I come from a long line of fishers: fishermen and fisherwomen. My family and extended family are full of those who love to “feel the thrill,” that is, the thrill of excitement and rush of adrenaline when a fishing line instantly tightens, the bobber sinks, and a fish is hooked. Have you ever caught a fish? Do you know the thrill?
We have a small fishing pond behind our home. My great-uncle built it years ago and stocked it with fish so he could always have a place to go and feel the thrill. The fishing we did was rarely for food or trophies, and it was never out of necessity or glory. It was for the joy, the thrill. I grew up watching family humbly and quietly sit at the water’s edge and live out this fishing rhythm of catch and release, catch and release…catch and release.
Last Saturday I sat with my Uncle Michael while he fished that pond and was reminded of the liturgy of life. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time and season for all things: a time to catch and to let go; a time to gather together and to disperse; a time to wait and a time to act.
As Christians, we believe there is something particularly valuable in pursuing a life patterned from the witness of Gospel narratives. Jesus regularly gathered with crowds to teach, heal and love. Jesus also regularly left the crowds to be alone, enjoy solitude and to pray. He was neither a groupie nor a loner. A life of faith is so much more costly than a strict obedience to moral law: “always catch” or “always release.” It is an unjust oversimplification of God’s grace in Christ through the Holy Spirit to reduce a life of faith to just one set of cultural expectations. We are to live and move and breathe by the Spirit, not as we please, nor according to rules any singular local church or denomination has set. We are not to waiver back and forth like a wave tossed by the wind, nor are we to settle into a mushy middle of uncertainty. Rather, we feel the thrill of God at work in us and through us when the line is tight, we’re hooked, and we hold the tension.
Faithful living requires of us to both catch and release, to gather and to be sent out, to worship and to serve. Christ calls us to be consistent and to faithful self-examination, so that we may more faithfully reflect the Kingdom of God here on earth. God’s Kingdom, which is also full of tensions. A Kingdom which exists now and not quite yet. A Kingdom of grace and peace of recreation, as well as restoration. A Kingdom we hope for in the life to come and a Kingdom that we experience in the present, as we see it breaking into our here-and-now.
Wherever there is tension in following the example of Christ, may you be encouraged to find within that tension evidence of God’s grace and to feel the thrill of the Holy Spirit.