Bishop Medardo Gómez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church is a great preacher. Even before I could understand Spanish, I could tell that he was a great preacher. Over the years, his teachings about the sacraments, about Mayan traditions, about the role of women in the church and about caring for those most in need have greatly impacted my spiritual journey. Yesterday, at the National Assembly of the Women of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church, Bishop Gómez referred to God as a woman and as our mother throughout his prayer. He said he hoped no one had been offended by that reference and described an incident in the past in which a man led his family out of the church after the Bishop had prayed in this way. Bishop Gómez said, "Of course, God is our father. But the love God has for us is that of a mother. We know nothing stronger than the love of a mother, and God loves us like that." I cannot speak for fathers, but as a mom and a grandma, I can say that my love for my children and grandchildren is fierce, and to imagine the love of God being bigger than that ... yes!
When Bishop Gómez preaches, I take notes. Many of my journal pages are filled with transcriptions of sermons given by Bishop Gómez, with no doubt a varying degree of accuracy given my ever-evolving comprehension of Salvadoran language and culture. I imagine that the journal pages of many pilgrims in El Salvador may be filled with the inspirational words of Bishop Medardo Gómez.
I have a recent journal by my side today, and in honor of the 30th anniversary of the office of the Bishop of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church which will be celebrated on August 6, 2016, I would like to share a few notes from a sermon preached by Bishop Gómez earlier this year. These are my notes, which reflect my understanding of what the Bishop preached on this particular Sunday...
Based on Luke 5:1-11 - The story of the great catch of fish
The Sea of Galilee - Jesus arrived at sunrise with his objective, his plan. The fishermen had abandoned their boats because they had worked all night but had not caught any fish. They were good workers; they knew their trade; they knew how to catch fish. They felt unsuccessful, like failures.
We feel this way - unsuccessful, like failures. The call of God in this story for fishermen means for us that God calls all sons and daughters. Women who are domestics or doctors in their work, lawyers, engineers, farmers - whatever our trade or work, Jesus comes and calls us to realize the miracle of life. We are here to realize this miracle of life, to realize the miracle of the multitude of fish. (In Spanish, this word "realize" can mean to both "experience" and to "make real.")
The fishers were distressed, and that is when they received God's call. I give testimony to my feeling of failing when I was filled with fear of persecution. It was terrible. Yet when we call upon Jesus we can feel he is coming. For those who suffer in the name of Jesus, who suffer greatly because of lies and persecution, God raises our enthusiasm.
With God with us we are not a fractured community. This is part of the miracle of the fish: we can call others to God. We are not about winning people for the Lutheran Church, but for God.
Boys and girls, and youth need calling. We have girls as young as age 12 who become pregnant. This is an example of how we are not caring for our children. We are placing them in the midst of violence. This is not God's will. God's will is that we call the children. Jesus tells us where the fishing is better. We only need to try it and God will make a miracle of fish, how great it will be if we fish in the name of Jesus! Failure, fear and terror: in the name of Jesus this changes to hope and safety.
There are many families who live in fear. Before now they never prayed, but now they pray. Some communities are totally desperate and out of fear people leave. In the name of Jesus, each of us personally and all of us as a country can change things - we long for the miracle to break the fear, break the sadness, break the feeling of failure.
God gives us the spirit of life. God helps us to survive until the last moment of life. Jesus came so we could receive the force of life, the sacraments, and the call to fish and share the love of God so the Christian values of justice, peace, hope and faith and the big work of love can be shared with others, May we all be great fishers!
Finally remember: work and pray. We all have our little works to do. We are all called to be priests because we all have little milpas (small fields) to plant and fish to catch. Work and pray.