I don’t know much about fishing, but I love going fishing IF someone who is really good at fishing goes with me, because that person will prepare everything for the fishing trip…, all necessary equipments and baits as well. The better part is that this person usually also like to cook the fish we caught. Yes, I like to eat fish. It’s my favorite food. I like fishing stories as well. Here’s one:
Two guys go on a fishing trip. They rent all the equipment: the reels, the rods, the wading suits, the rowboat, and even a cabin in the woods. They spend a fortune. The first day they go fishing they don’t catch a thing. The same thing happens on the second day, and on the third day. It goes on like this until finally, on the last day of their vacation, one of the men finally catches a fish.
As they drive home, they are really depressed. One turns to the other and says, “Do you realize that this one lousy fish we caught cost us fifteen hundred dollars?” “Wow!” says the other, “It’s a good thing we didn’t catch any more!”
I think it’s very true. Either it’s fish or people, it’s not easy to catch, is it? Our lesson today is a sort of “fish story,” isn’t it? It starts out with Jesus being pursued by the curious crowd, folks who have heard about this amazing young man – his healing miracles, casting out demons. What does he have to say? So they press close, as the text says, “listening to the word of God.” Too close, actually. Closer and closer to the water’s edge they come, so Jesus had to sit on a fishing boat belonged to Simon. By the way, in the previous chapter, Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law in his house. So, this is not the first time they see each other.
Now, Simon and his partners had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing. Probably, Simon was quietly washing his net, while listening to Jesus. We have no clue as to how long the preaching and teaching continues, but for awhile we expect. Finally, it is over. Simon and his partners are ready to go home. But, Jesus says, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” “What?” Simon thinks to himself. “This is not the time to be fishing. The night time, especially the early morning hours before dawn, is best for fishing, even if LAST night was not so good. And besides, this rabbi might be special in SOME things, but he is a carpenter, not a fisherman. Let’s go HOME!” But something about this Jesus overcomes the reluctance. So, he said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. BUT because you say so, I will let down the nets.” He beckons to his partners, James and John, and together they sail the two boats out from shore.
Now the fish story. The catch is humongous. Too big for one boat, and even for the two boats together: so many flopping, slippery fish that the boats are in danger of going under. Simon has never seen anything like it. “WHOA!” As the gospel account has it, “he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’”
Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch people.” Or in the words of a Bible Song that we learned in the Sunday School, “I will make you fishers of men.” And the conclusion is: “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Amazing!
Which is more miraculous here? The incredible catch of fish? Or the incredible catch of these men? They drop it all, give it all up – their business, their home, their way of life – all to follow Jesus… to “CATCH PEOPLE.” And down through two millennia of Christian history, that is how every generation of followers of Jesus have understood our calling – to catch people. The word for that is “evangelism,” a word that makes many of us uncomfortable. Someone has noted, “Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium.”
There are several ways to interpret that phrase, “catch people” or “fishing for people.” We could think of ourselves as the ones casting the nets – we spread the word far and wide in hopes that we will bring in another huge catch like the one that happened in our text. Or we could think of ourselves as the net – we are the instrument the Lord uses to gather them in. I think many pastors will preach to make these points today. But I am wondering IF we might not better think of ourselves in terms of BAIT. Fish bait.
Unless people are born into the Church, they should be brought into the fellowship…, life of the church. We have to have something to attract the fish. Successful “fishers of people” will offer something to attract. For example, an invitation to “Come to church with me sometime” will rarely work. It is too easy to say “Sure” to that and never give it another thought. Instead, invite your friend to something particular: a special event (e.g., UM Army retreat, Habitat Humanity and/or Feed My Hungry Children, or upcoming Bowling Party or Golf Outing we will have in the spring – I hope), or a distinctive worship service (e.g., Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Christmas Eve. We need to be creative and be specific. That way someone must actually make a decision, rather than put you off with a meaningless “Sure.” Eighty percent of the people who join churches say they do it because someone – a friend or a relative – invited them.
Paul wrote, “You are the letters of Christ” and “You are fragrance of Christ.” Jesus preached, “You are the light of the world.” “You are the salt of the world.” Today, I preach that “You are the bait.” Be an attractive bait. I know…, it could be sounding erotic, but doesn’t matter. My brothers and sisters in Christ, BE a good/attractive/delicious bait.
As you know, we are forming a “Church Evangelizing Committee” to focus on raising our profile in our community. Initially, Church Marketing Committee was suggested. Either way, it is all about how we can be an attractive bait. If you have some ideas, join the team and let’s go fishing.
One day, long ago, Jesus said to some friends, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” They dropped what they were doing and came along. Now Jesus says to 21st century friends, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” Our response? How about, “OK, Lord. Let’s do it. We’re GOING FISHING.”