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20 Disturb us Lord from easy lives – Leckebusch

Martin Leckebusch (1962 - )
© 2018 Kevin Mayhew Ltd. Reproduced by permission of Kevin Mayhew Ltd, (www.kevinmayhew.com).

Martin Leckebusch

Let’s think today about bowls, and potatoes, and wind. But first, we’ll read from Matthew 4:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

It’s a familiar scene, and I don’t doubt that we imagine it happening on a sunny day with Lake Galilee placid and blue in the background as Jesus calls these first disciples. But it didn’t stay like that forever. Read the beginning of Luke 5, and you find some of those same fishermen so uncomfortable having Jesus around that Simon actually asks him to leave. Of course, Jesus doesn’t; nor does he abandon them later, when we read about such a ferocious storm on Galilee that even those experienced fishermen fear for their lives. They’re right out of their comfort zones.

There’s an old prayer which takes this imagery of fearing an unknown, unpredictable sea and makes it a metaphor for something else:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves; when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little; when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly; to venture on wilder seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push back the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ.

According to some sources, the author of this prayer was Sir Francis Drake, the sixteenth century sea-dog who allegedly found time to conclude a game of bowls on the Hoe at Plymouth before he finished off the Armada, the armed Spanish fleet threatening England’s safety. Although by the time of the Armada Drake was second-in-command of the nation’s navy, he was also virtually a pirate, evidenced by the brutal way he attacked and plundered his enemies; and he was a slave-trader as well.

But other writers attribute the prayer to Sir Walter Raleigh, a contemporary of Drake, and another important English seaman. Raleigh was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth but fell foul of her successor, James I and VI, and was executed in 1618, largely to appease the Spanish. He is supposed to have introduced the potato to the British Isles, though many historians doubt that tale.

Whichever of those two famous Elizabethans – or whoever else – wrote that prayer, they’re challenging sentiments. A decade ago I was inspired by the ideas in the prayer, and I wrote the following hymn text:

Disturb us, Lord, from easy lives
which cling to some familiar shore;
and minds content with little dreams
which dare not venture, seeking more.

Disturb us when the course we set
is shaped by self-conceit or pride,
those perils which corrupt the soul
until the flame of faith has died.

Disturb us when our hearts are snared
by goods we long to call our own,
which blind us to eternal joys
and dim our vision of your throne.

Disturb us with a restlessness
which draws us onward, far from land,
where storms and stars and waves reveal
your sovereign care, your guiding hand.

We often hate losing control of what’s happening to us and around us. But sometimes that loss of control is exactly what we need: it’s through being stretched that we grow. Jesus’ first disciples were changed by being out of their depth – sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically. We, too, need the challenge of uncharted waters – even if, like an uninvited pandemic, they’re profoundly disturbing, and as uncontrollable as winds and waves.

So as we close in prayer, I’ll use the first verse of my hymn:

Disturb us, Lord, from easy lives
which cling to some familiar shore;
and minds content with little dreams
which dare not venture, seeking more. Amen.

Until next time, take care – and trust God.

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