Dance upon the Shore

a song for church workers

Music by Ron Klusmeier
Words by Walter Farquharson

Lyrics as Poetry

When working in God’s service
leaves us feeling kind of low,
there’s a story in the Gospel
that restores a smiling glow,
a story of some fisherfolk
who’d spent a catchless night,
a story of surprising fun,
a story of delight.

While cleaning all their fishing nets
and packing up their gear,
they grumbled at the lack of fish,
yet heard so loud and clear:
“Put out your boat and drop your nets!”
the word that Jesus spoke.
They’d worked all night and caught no fish.
This had to be a joke!

“Put out your boat and drop your nets!”
“Put out your boat and drop your nets!”
For when this world sees God’s intent
then we will dance, dance, dance upon the shore.

The nets soon bulged with silvery fish,
the catch proved hard to land.
On shore they laughed and shouted out
and danced upon the sand.
Then Jesus spoke again to them
of what God wanted done,
to make this world a different place
with hope for everyone.

“Put out your boat and drop your nets!”
“Put out your boat and drop your nets!”
For when this world sees God’s intent
then we will dance, dance, dance upon the shore.

When like those weary fisherfolk,
we fish an empty night,
when time is spent and catch is small,
and nothing goes quite right,
O Christ, call us with laughing hope,
and dare us fish some more,
for when this world sees God’s intent
we’ll all dance on the shore.

“Put out your boat and drop your nets!”
“Put out your boat and drop your nets!”
For when this world sees God’s intent
then we will dance, dance, dance upon the shore.

Words by
Walter FarquharsonCopyright © 1984 by Walter Farquharson
Administered by Hope Publishing Company
Carol Stream, Illinois • USA

Comments About Song

A Reflection by

It is easy to dance our way from the celebration of the Exodus liberation of a slave people to the celebration of all that calls us from our various places of death into the life of resurrection – the life of love triumphant over death, of community superseding alienation.

John, Gospelwriter, is many things and certainly at times a whimsical poet offering an audacious invitation to a life of compassion and hope:

by Walter Farquharson and Jeff Cook

It should not be surprising, says Gospelwriter, that Peter announced to the others that he was going fishing, returning to the lake and the boats and nets and life he knew. Nor should it be surprising that the other disciples agreed — “Might as well. We’ve had our day.” “Not much we can do. Look how few we are.” “Look at how we are laughed at, and worse, just ignored.” Because in reality our situation is not that different from that which those first disciples experienced, we can imagine that what they said to one another might have gone on at length with more of the same.

“We live in a post-Jesus day.” “It’s a secular society out there.” “Isn’t it obvious? The Romans have it right when they say to just keep the mob entertained with circuses. Hand out enough bread to keep them from starving. Offer a little by way of trickle-down economics and all will be well! Get the word out that the complainers are a bunch of radicals, and nothing will need to change.” “Not much we can do. Look how few we are.”

Some of those first disciples must have been sure they had signed up for nothing. Their hopes, their dreams, their faith must all have seemed for nothing. It must have felt like a cruel joke, a joke made extra cruel because everything had been promised in the name of God.

It is not hard to imagine Gospelwriter’s first hearers nodding their heads. “We know the feeling,” they’d have muttered.

“So,” says Gospelwriter as he gets on with his story, “The crew bogs off to the seashore, they reclaim a boat or two, mend and clean some nets and put out across the water for a night’s fishing.”

“At least there’s usually a market for fresh fish first thing in the morning,” they’d have said.

But morning came and they had caught nothing. Nothing! (This emptiness is getting to be a habit, isn’t it?)

They approach shore and spot a stranger there — maybe an early morning buyer — but it matters little because they have nothing to sell.

The stranger calls out “Cast your nets on the right side of the boat if you want to fish!”

Our storyteller doesn’t tell us what their first response was. In a longer version of the story, I suspect that Gospelwriter would have warned his hearers to plug their ears so they wouldn’t hear those words uttered by these disgruntled fisherfolk blessed with unsolicited advice.

Inexplicably, the crew throw the net over the right side of the boat and immediately it is bulging with fish. Small children and others with child-like enthusiasm might at this point in the story laugh, clap, and offer each other high-fives.

It is the young disciple who had taken Mary into his home and heart who tells Peter, “It is the Lord who greets us, you know.” Quickly, Peter, and then the others, wade ashore. It is indeed Jesus who greets them and who invites them to have some of the bread and fish already prepared over a little fire of shoreline debris. Some of the fish they have freshly caught is added to make the meal more generous.

Jesus breaks bread, gives some to the disciples, and they become once again the community of believers, imperfect practitioners of a love that forever invites them to care for each other and for strangers, to welcome and include, and in persevering to find a life of purpose, joy, and meaning. Another whole net filled with blessing beyond imagining has been given them.

An Audacious Invitation
(A compelling reflection
on the Gospel
according to John)
is available from:
Walter Farquharson
Box 126
Saltcoats, SK   S0A 3R0   Canada

                                             Audio Sample

Introduction: last five measures
followed by one verse and refrain;
played on piano

Scripture References

  • Exodus 15:19-21
  • Luke 5:1-11
  • John 21:1-14

Season, Theme
or Subject

  • All-ages
  • Dance
  • Fish
  • Hope
  • Intergenerational
  • Perseverance

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