Greetings friends- sorry for the delay- In the last week I left Seattle to set up the fishing business on the Inside Passage of Canada that I’ve helped manage for the last 8 years. With 3:30am start times and hours lasting long into the evening, the blog has suffered a bit. I promise to be better about blogging a few times a week throughout the summer. As taxing as the long hours are when we’re up here running the fishing lodge, there is a beauty and clarity and simplicity to life up here that is quite refreshing and creativity flows. I’m hoping the blog bears some of that fruit this summer.
When I left Seattle 8 days ago, we had just finished our second annual beach baptism. This is quickly becoming a tradition at the church I pastor, where early in the summer we head down to Richmond Beach Saltwater Park after church and have a baptism in Puget Sound. Over 100 people gathered last Sunday in a semi-circle at the water’s edge of the Sound, to witness and celebrate the baptisms of 3 Bethany North attenders. Each person being baptized stepped up and shared their “anchor” verse, that favorite verse of the bible that you can always return to time and time again no matter what the circumstances, to be reassured of God’s love and acceptance of them. After sharing their verse, we moved into the frigid waters of the Sound and asked two simple questions:
1. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
2. Is it your intention to follow Him all of your days?
With their resounding “yes” still hanging in the air, worship director Ben Koole and myself dunked each one of them. As they came out of water, they were celebrating with us that sacred promise of baptism that we are dead to sin, alive with Christ. It was powerful, both for those being baptized and for the church community that had gathered to celebrate together. Baptism is such a wonderful signifier that though we say “yes” to Christ, He has loved and created us first. And that means baptism is a free gift, the indwelling of the spirit, and we merely get to partake in the gift.
I woke the next morning at 2:30 and after a quick shower was on the road for my work at the fishing business. By noon I was in Canada putting boats in the water, bound for the powerful waters of Northwestern Vancouver Island. We had arranged a few days fishing on the open ocean with some of our staff that volunteer each year to prepare the lodge for the start of the season. We launched boats in the tiny town of Coal Harbour and then ran west through Quatsino Sound bound for Winter Harbour. We hit the dock of the old cannery we were staying in by 4 pm and after quickly unpacking the boats, a few of us went fishing behind. We trolled behind Kains Island, with a 4 foot swell surging on the rocks below one of the last manned lighthouses on the coast of BC. The sun was shining, the rods trolled anxiously for the first bite, and the grandeur of nature was everywhere. How strange it was, to be trolling for salmon without another boat within miles after having been at the baptism ceremony just 24 hours before. And then it hit me: Fishing is much like the Christian Faith. And here’s how…
1.There is power in the water:
Normally most of our fishing happens on the tranquil waters of the Inside Passage that experiences virtually no ocean swell and little wind disturbance. But on this day, off the western coast of Van Isle near Kains Island, the water was surging and rolling and moving beyond belief. The next day we almost couldn’t get out fishing with seas coming up to almost 12 feet by mid morning. When you fish on the open water, you are aware of the infinite power of water. In fact, 4 anglers had died not far from Kains Island just last summer when their boat flipped. Water is powerful. And when I thought back on the baptism service, and the look on the face of each person as they came up from Puget Sound, it was also true- there is real power in the washing water of baptism. When we follow Christ, we are saying there is a real power to the spiritual life that we cannot control or govern but we submit to it. The water, symbolizing the new life of Christ, washes over everything and makes all things new. There is real power in the water of the spirit.
2. Change is constant:
On the coast of BC, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes and it will change. When you are out fishing, you literally are watching weather patterns that are still 20 or 30 miles out come at you and you can go from sunny and 60 to rainy and 48 inside of an hour. Things are always changing. The tide is always either rising or falling and wind is increasing or abating. Literally, change is everywhere. That is one of the things I love about fishing.
Why is it as a Christian church that we have sworn off change? Why are we so scared of reacting in new ways to God’s revelation? People are so scared to change how we have always done things as Christians, how we have always taught things, how we have always read things. Isn’t the Spirit of God alive? Isn’t Jesus called the Living Word? Truthfully, some want to put the Christian faith into a museum or academic library. I say lets make it more like fishing. Just as in baptism we submit to the spirit and say that God is working here in strange and powerful ways that we do not understand, we are bound to follow. I want my faith to be like that- just like the changing currents of the ocean. Though the tides are always moving, they follow the Moon, they don’t change alone. There is a rhythm and beauty to their change- it isn’t chaos. If Christ is our “moon”- will we be bold enough to follow?
3. This has to be fun:
Though the seas were rough, and fishing was unpredictable, we had a great 2 days out fishing. I love to fish…and therefore I go fishing. Sounds simple right? I continue to seek out opportunities to fish because it is so life giving, it makes me laugh out loud when a huge salmon is screaming out line on my reel. On the first full day of our fishing, my buddy Geoff and I limited out on salmon, halibut, ling cod and yellow eye rockfish- in 1 day! It was hilarious!
Is our faith in God fun anymore? Does it make us laugh out loud at things? Does it make us feel joyful? Do we long to gather for worship? Do we count the days till the next time we get to spend time with God in a meaningful way? Faith in God is meant to be fun and lifegiving and enriching and something that we want to do. Not a benign set of rules or dogmatic principles to follow. A joyful dance with the creator of the universe. Baptism, and fishing, both testify to the fact that God is at work in the world. Our job is to joyfully follow.