Listen. I drove home tonight chuntering to myself, knowing and denying and arguing and quite agitated in a happy sort of fierce way. I was telling myself that I don’t have to write this, that not everything, not absolutely everything has to be spewed out in a blog or a book or a message, and I did listen to myself and I agreed with me, but you know what? If someone was standing in this room with a machine gun, barring my way to this keyboard, somehow I would mow him down! I would mow him down and trample on his protesting bones and dump my chair on his broken body, pinning him to the floor, while I typed these words anyway. Because I have no real choice. And it’s exciting.
Many of you aren’t Christian but that doesn’t alter the fact I’m writing this and – apparently – you’re reading it. Take me as you find me. Bear with me. Listen and decide for yourself.
When I toddle down to the beach every day there’s the same old gang of people I meet, them and their dogs. A load of interesting characters (you learn which ones to swerve when you have something to hurry home for, and which ones don’t want to talk, and which will tell you a thousand interesting facts about the second world war, if you’re not very careful). And most days I meet a man called Richard. Richard isn’t a dog walker, he’s a council worker, and he’s a cheerful sane sort of bloke, he knows us all and he’s cheerful without being annoying (it’s early mornings – make allowances for my bad attitude). Richard starts work at 5.30, drives to the council depot, picks up an open backed truck, and then travels around the public places, beaches, parks, lay-bys, emptying the litter bins and putting empty bags in place of the full ones. It’s a pretty routine job, far from glamorous. In the summer people leave disgusting stuff in and even around the bins, from disposable barbecues to dirty nappies (diapers, US friends). He works at this until about 11am and then goes home to work on the house he’s building, and he’s back in the evening to do the bins again. In the summer, he told me, he’s a coracle fisherman, and spends the afternoon, sometimes the evening, and sometimes the night, fishing.
People who read this blog come from… hang on, let me count….. 27 different countries… so you may not know what a coracle is…. although there are coracle fishermen all over the world (yeah, yeah, coracle fisherwomen too, don’t be picky). In this part of Wales Coracles are a traditional and convenient way of getting about on the rivers, lighter and more portable than just about any other craft.
A ‘cwrwgl’ (Welsh) is one-person boat made out of woven wood and a waterproof covering. They were used in the UK over 2000 years ago, dating back to pre-Roman times.
So, my friend Richard is a coracle fisherman. “So what?” you say (gosh, you’re a bit sharp today!) Well, so nothing, except that that he has made me think a lot this last week about our local fishermen. People who harvest food that isn’t driven or flown hundreds of miles, processed in a factory, wrapped in plastic and sold in a brightly lit, air conditioned supermarket. Our local river fish are called ‘sewin’, a sea trout, and it’s illegal to fish for them before June. I love the thought that in the mornings as Pip wanders off into the dunes, and Percy picks a fight with a huge Rottweiler, I can talk to a man who has the same skills and knowledge that fed families in pre-Roman times. That his hands and understanding of the river, even his muscle memory, all continue the work that men have done on the River Teifi for all of our history. Somehow Richard grounds me.
Well, this is what I’m leading up to, thank you for bearing with me thus far; I have been attending a small local church for about 4 years and when I first went there, and realised what I’d been missing for so long, I had an almost daily regret that I was born now, and not two thousand years ago. I had a deep, heart-tugging regret, as I paddled in the cold Irish Sea, with my dogs chasing the waves, that this wasn’t the Sea of Galilee. Oh, my bloggie pals, imagine if I could have walked on the shores of Galilee, listening to Jesus, hearing the timbre of His voice, the emphasis He laid on words (not knowable in the Gospels), imagine that! And after His death, even in grief and loss, I could have looked back, beginning to understand the strange things He had promised… beginning to understand that His beating, mockery, persecution, death and resurrection were for me, for us. Imagine – walking by the shore with Jesus, imagine what it would be to live with that memory for the rest of my life.
Tonight, in church, we considered the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the history of Christ’s third appearance to the apostles after His death. And it was on the shore of Lake Galilee, and it was to a fisherman, Peter (like Richard) and his friends, and it was a simple invitation to breakfast. To break their fast with Him. And listen, oh listen, I realised that four years ago, and every day since, Christ has invited me to break my fast with Him. And I have. And He has changed my life. Completely.
Tonight, in our little church in West Wales, 2000 years melted away. I saw Peter for the simple man He was. I understood that these were the people Jesus loved, people like you and me, people like our lovely rubbish collector, and that 2000 years are a breath, a nothing. That the world is the same now as it was then. That mankind is as tender, as lost, as loved as He was back then. That Peter was a man like Richard. And that 2000 years are nothing to God. He is out of time.
Oh, bother.. I can’t say, I can’t find the words for what I desperately want to say. Tonight I am with Jesus at Galilee. I am. Tomorrow I will walk with Him, as He enables. Whether I’ll be paddling on the beach in sunshine, or putting my head down in driving rain, whatever the weather and whatever my soul is doing… I will walk with Him.
Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’