The Messenger – July & August 2016
From the Pastor
Rev. John Freeman, a retired professor at Emory and pastor in Anderson District wrote a book several years ago called “Fish Deep.” It translates his lifelong love of fishing into parables of church life.
He admits that he has a less than saintly penchant for buying the best of everything he can afford. “I outfit myself with the best equipment I can afford, as my Troy-Bilt tiller, Martin guitar, and Callaway golf clubs testify.”
Freeman used to prefer the best fishing gear he could buy, but found after admiring it in his hands, he would store it away in the closet and not use it when it came time to fish. Experiences of broken rod tips, fouled reels, and rigs on the bottom of the lake made up his mind. The result was not better fishing, but less. He realized the toll it was taking: he began to fish much less often than before.
He decided to trade his normal preference for having Cadillac gear for solid, everyday gear. He was not reluctant to fish with this equipment and that is the key. “I’ve yet to see a fish caught by a rod and reel stored in a closet. It’s got to be out there working the water if it’s going to fulfill its reason for being.”
It’s the same with religion. Beautiful words, lofty ideals, meaningful symbols, and solemn worship all play an important role in people’s faith. But the real measure of authentic faith is action. If one’s daily life doesn’t express those words, ideals, symbols, and worship, then one’s faith is little more than “sounding brass and tinkling symbol.”
For Jesus, authentic faith requires loving God and neighbor in deeds as well as words. He didn’t originate this idea. It had been established as the foundation of Israel’s religion centuries before his appearance on earth. During his earthly ministry, Jesus simply reminded people what God had been trying to make clear for so long. If you want to be in a right relationship with God, then love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Love is not just a beautiful ideal to be preached, sung, studied, and prayed about. It is a practice – the fundamental practice – of the Christian life. Just like my expensive fishing tackle, it is not so much for extolling as it is for enacting. It won’t do you, me, or anybody else any good as long as it’s stowed away.