Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
I often wonder how those early disciples had the guts to drop their lives and follow Jesus. Just like that- the guy predicts where fish might be, and Simon Peter is sold! So are James and John. Sure, Jesus, let’s fish for people! They couldn’t have known what they were signing up for exactly, no one could. But they believed in Jesus, they were compelled by his message. Here it is- it’s the same one he gives us today: “You are worthy of belonging.” Let’s not get caught up in the fishing- or even the miracle Jesus performs. The main truth is that Jesus chooses regular people to do extraordinary things. All the time, even today. And the invitation remains the same: “Come, follow me; not only will YOU belong, we’ll help others believe they belong too.”
When I hear this story in terms of belonging and purpose, I get it. That message compelled me to follow Jesus early in my life. I belong to a God who loves me enough to believe I can make a difference with my life? Yes, please! That’s powerful! And it continues to be the deep truth that compels me into a life of service. The older I get, the more that truth is affirmed. I believe that deep down, none of us actually needs (or even wants) a fancy car or amazing job or all the friends. We simply want to know we belong- that our lives have purpose.
This is all that interior “big feelings” stuff we don’t really make space to talk about much; and we ignore it to our own detriment. As people, and especially as a society. Our sense of belonging and purpose influences a heck of a lot of our decisions. Jesus doesn’t ignore any of that gritty emotional stuff, because he knows sorting out our interior selves is the path to abundant life. That’s salvation at work, friends. And Jesus has paved the way for us, if only we have ears to hear and hearts to believe.
What’s it going to take before you believe that Jesus wants to have you on board? Maybe you chuckle as you think, “I wouldn’t mind a miracle!” What if that miracle was the voice of a caring person reminding you that you belong? That you are worthy of love? One voice of affirmation CAN make all the difference. This is the mission of SD Kids Belong, and it’s an essential part of making real change in this world- instilling this belief in every single child among us.
Ever since I was a kid myself, my heart has ached for kids who weren’t sure where they belonged. My friend Holly knows the foster care system intimately. Growing up in NJ, she was five when her mom told her she was heading to the store for milk, only she never came back. Holly waited and waited, but her mom never showed. Families are complex, and in Holly’s case, her mother never relinquished her parental rights, so Holly wasn’t adopted. She just lived in perpetual wondering- did she belong anywhere? Even more, was she worthy of a family?
Listen, I have no desire to demonize her mom. We make the decisions we do bc of countless variables always at play in our lives. But I share Holly’s story today from the point of view of a 5 year-old girl who never could figure out who she might count on- even well into adulthood. Thankfully Holly had a supportive foster care mom for parts of her childhood, but the deep ache in her soul remained.
I met Holly through a ministry of RCHP- my church in NJ that turned the roof of their church into housing for girls aging out of the foster care system. I’ve known no population that’s more vulnerable AND capable of transforming their lives and this world with the right support. Holly and her peers taught me how powerful sharing a little time and focus can be. I won’t tell you I changed her life, exactly, because I didn’t. But I came alongside her in the midst of it. I was an older sister of sorts. We went shopping, I cut her hair, we ate out at fun restaurants, we played games, we decorated her room, we bought groceries and cooked meals together. Sometimes we’d just sit and chat. I made sure she had something special for her birthday.
I’ll be truthful- it wasn’t always easy to make the time or gather my focus enough to really be present. She also had strong opinions and a pretty negative take on things. But as I’d drive back to my apartment after time spent with Holly, a remarkable truth washed over me: she is worthy of every second I offer. Fred Rogers captures this human need to feel worthy just the way we are:
It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair– But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you– Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys–
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like.
Friends-it’s you I like, every part of you. You belong, right here in this faith home. More importantly, you belong to Christ. And if you know that, the invitation is simple: help spread the good news that every single child of God is worthy of belonging too.
If your heart is moved by the idea of giving children in our Pierre/Ft. Pierre area space to feel loved and appreciated, let me know! Your gifts may just be the exact thing a WRAP team needs to support a foster care family. I’ll create a list of names and how you might like to get involved, then I trust God to bring it all together. Because God is definitely in the business of belonging! And so are we!
When Jesus invites these unlucky fishermen into his service, he’s calling us all. He says, “I will use whatever gifts you have to help draw people into my love. That’s it! That’s the key to abundant life!”
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Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.