February 10, 2019: The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, The Rev. Candice Frazer

After the 1995 release of Toy Story, Disney Pixar released a cartoon series based on everyone’s favorite astronaut, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. In an episode entitled, Haunted Moon, Buzz and his crew are sent to assist a crew that is trying to deflect a comet heading straight toward a peaceful planet. The mission is being hampered by the ghostly transmission of “enola eno on.” Buzz declares he does not believe in ghosts and thinks there must be some other explanation, but the rest of the crew is not so sure. Against his crew’s desires, Buzz goes out to investigate alone.

Buzz discovers Wild Bill Cooley, an astronaut who had been missing for fifty years. Wild Bill had gone out to shunt the comet alone and had ended up frozen in the comet’s tail. He was trying to tell the crew that to shunt the comet was a two-man job, but his transmissions were coming out in reverse. Instead of “enola eno on” he was trying to say, “No one alone.” Buzz is able to thaw out Wild Bill and the two together shunt the comet and save the day. No one alone!

Jesus calls his disciples jointly. No one alone. He could have easily gone to the Temple or walked down the street, searching for a faithful Jew who was looking for the Messiah. There were lots of messiahs in Jesus’s day (at least three that we know about!)—preaching in the Temple and market places, engaging others and doing a more than adequate job convincing people that they were the real deal. Those messiahs went to the populated places to spread their message and recruit support. But Jesus doesn’t go to the popular places. He doesn’t go to the Temple or synagogues. He doesn’t go to the market place or the gates of the city where people tended to gather. Instead he goes to the lake. Sure, a crowd gathers there, but these are not the well educated, wealthy, and powerful. Those at the lake weren’t vacationing in their second homes, they were common laborers: people doing the best they could and working hard to make an honest living. Instead of going to the Temple or marketplaces to recruit disciples, Jesus recruits fishermen.

I’ve often wondered, “Why fishermen?” Fishermen like to tell a good story and maybe Jesus thought their story telling skills would be helpful to growing his ministry. Or perhaps it had something to do with how weathered fishermen are—they’ve dealt with lots of storms and continue to fish in all kinds of weather and in every season of the year. They are not easily scared off from a challenge. Maybe it had to do with the fact that fishermen are not always fortunate enough to find fish on their first or second or even fifteenth try. Yet they are tenacious and that would certainly be useful in spreading the Good News. But I think it might have something to do with their ability to work together.

Several years ago, a group of scientists discovered and excavated a boat found on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Two brothers, who were amateur archeologists, went looking for artifacts in the mud banks of the lake after a drought had caused the waters to significantly recede. They stumbled across the remains of a boat buried in the shore and reported their discovery to authorities who called in archaeologists to investigate. The archaeologists spent twelve days and nights feverishly digging out the boat before the waters rose again and taking great care not to damage the craft. They wrapped it in fiberglass and insulating foam, then floated it to its new location where it was submerged in a wax bath for twelve years. After its preservation, scientists were then able to study and date the boat. They discovered it was indeed from the 1st century and it became known as the Jesus Boat.

There is absolutely no evidence that Jesus or his disciples ever used this boat. But the boat tells us a lot about how fishermen would have carried out their daily task of fishing. The boat is composed of primarily cedar planks that were pegged together by joints and nails. It is a shallow boat with a flat bottom that would have allowed it to get close to the shore and have been relatively stable when fishing in deeper waters. It is a little longer than a large canoe and a little wider: the perfect length and width for two fishermen to stand on either end of the boat and cast their nets into the sea. The work would have required two people to cast the net and pull it back in. They would have to work together—syncing the timing of their throw and release and drawing the net back in so that no fish would escape. No one alone could have been a successful fisherman. They needed each other. They had to work together. And Jesus goes looking for people who know how to work together—who know how to partner with one another to do the work they have been called to do.

Christianity is about relationships not rules. The mission of the church is to partner with God and one another to do God’s work of reconciliation in the world—the work of bringing us back into unity—to make us one. Maybe Jesus could have done that work of spreading the Good News all by himself, but instead, he goes looking for people to be a part of his mission and ministry. And the folks he chooses are those who know how to play well with others, those who know how to work together to accomplish their purposes. The power of partnership, of relationship, is inherent to the work of the Gospel. Being a Christian is not about following a set of rules but about being in relationship.

Each week we come to the rail to receive Holy Communion. Intrinsic to the word “communion” is the same root for “community” or “communal”. There is no understanding of the Eucharist without two or three or even more gathered together. We are called to be nourished with the body and blood of Christ as the body and blood of Christ. There is no option or setting in which it is appropriate for the priest to celebrate or even partake of the Eucharist alone—it is always to be celebrated in community. We cannot share the bread of life if there is no one to share it with—sharing requires more than one person being present.

The church is the body of Christ. It is all of us. When we are called to follow Jesus, it is more than simply leaving our nets and boats; it is about coming together, joining a community. It is about no one alone. Jesus calls the folks who know how to work together; the ones who are tenacious and don’t give up or quit easily; the ones who will go out two by two to evangelize and spread the Good News that will transform the world. Enola Eno On!

Epiphany 5C: Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13); Psalm 138; I Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
Church of the Ascension – Episcopal, Montgomery, AL
Sunday, February 10, 2019
The Rev. Candice B. Frazer

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