By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“...Then Jesus said to Simon, Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people. So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:10-11
It’s that time of year again.
We’re going to lose weight, exercise more, get out of debt, stick to a budget, save for the future, and spend more time with family. We all make these kind of resolutions at the beginning of the year because we want to bring change to our circumstances. We want to improve ourselves and our quality of life.
And after the year we’ve had in 2020, who doesn’t want a change? For nearly a year, we have lived in the midst of a global pandemic, civil unrest and political divisiveness that has wreaked havoc on our lives and communities. Even as a vaccine is becoming available to us, we continue to wear our masks, wash our hands and practice six feet of social distancing.
So, as we continue to seek a more excellent way, taking faithful steps into a new year, I share with you words from a good friend and colleague indicating the best devotion to God and community. May this opportunity for self-examination be timely as we enter a new year filled with possibilities and opportunities, available to all who choose to look for them.
“A young man stood before a group of leaders and indicated that history will not judge our endeavors merely on the basis of color and creed, or even party affiliation. Neither will competence, loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.
Our success or failure in any role in which we serve will instead be measured by the answers to these four questions.
First, are we truly people of courage ... with the courage to resist public pressure as well as private greed?
Second, are we truly people of perceptive judgement ... with the perceptive judgement of our own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others—with enough wisdom to know what we do not know and enough candor to admit it?
Third, are we truly people who will not abandon the principles in which we believe or the people who believe in them?
Finally, are we people of dedication—with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted only to serving?”
Reflecting on the passage Luke 5:1-11, it is important to look at the usual places. Jesus is assembling among a crowd and sees fishermen cleaning their nets. Jesus uses a boat to preach a Word of God. Afterwards, he asks Simon Peter to go fishing, hears the questions and excuses and finally the infamous phrase: “Nevertheless, at thy word, I will let down the nets for a catch.”
But I believe the true understanding came when Simon Peter was bowed in the boat confessing and making a decision. It’s the same decision that we have the opportunity to make each day.
Following God is simply to go for it! Sometimes we are afraid to commit to a task God has placed before us, because we fear we can’t do it, or we think of all the things that could go wrong.
As people of courage, let us use our perceptive judgment to remain true to our principles as we devote ourselves to serving.
It is my hope that we can all be as decisive as Simon Peter. My prayer for the new year is succinctly, I trust you, Jesus. That fear loses its grip on me. That adversity becomes an opportunity for growth and that grace is gratefully received.
If we truly trust God, we can take a deep breath, go for it, take the next faithful step and then be amazed at what God has empowered us to do.
By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston