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CHANGE SOMETHING
February 6, 2004
 
Friday's eMo is always a meditation on one or more of the lectionary texts for the upcoming Sunday. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

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Jesus said to Simon, Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. And Simon answered, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.
Luke 5:4-5

Experienced fishermen, all of them. It wasn't the case that they were doing it wrong. Nor was it the case that Jesus was suggesting something revolutionary. The "deep" probably does not signify a more profound way of fishing.

But it does suggest that sometimes you just have to change something. Not always because the new thing will be better or the old one wasn't good enough. Both may be fine. It's just that sometimes we need to shake things up a little.

People who want to have a nourishing prayer life know about this. It can be odd, and more than a little distressing: you have a spiritual routine that has satisfied you for years, nourished and delighted you -- and then one day it's dry as a bone. You persist, day after day, and the dryness continues. Now you think maybe you're no good at this prayer thing, anyway, that you're probably not a good Christian any more, that maybe you never were, you were just faking it.

At this point, the devil knows he can relax with a good book. He's done. He wanted to do was stop you from praying, and he's done it. Your fear of not doing things right helped him get in the door.

Why do spiritual practices go stale sometimes? I really don't know, but they just do. We shouldn't be surprised or overly concerned.

What do you do to get them back? Change something. If you were a morning prayer person, switch to evening for a while. If you have been praying in one room, switch to another. If you didn't light a candle to begin your prayer, light one. If you have been using your beloved old prayer book, use the Lutheran Book of Worship for a while instead. Or something from the Roman Catholics. Or the New Zealand Prayerbook. Or the hymnal -- take a hymn a day and pray it: Sing it first, then read it, and then sing it again. If you have never made a sacramental confession, make one, especially if you're suspicious of this practice: the places where we are afraid to go are always the places where something holy awaits us.

Understand that all spiritual practices are gifts from God. None of them are jobs; they are all gifts. And there is no hierarchy among them -- no valid one, anyway. It's not more holy to use the Prayer Book than not to use it. Spontaneous prayer isn't more pleasing to God than prayer from a book. God doesn't like people who use centering prayer more than people who don't.

All these things are gifts from a God who longs to connect with us. Who speaks to us every day, all the time. Who never stops loving us, never stops reaching out to us. Who has an infinity of ways in which to speak with us.

There were lots of fish in the Gennesaret lake that day. They swam in schools, big groups of them, all swimming together, as if governed by the same mind. They swam constantly, always on the move: fish don't stay still. To catch them, the fishermen had to move, too.

Maybe all that's causing that dryness is that you haven't moved in a while. That you've been fishing the same waters, and they're fished out now. So go somewhere else for a while, and see how things go there. Give your familiar place a chance to replenish itself, so it can become bountiful again.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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