Nothing but Net
Fifth after Epiphany - Year C
February 4, 2007
Fifth after Epiphany - Year C
February 4, 2007
Let us pray: O Holy One, we are sometimes afraid to hear or heed your word. We fear change in our routines. We fear finding what we do not expect – in others, in ourselves, in you. Take away our fear, God. Catch us by surprise with your grace. Amen.
A happy set of coincidences occurred this week, except that I’ve come to expect them, which of course would make them anything but coincidences. I’ll explain in a moment, but first let me offer this disclaimer. As much as I am a sports fan - sometimes against my better judgement, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the Super Bowl in a Sunday morning reflection before. I’ve made occasional references to the Olympics in reflections past, and just a few weeks ago I also spoke about the salaries of professional athletes, in particular that of the newly signed David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy. At that time I also mentioned highly paid sports commentators. References to the Super Bowl have largely been missing from my reflections because as much as I am a sports fan, I haven’t watched American football for many years. The reasons are many and not worth detailing here, except to say that for many years I could not receive NFL games because I didn’t subscribe to cable television. I’m not going to mention the Super Bowl much this morning either. I’m still not an NFL fan. I am moderately interested in two Canadians playing in the Super Bowl, particularly because of an interview I heard this week with the mother and University coach of one of them. Israel Idonjie, of Brandon, Manitoba sounds like the kind of person we could all hope to be. I have to admit that after the interview I am pulling for him in today’s game, just because it would be a storybook ending to an improbable tale of dedication and hard work for a deserving person. That’s part one of the coincidence that isn’t a coincidence.
Part two revolves around my choice of title for this reflection. For me, the titles always come first. It’s not that I haven’t thought about the reflection when I choose the title, usually on Friday morning, but the reflection itself does not come along until after that. If you’ve noticed in the past a lack of correspondence between the title and the reflection, that would be the reason. So, there I was on Friday morning trying to come up with something catchy (no pun intended) around the story we just heard from the gospel. If you are a basketball fan, you are probably familiar with the phrase, “Nothing but net”. Back in my high school days, we used to call them “Swishes”, an onomatopoeiac word that mimics the sound the basketball makes when it goes through the basketball hoop without touching the net. It’s a description of a perfect basketball shot. Which of course gives rise to the more modern “nothing but net”. Now it just so happens that the phrase is also a summary description of one of the greatest Super Bowl ads of all time, and if you ask me, the ads to be aired in today’s Super Bowl have received much more hype than the game itself. I’ve heard at least three different stories on the radio about the cost of the ads, the production of them, and the interest they generate. The “nothing but net” ad starred two of the best players in the NBA at the time - Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, challenging each other to greater and greater feats of shotmaking, all in the interest of winning a McDonald’s hamburger. Each challenge ended with the phrase, “nothing but net”. So there it is, you probably think that I got the title from the ad and the stories about it this week, but I had it first! Really!
Of course I was thinking about basketball, but I was also thinking about fishing, and in particular the fishing tale we heard in today’s gospel. Much as “nothing but net” is a sign of perfection in basketball, it is a sign of failure in fishing, and that’s exactly what is described in the story from Luke. One commentary went on to add even more surprise to the story by suggesting that different nets are used when fishing at night and during the day. Nighttime nets are made of material that can easily be seen and avoided by fish in the daytime and yet those seem to be the very nets that Jesus asked his colleagues to use when he told them to put the nets out once again. An experienced commercial fisher might well have thought Jesus was off his rocker to ask them to use the same nets that had not worked at night. Designed for night time fishing, they hadn’t worked. What could possibly possess him to think they would work during the daylight hours? But work they did. And yet it seems to be last commercial fishing the soon to be disciples would do. One could hope that it wasn’t a lack of confidence in their fishing knowledge that convinced them to switch vocations!
The stories this week about writing ads to air during the Super Bowl have focussed on the talent and daring that often come to the forefront when so much money is riding on a thirty second bid for attention. Apparently the money involved has the effect of helping people to focus their creative energies. Careers in the advertising industry have been made and lost in the bid to create a successful Super Bowl ad.
A few weeks ago when I talked about the David Beckham signing, I tried to offer a different perspective. It’s not that I approve of huge salaries for sports stars, nor do I approve of huge salaries for sports commentators or advertising agencies for that matter. What I did hope to offer was the perspective that David Beckham playing for a North American soccer team might have a positive result if his fame and expertise are directed in ways that inspire young children to take up soccer - not just in hopes of being like him, but simply as a way to improve their lives. If you read about Israel Idonjie, the Chicago Bears lineman that I mentioned a few moments ago, you will see an example of the kind of life I imagine we are all called to do. It doesn’t mean we should all aspire to be famous for what we do. In fact that’s completely opposite to the point I want to make. Rather it involves using the talents and gifts we’ve been given not to further our own lives but to bring glory to God. After all, are not the gifts we’ve been given the ones we have from God? Let us talents and tongues employ indeed. I like to think that Jesus recognised the talents of the people fishing in Lake Gennesaret. He wasn’t asking them to give up their vocation, he was simply asking them to redirect their energies. The story of the calling of Peter, James and John is an unspoken parable about the way we are also called to use the gifts we’ve been given to help people follow the way of God. Just as previous week’s readings from the letters have talked about Paul’s vision of us as the body of Christ - each with our own particular gifts and abilities, the story of the calling of the fishing disciples is one which invites us to consider ways in which we can direct our talents and abilities in the same way. How do the things we do help others to follow the way of God?
That’s a question about discernment and that’s for another day. In fact, I think next week’s reflection title will come to me a bit before next Friday morning. Amen.