Fishing in the Anthropocene
“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” – Mark 1: 17
The Anthropocene age – the one now, where humans are dominant to a self-destructive degree – is forcing us to reconsider animals. The Bible is full of references to them, from the creation stories on, where the human comes in last and really can’t show up until the realm of nature and animal and grains is fully in place. We need the water, animals and grains to survive. The Bible continues its animal themes through Jesus’ Palm Sunday ride and the Psalmist’s appreciation of the leviathan. It includes non-stop references to sheep and the tasks abundant for the sheep holders. They don’t stop there but also reference odd behavior between lions and lambs. Given this enormous contextuality of our everyday life – hamburgers anyone? – why would Jesus think of humans as fishing for humans?
Taken literally, the message is that Jesus wants to catch people in order to eat them. Taken symbolically, it means something less ominous. It means that we are to catch each other with the excitement of the Messiah. We are to be contagious with our faith. We are to go viral with it.
When I first got to my church, there was a committee called “Growth with Integrity.” What does it mean to catch people? We are not to eat them, or eat them up with activity, once we catch them. A catch and release form of fishing? We are to release people stronger to the world, stronger in the love of the man who always gave everything away. He grew with integrity.
Send us deep, great shepherd, into the pastures of new language and new understandings of what it is you really want we humans and congregations to do. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.