We were experimenting with a new style of fishing out on Westernport Bay. One of our number had heard that the best way to catch flathead was to leave the anchor until you caught your first fish. At that point one should then set the anchor, and fish from there. All was going swimmingly until a coincidence of voices: “I’ve got a bite!…” “Aren’t we getting a bit close to…” were interrupted by a mighty THUD! While looking for fish we had drifted out of the channel onto the mud flats. And we were stuck. Fast.
Any thoughts of jumping out to push us back into deeper water were thwarted by the circling stingray, which turned out to be a fortuitous sighting. Using an oar to gain some leverage from the ocean floor saw it disappear deep into the mud without gaining any purchase. Who knows what would have happened to a human being!
The post mortems began immediately. (Interesting how often the first response is to blame someone for getting us into the mess, rather than working out how to extricate ourselves!) Yet we all know that the real problem is that we were so immersed in the currents that we did not see where they were taking us.
That experience depicts clearly the predicament the church finds itself today: For many years focussing on doing something well, it is not until something jolts that our attention is drawn to the fact that the currents have taken us away from the centre of what we really want to do. When we are immersed in a particular culture, we are often oblivious to the ways in which its movements redirect us, taking us – in one way or another – to a different place from where we originally planned to be.
There is a constant shifting taking place in us, and around us. Even by standing still, the position once held is moving away from us at an astounding pace. The person who stands still is much like a person standing on a boat in the middle of the ocean: though they think they stand still, they shift a long way in the tide.
Yet we as the people of God were never called to stand still. We are a people on the move, heading towards an ultimate destination. We need to be careful that we are deliberately moving in that direction, lest we be lulled into a false sense of security, and find ourselves drifting in a cultural sea...
November 18, 2001