Saturday, August 26, 2006

In the Wee Small Hours (3)

A Fisherman's Hope

John 6:68, 69 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

Years ago, there was a terrible storm which unexpectedly hit the West coast of Scotland in the late afternoon. All the fishermen in my parish desperately fought against the wind and waves that threatened to engulf their boats. One by one, the trawlers struggled to get into the safety of the harbor. And then a tragedy occurred. One of the older boats was seen about a mile from the harbor, battling against the boiling black waves. One second the boat was there in plain view and then suddenly it was gone. There was nothing the crew could do. The force of the wind and waves overwhelmed the trawler and sent it rapidly to the bottom of the sea. Four good fishermen lost their lives that day and our whole village plunged into mourning.

Only three of the bodies were recovered and when I visited the widow of the fourth man, she couldn't accept what was happening. Time and time again I visited her on a daily basis. She had two teenage boys and they were all utterly devastated. The funerals for the other three fishermen took place within a week of the tragedy, but the fourth fisherman's widow couldn't bring herself to giving permission for the fourth service to take place.

She explained her reasons to me. "If I let you hold the service, John, I'll have to let go of my hope. So long as they can't find his body, I won't believe that he's gone."

For the next six months, we all searched for the body along the shoreline, but we never found it. I visited the family every day and gently tried to persuade the widow to hold the service. The other fishermen were beginning to get uneasy and blamed some of their bad fishing days on the fact that a funeral had not taken place. Support for the family was giving way to superstition, which is bad news in any fishing community.

Eventually, after a great deal of patience and gentle persuasion, the widow consented to having a funeral. We held the service at the end of the harbor and cast out wreaths on to the surface of the waters. We could see where the boat went down, but it was never recovered, and neither was the fourth body.

Sometimes, in the midst of painful circumstances, people hold on to false hope, which is a very sad form of denial. In today’s gospel, Peter, the Big Fisherman, is speaking about a different hope, the hope of being saved for all of eternity by Jesus Christ. For some people, Christ’s words and teachings were too hard to accept, so they deserted Him and went their way. But for those like Peter, who experienced the power of Jesus in their hearts, they knew that He is the everlasting hope that can never be taken away.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the True Hope of our lives and the Shining Star of our hearts. Without You, we have no hope; but with You, we have the promises of God, the covenants of grace, and the hope of eternal life in Your Kingdom. Help us this day, to pass on this hope to our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie - writer of Heaven's Highway Blog and
Sky Pilots: Resources for Busy Pastors

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