Pastoral Series

Worship Matters: Pescador

  When our then-new hymnal came out back in 1989, I was delighted by many of the new-to-me hymns, including “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore.” The first time I heard and sang it, I was in Stuart Auditorium which looks out over Lake Junaluska. It wasn’t hard to find myself remembering times I’ve visited the shore of Galilee, and then to feel transported back in time to that moment when Jesus first came to the lakeshore:

“Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, casting their nets into the lake, for they were fishermen. Jesus said ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of other people.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20). The composer, Cesárea Gabaráin, was a Spanish priest who started writing music for humble people in a more folksy style after the Roman Catholic Church’s reforms at the Second Vatican Council (1965). His hymn tune (called Pescador de Hombres, “Fisher of Men”) has a waltzing, lilting feel, mimicking the feeling of being in a boat, rocked to and fro by the gentle waves.

I write about this hymn right now because it is Labor Day. Once upon a time, Americans gathered for public parades, readings and singing about the virtues of work. Now, like most holidays, we’ve made it into nothing more than free time for fun, goofing off, diversions or rest. It’s stunning to me that Jesus’ first encounters with those who would become his closest friends and most zealous followers took place in the workplace. Jesus came – and comes – to the places where people work. It’s not that you need to try to haul your faith into the workplace. Jesus is already there, showing up for work before you arrive – and you can’t get rid of him there either. The love, the grace, the call, the challenge is all around you, if you (like Simon and Andrew) have the ears to hear, if you pay attention.

If you work, why do you work? To get money to do the stuff you really want to do? To provide for family? To feel productive and useful? Is your work energizing or draining? If you could hold in your mind that Jesus is there at work, would it feel different? Would you be different? Can your work be something you do not just for yourself or others but even for Jesus? Might Jesus be inviting you to make a big change and do something else with your hours, days and years?

Gabaráin’s hymn claims that when Jesus showed up at work, he was looking “neither for wealthy nor wise ones, neither gold nor weapons.” Rather Jesus was seeking “humble followers.” Yes, “Lord, you know my possessions… my nets and labor… With your eyes you have searched me, and while smiling have spoken my name.” How lovely. Jesus knows you, your work, your stuff. Imagine him with you, looking at you, into you, not past you, and he smiles, and speaks your name.

It turns out that this Jesus gifts you with presence and love, but also needs you. In stanza 3 we sing “You need my hands, full of caring through my labors to give others rest, and constant love that keeps on loving.” Another Spanish Catholic, St. Teresa of Avila, told us “Yours are the hands of Christ… Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.” Look at your hands before work, during work, after work, and ask how you might bless others, how you might be God’s constant love through whatever you do.

Labor Day. Take time today to ponder whatever your work might be, and how it might be for Jesus, and Jesus’ people.

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