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Out into Deep Water

Katie Day
February 14, 2019

Over the past couple of days, I have become fascinated by the movement into which Jesus draws Simon Peter in last Sunday’s Gospel. The two of them begin on the shore, surrounded by others, and then, after Jesus hops into Peter’s boat, Jesus asks Peter to move out “a little way from the shore.” Finally, after Jesus is finished speaking to the crowd, he urges Peter to go even further, “out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”


Being generally water averse, this movement of Jesus and Peter “out into the deep water” goes very much against my natural instincts. Sure, Jesus, I would love to hang out with you from the comfort and safety of the shoreline. Perhaps I would even be willing to wade out a bit to hear what you have to say from Peter’s boat floating calmly in the shallow water; it would help if I could still see and feel my feet on the ground below the surface of the gentle waves. But going out with you into the deep water, where you are asking me to do work my work in a place that leaves me feeling uncomfortable and insecure – that’s a perceived risk to my own well-being, and honestly, I’d rather not.


But here’s the catch (no pun intended)… it is only after Peter casts out into the deep in the presence of Jesus and experiences the insecurity that accompanies Jesus’ life-giving abundance (remember, the boats of Peter and his partners began sinking as they filled with the fish that they caught) that Peter is able to respond whole-heartedly to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. Following Jesus, for Peter and for all of us, means becoming fishers of people through our faithful witnesses to the kingdom of God that is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.


The apostle Paul later reiterates this idea of what it means to follow Jesus in his First Letter to the Corinthians: working to build up the body of Christ by putting love above all else, especially our own egos, even when it means sacrificing the privilege to which we have grown accustomed. And, bringing Paul back into conversation with last Sunday’s Lukan narrative, the letting go of those things that prevent us from loving on God’s terms rather than our own necessarily means doing some real “deep water” work in the presence of Jesus.


As a white person who would at least like to think that I am committed to following Jesus and building up the body of Christ in love, I have (all too slowly) become convicted that an essential component of the “deep water” work Jesus is drawing me into is honestly acknowledging my own racial privilege and consciously working to disrupt my own participation in the perpetuation of the white supremacist culture that pervades our communities and institutions, including our church. I cannot love my brothers and sisters of color in a God-like way that builds up this body if, out of my own feelings of insecurity, I choose to dismiss any feedback that, by the things I have done and left undone, I have caused them harm. In this context, maintaining willful ignorance on my part closes me off from Jesus’ call to put out into the deep water and actively fractures Christ’s body rather than builds it up.


For this reason, I am very much looking forward to continuing the conversation that began at our Anti-Racism Team’s latest book discussion on White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Let’s venture out into the deep water in the presence of Jesus and one another, let’s do our work to put love above all else, and in the process, let’s learn a little bit more about what it looks like to follow Jesus and build up his body here in our Trinity community.

Katie Day


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