This morning I led a reflection at Credo Café as part of Credo Gathering. A couple of weeks back the group had started reflecting on what Jesus means when he calls some fishers to follow him, saying he’ll teach them to fish for people. I was interested in taking some time to look at some of the background to this story from the Hebrew scripture.
I started off by asking the group to imagine what it might be like if we were invaded by a foreign country, and everyone in Melbourne who had a university education was taken away into exile. People said that it might be better, because we would the people who had previously been in subservient roles (but have all the practical knowledge) would be in charge. But people also noted that we wouldn’t have any doctors or nurses, and we would still have police.
I explained that this was what happened in Israel about 700 years before Jesus’ time. Israel was invaded by the Assyrians, and of their leaders were taken away into exile. Some of the prophets said that this was happening because Israel’s leaders had mistreated the poor and the workers, and so God was sending the Assyrians to catch them like fishers and lead them away with fishing hooks. Israel’s elites actually were lead into captivity with hooks and chains through their mouths.
I asked the group what the fishers might have thought Jesus meant when he invited them to come and fish for people.
We came to the conclusion that they might have thought that he was inviting them to punish their oppressors – the Romans and their Jewish collaborators. This might be why they expected Jesus to lead violent revolution. At any rate, they would have understood that he was inviting them to challenge the way their society worked. We talked about what this looks like in our own society – people start protest movements and political parties in order to try and change society.
We talked about how the work we do in Credo Café might be part of an effort to challenge the way our society operates. We noted that the practise of offering everyone a free meals different to the way that our society normally operates. We also noted that the practise of bringing together people who wouldn’t normally share a meal (eg. people from the street culture, business people and church people) is also a challenge to the subtle forms of segregation that exist in our society.
(The gospel story we were talking about was from Matthew 4:18-22. The prophetic texts mentioned are Amos 4, Jeremiah 16 and Ezekiel 29. Have been having a go at not reading directly out of the Bible, and seeing if it makes it easier for people with lower literacy to engage in the discussion.)