Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish do you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the other side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.
Sometimes, just a slight shift in your imagination can make all the difference.
A few years ago, my father had become the new pastor of First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, Tennessee. The church was in the process of building a new sanctuary to replace the previous one destroyed in a fire. In the process of construction and as the building was nearing completion, a church member came to my father’s study very concerned. A strange-looking man with long hair and a beard was wandering around among the workers, tools, and materials in the sanctuary work area.
“You need to check it out, Pastor” the fellow said. “You never who might be wandering around here these days. We spent a lot of money re-dong that sanctuary. The last thing we need is somebody coming in here and messing it up!”
So my father dutifully headed down to the construction area. Sure enough, a well-built man in jeans, a loose fitting flannel shirt, long hair and beard was standing alone in the nearly finished sanctuary. He was clearly not one of the workers. And though my father was still new to the church, this man didn’t seem to fit the regular churchgoers at First Baptist.
“Excuse me,” my father said. “May I help you?”
“No, that’s okay,” this guy replied. “I just wanted to see how your stained-glass window up there turned out.”
He pointed up to the large, beautiful window just recently placed into the wall behind the baptistery. It was a picture of Jesus smiling, welcoming, arms open wide.
Dad looked up at the window. And there he saw a familiar face.
“See,” the man continued, “I was the model for Jesus, and I was curious how it turned out.”
As Dad told us about this later, he said: “And to think, I almost threw Jesus out of the church …”
Sadly, it wouldn’t have been the first time, nor the last. Too often, stereotypes, greed, misunderstandings, and egos block us from seeing with the eyes and heart we need. Open, ready, wise and prepared for something new – and better – this is what Jesus hopes for.
In times like these, we are called to cast our nets on the other side of the boat, to allow that shift of imagination of open eyes and hearts. We usually know what we want. But Jesus knows what we need.
This month, may we hear Jesus’ call to a creative shift, to an imaginative approach of sharing, healing and living with faith. And like the disciples – and my dad – we might just discover Jesus right there with us. May it be so.