Fishing for the Divine

Fishing for the Divine

By the Rev. Marlene Mutchler, vicar of St. Bede’s, Forest Grove

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Gospel Reading for January 26, 2020, Matthew 4:18-19, NRSV).

My grandfather Edward taught me to fish from a motor boat on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. We saw kingfishers, and alligators, and miles and miles of everglades during our expeditions. I learned from him how to bait a hook and how to cast, especially how to snap the rod at the end to make the line fly out with that satisfying sound long into the water.

I wasn’t great at fishing. I caught some fish. The point was more about being with Grandpa. Maybe it was just that Grandpa was one of the few people in my life who thought it was worthwhile to teach a girl to fish. It made me feel human. There was never a question when we visited about whether or not I would or could come along; I was always invited.

Today whenever I see a rod and reel I think about being with him, laughing in the hot sun and coming home with my skin smarting, covered with a towel or whatever I could find as the shadows lengthened.

Long before I knew him, my grandfather had wanted to be a Pastor and somehow decided to come all the way out here to Portland from Michigan to attend Western Theological Seminary. He was a mason (actual bricklayer, not the club member) and built a small cinder block house at 625 NW Kelly in Gresham. (I know because that address is written in his very-well used King James Bible that I now own.) Last time I checked Google Earth, the house was still there. The weather didn’t agree with my grandmother and her allergies, so the family moved back to Michigan.

Flash forward about 70 years. After my family moved from Michigan to Oregon for Wade’s job, I was looking for an educational path to pursue a call to priesthood in the Episcopal Church and decided to study locally at George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) while also taking classes at Church Divinity School in Berkeley for Episcopal studies.

Little did I know that Western Theological Seminary had merged some years back with George Fox Seminary. When I found that out, I truly felt like I was following in my grandfather’s footsteps by learning to fish for people and maybe finishing the work he started. The man who taught the girl to fish also, likely inadvertently, instilled in her a desire to fish for people. My studies for the priesthood really kicked into gear after Grandpa Edward died. I wonder what he would think of me now?

When my grandfather and I fished together he was not just catching fish, he was fishing for me. He taught me that I mattered. I was worth his time. It also modeled for me a way of being with people with no agenda other than love. It gave me the audacity to believe that the divine spark also resided in me. Learning to fish for people is not just about saying “God” and “Jesus” every other word. It begins by recognizing the divine presence already within our neighbors.

Congregation Close-up: St. Bede’s, Forest Grove

By the Rev. Marlene Mutchler, vicar

This year St. Bede is embarking together on a period of discernment to distill its vocational vision as a unique Episcopal community in Forest Grove. We are doing something audacious in this: aiming to be cocreators with God in the New Jerusalem here at St. Bede.  It is a bold endeavor, but we are emboldened by the prayer, “Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life.” Our trust in God will light our way.

Of course, there are dangers.  The path to the New Jerusalem at St. Bede will be paved with deep listening, conversations, and trial and error. Make no mistake, we will fail at times. We will disappoint one another and fall short. It will be hard work. Many of the miracles of God are wrought through the hard work of people striving together. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, Noah and his family built the ark through sweat and hard labor.

And we don’t do this alone.  We are blessed with amazing resources at St. Bede.  We have a wonderful discernment committee.  We also have the triune God and the Holy Spirit wending its way through this entire process. We have gifts of prayer, and spiritual practices, and a process developed with the help of diocesan facilitators at the Congregational Vitality Workshop last spring.

Our discernment process will continue until Epiphany 2020, a good time to see things more clearly – in Epiphany, the season of light. By then hopefully we will have 20/20 vision of our next steps. Our Lenten program in 2020 will consist of finding ways to make our vision a reality.

St. Bede’s Triquetra

Besides the regular meetings and conversations of our discernment committee, St. Bede will meet four times for congregational conversations focusing on various areas that are sources of transformation for us: Community Life, Christian Formation, Prayer and Worship, and Community Service.  We’ve chosen the triquetra, or Trinity knot, as a visual model because, as in the life of the Trinity, our life together at St. Bede dynamically impacts us as persons in discipleship, as a church, and our wider community. We hope in all of these conversations to synthesize our learning into a shared vision of where God is calling us as a community of disciples in service to the world.

Please pray for St. Bede as we begin to share and dream about where God may be leading us. Pray for us as we dare greatly together to understand what the New Jerusalem will mean for us here and now. Let us remember to love one another through the process as Christ loved us and pray that St. Bede’s will continue to develop as an axis mundi, a high place, where God’s love flows through us and into the world like a healing river.

Visit the St. Bede’s website.