a long time. I went to church. My wife wanted to go, and she thinks it would be good to give the children the option of having religion as a part of their lives. I consider myself to be agnostic and do not see any contradiction between that and attending a church.
I have to tell you I enjoyed the sermon this past Sunday. It was on the history and origin of The Lord’s Prayer. It felt a bit like a lecture and more like an academic analysis of the Bible and that is something I can get behind. The service was then followed by Sunday school which happened to not only be for the children but for adults as well. I had never seen that so it was partly curiosity that had me attending.
The class we sat in on was lead by the pastor and was on Luke. The end part of chapter 4 to be specific. That isn’t all that important for this writing. What is important is we intend to return this Sunday and continue our journey to becoming members of this church.
One thing it is important to understand about me is that I am an English major. Not in the sense that I studied literature when I went to college and graduated with a BA in English but that I am an English major. It is in the fiber of my being.
To give an example I just finished watching Nightmare Alley and it was the exact type of movie I have been looking for. The acting was marvelous and it was a character driven narrative. It filled my soul with joy, but beyond that there was the scene with Clem and Stan where he was telling him how he forced people to become a geek, and then when Stan took that first drink of whisky in his partner’s office it was clear where this story was headed. Some might say this made the movie predictable, but to me it made it beautiful. One small conversation foreshadows the entire thing.
That is what I mean. I am an English major. I cannot help but view things through a much different lens than the average person, and that is why I have already read ahead in Luke. Through most of chapter 5 or at least the parts I think will be discussed. I have read essays about the writer of Luke and analysis of the first part of chapter 5. The miracle of the fish.
As with lots of passages in the Bible I believe there to be deep meaning and truth that is completely irrelevant to the divinity of Jesus, the existence of a higher power, or any kind of mysticism at all.
Chapter 5 opens with Jesus’ friend Simon and his fishing partners cleaning their nets after a long night of fishing. Jesus asks to borrow a boat so he can do some teaching from it. Simon allows this and Jesus teaches. After Jesus is done teaching he asks Simon to put the boat out in deep water and put down the nets. I like to imagine that this isn’t a miracle at all but Jesus is somehow more knowledgeable about the swimming patterns of fish than the professional fisherman and knows the fish will be swimming up from the depths at that hour.
Lo and behold there are fish. So many fish that they break the nets which for a fisherman is the same as having no fish so Simon calls his partners over and they help him gather the fish. So many fish that the boats start to sink. Jesus then tells them not to worry that from now on they will be catching people meaning that they will be joining him as his disciples.
Having twins people like to try and ease my sense of feeling overwhelmed by telling me that God gives us nothing more than we can handle, and yet here is a story from the Bible where Simon is clearly given more than he can handle. He is given so many fish that his nets break and his boats sink. It is only through the help of his partners that he is able to haul in the catch and then it is unclear if they ever even get the fish to shore as the boats are sinking and Jesus tells them not to worry about fishing anymore.
It is my belief that the Christianity of the Bible is not copacetic with an individualistic society. That we need the help of others and that stories like that of the miracle of the fish make it clear. God isn’t looking down on people and measuring out his gifts. Simon wanted fish and fish he got. It is said the writer of Luke was well versed in both Greek and Hebrew culture and this story of the fish sounds like something out of Greek mythology where a gift quickly becomes a curse. An audience of that time might have recognized it as such and the turn at the end of them not sinking to the bottom of the sea trying to bring in an uncatchable horde of fish might have been an interesting reversal on expectations.
There is much I don’t yet know about this short passage and that is part of the reason this Sunday school thing interests me so much. I can dig a pastor that quotes biblical scholars as much as the Bible in her sermons and then objectively teaches about the books of the Bible afterwards.
As humans we are not just one person but many. We have a physical self, a mental self, and a spiritual self, and all of our selves hunger. We must provide them nourishment in the proper fashion and I now look forward to doing this on Sundays.