Heaven's net is cast wide
and though its meshes are loose,
nothing is ever lost.
- Tao Te Ching
We come to Lent every year knowing that it is a time of being in the wild, spare space of self-examination and confession. The season begins with Jesus in the desert, tempted by Satan, the Adversary. He has let go of everything, emptying himself in preparation for what will be the intense and full life of the itinerant preacher and teacher, healer and wonder worker. He is fasting and weak. He is offered by Satan feasts and kingdoms and invulnerability at the moment when he might most want to grasp at those things. He has not yet begun his ministry, he has no disciples, no followers, no ardent supporters. And in the time of greatest emptiness, what his net retains are the Hebrew scriptures in which he has been immersed all his life. When he is tempted he replies from the scriptures that have formed and fed him.
The wilderness of the Pacific Northwest is nothing like the one that Jesus experienced. Our wildernesses are craggy mountains, pine forest, cascading waterfalls, and the vast ocean. It was the shore and the empty, waiting nets of the ocean’s fishers that began to seem like an appropriate metaphor for the wilderness of Lent as we planned the worship series in which we will be immersing ourselves these next six weeks. Here at the shore we are at the verge, in a place between earth and water. An empty space, a space full of possibility. A space where we anticipate and discern action and direction.
Certainly the first disciples of Jesus knew what it meant to be on the shore. They also know what is meant to come up empty again and again, nothing in their nets but the holes. And they knew then what it meant to be filled to brimming; Jesus’ word offering a rich harvest so that when they were called, they went with their whole hearts. We will come before Christ with empty nets, waiting to be filled. Many people give something up for Lent, but this wilderness time is also about pondering that to which we shall hold fast. We will discern together and before Christ what the net will hold and what we will let fall through its mesh.