Skip to content

One of the gifts of taking long service leave in Term 4 last year was to experience a little more of the diversity of Australian life than we normally experience day-to-day here at St Peter’s College. It was quite life-giving to observe the diversity of landscapes and human beings in just the few places that we were able to visit. From the café owner of a trendy Italian eatery in St Kilda, Melbourne, who spends his time between the extraordinarily rich multicultural life of St Kilda and his family’s farm up past the Tullamarine Airport, which still supplies much of the food for the café, to the two fishermen standing at Cahill’s Crossing in Kakadu, one of them in thongs, fishing in the East Alligator River, not 100 metres from a very large crocodile that we had just passed in a boat, and right next to the crossing where crocs regularly move from one part of the river to the other.

Were these the sort of people God was calling?

I was tempted to call out to them from the boat, “Isn’t Jesus great!” I wonder what the reaction would have been?

Two things occurred to me as I pondered these characters. One is “God loves everyone!” Jesus called the most unlikely people to be his key followers: the first disciples were fishermen: hardly high-flyers in the ancient world. In fact, these two characters in many ways are closer to the ancient fishermen than we realise. The first Christians were rough, working men. Indeed, Christianity, as it spread throughout the world, welcomed everyone equally. It’s why it was such a threat to the hierarchy of the Roman Empire.

Secondly, these is a bit of an image here which is appropriate for Christians in our world. We live in a dangerous world! I think Jesus knew what he was doing when he called the fishermen to be his first disciples. They knew about danger! The first disciples were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, that huge inland, freshwater lake in the northern part of Israel. It’s still there. Fishing on that lake was not for the faint hearted. Admittedly they didn’t have large crocodiles in that particular lake, but they had something potentially far more dangerous: storms that would come seemingly out of nowhere and hit the lake. The story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves occurs precisely during one such storm. Fishing could be dangerous. Perhaps Jesus deliberately chose the fishermen as his first disciples, because he knew that they were made of strong stuff. They were not automatically the first people one would think of when talking about spiritual people. They are the unexpected heroes of the story.

As we begin another year, with the shadow of COVID-19 still lurking over us, but living in the rather lovely, protected bubble of South Australia and St Peter’s College, it’s good to be reminded that God calls people from all walks of life. At its strongest, at its best, Christianity has always welcomed the marginalised, the downcast and the odd-balls, the people who perhaps don’t quite fit in or who are not quite what you expect: the first fishermen. That call to radical inclusiveness, that life-changing call which Jesus made to the disciples and makes to us, is the thing that will transform the world. It will shape the way we look after our fellow students who don’t quite fit in and it will affect the way we challenge everyone to look at the world around them with compassionate eyes.

So, another year and another Christmas just past. Now that my two sons are adults, I’m always intrigued by the Christmas presents they give me. This year they were both formative, in different ways. Both presents were designed to mould me, to shape me. From William, my youngest son, I got a trendy shirt. He obviously felt that my wardrobe needed a bit of an update. From my eldest son, Alasdair, I received a subscription to “The Economist.” Clearly he feels that by only reading the ABC news and the Guardian, I’m becoming too left wing. What was slightly disturbing, though, was that I found myself agreeing with The Economist’s take on current world events. The first edition came out immediately after the invasion of the Capital Building in Washington DC. The unrest in the world’s largest democracy, and still the largest economy, is concerning. It points to a significant group of people feeling disaffected, stuck in their poverty, and unable to live the great American dream. The unrest is not dissimilar to the unrest that the people of Israel felt during the Roman occupation of their ancestral lands. In such times, people will instinctively look for a saviour. Our task is to direct them away from false saviours and towards the one who truly does give life: Jesus of Nazareth, the one who included everyone, and called them to a life of service to others.

God bless you as the year gets under way in earnest. May unexpected people bless your lives, as you search for the one who truly gives life.

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain