“One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” — Dr Zeuss
Matthew 13: 47-52 (NRSVA)
47 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52 And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’
This passage contains good news and bad news. The bad news is, of course, bad news for the wicked. But the good news, for us, is that we don’t have to decide who is wicked! This is a powerful image. The net in question is a large dragnet which will capture anything above a certain size. Therefore, it catches fish edible and inedible. It may catch debris. It may catch the rubbish and detritus which ends up in the ocean. But when the fishermen go out to fish, although they don’t intend to catch debris, or inedible fish, neither do they actively seek to avoid it. The net is cast out and traps whatever is in its path.
In the same way, when we go on our fishing expedition, that great expedition for which Jesus has commissioned us, it is not for us to decide what we will catch in our net. There are many kinds of fish in the sea, and not all of them may look appealing to us, but that does not mean that they are not edible. What’s more, having landed a catch, even at that point it is not up to us to decide what is worth keeping and what should be thrown away. This is God’s decision, and God’s alone.
forgive us when we decide prematurely
who is acceptable in your kingdom.
Forgive us when we try to take your place
and cast out those you have declared clean.
Forgive us, too, when we are fearful even to begin fishing
for fear of what we might catch!
Help us to have courage to cast our nets far and wide,
to take the good news of your gospel everywhere we go
and welcome all into your kingdom
for you alone look on the heart
and know who has accepted and who has rejected you. Amen.