Fishing for Peeps
Fishing for Peeps
January 26, 2019
Rev. Fritz Nelson
Text: Matthew 4:12-23
The other day, visiting my friend Harry Swank and thinking about this passage, I asked Harry about fishing. I know nothing about fishing. Harry loves fishing. I swear he remembers every fish he’s caught. I also swear they grow by an inch every time he tells me how he caught them. So I was thinking about the passage, talking with Harry, and decided to ask him – what’s the secret to catching fish.
Well, he said, you need a good rod, a good real, the right lure. He paused there. My friend Barbara was also there and she threw in: “What about the fish, Harry. Don’t you need to know where the fish are?” Harry nodded. It helps to know where the fish are. He paused again. “Luck,” he finally said. You need luck.
Suzanne Kloss was also with us and she jumped in. “You need to bring the women. The women always catch more then the men.” Harry didn’t respond to that, but I suddenly understood why women are the two most important evangelists in the gospels.
While I had Harry’s and Suzanne’s secrets to a successful fishing trip, I still wasn’t any closer to a sermon, so I decided to see if the bible gives any hints about fishing. Turns out the Bible doesn’t talk a lot about fishing. In the Old Testament the fish catches Jonah, not the other way around. In the New Testament both Luke and John tell fishing stories. Although the context is different, both stories are similar. Peter, Andrew, James and John – who were, lets not forget, professional fishermen, have just come in from a long night of luckless fishing. Tired, exhausted, they see Jesus, who tells them to go back out and cast their nets once again. This time the nets come up so full of fish they can barely get the catch to shore. The results are so dramatic you’d almost think it was one of those bible stories where they forget to mention the women.
So what changed? We assume Peter, Andrew, James and John all had decent equipment – maybe not Columbiana made RiverFish custom rods and Bass Cat boats – but nets in good repair and boats designed to float. We can also assume they knew where the fish were, after all they’d probably been fishing the Sea of Galilee their entire lives, and their fathers had been fishing before them. When it comes to fishing, at least Biblical fishing, it seems best to have Jesus at your side.
Jesus could have agreed to join the brothers’ fishing business as a fishing guide in exchange for a handsome cut of the profits, but instead Jesus calls the fishermen away from their boats, away from their nets, away from their livelihood with the command to follow me, to become “fishers of people.”
Fishers of people – or fishers of “peeps” as we sang earlier. Out wandering the highways and the hedges just working for our Lord. With our bibles in our hands, with our gospel armor tied tight, with the Word of God on our lips we’ll go forth to rescue the perishing, to care for the dying, to snatch our poor neighbors in pity from sin and the grave. To tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
To be fishers of people. Everyone should have three friends I heard a college ministry leader say once back when I was in college. Two should be Christians. One shouldn’t be a Christian. Your job, as a follower of Jesus, is to convince your non-Christian friend to become like your Christian friends. If you’re non-Christian friend refuses to become interested in Jesus, leave them and move on.
To be fishers of people. Our main job as disciples of Jesus Christ is to fill the churches, fill the pews, fill the offering plates. So we offer a free meal, a concert, a basketball league, child care, theatrical worship, college scholarships, family movie nights, anything to lure the unbelievers into our trap where they’ll hear the gospel and be saved.
I was overjoyed the other day when I ran into my friend Jim Couchenaur in the coffee shop. I hadn’t seen him in a while. Every once in a while Jim buys his granddaughter Jess – who helped with our basement renovation – a cup of coffee and he sits and listens to her. He buys lots of people cups of coffee. Jim does a lot of listening. Jim’s best known in town for starting the Way Station. One day, the story goes, a friend of Jim’s asked him to go to a bar in town and convince her husband to come home. Jim didn’t and doesn’t drink. He’d never been into a bar. But for his friend he went and began to listen. He went back and continued to listen, to be present, to hear the stories, to understand the hurt, the pain, the sorrow, the need. The Way Station was his response. This town has plenty of preachers, and Jim’s not one of them. But by simply being present and listening Jim makes Christ visible in ways many of this town’s preachers have not.
Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, James and John away from their nets and out into the highways and the hedges. They join him in a ministry of teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the radical presence of God and backing their claims up with a ministry of healing. Jesus’ fame increases. Crowds follow him everywhere. They’re fishing for people and their nets overflow to the breaking point. Fishing, not with marketing campaigns or event productions or big budget worship experiences or false friendships. Fishing by being present, by listening, by caring, by healing, by being the visible, tangible, life changing presence of God in the towns and villages where they lived.
What if, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we commit to being radically, peacefully present in our community or our workplace or our families? What if, when a friend posts frustrations on Facebook, we add to our sympathetic emoji an invitation for coffee? What if we set aside time to listen to our grandchildren? What if we commit to creating avenues of healing and renewal for those whose needs we hear? What if instead of worrying about how many people are or aren’t here on a Sunday morning we worry about being the presence of God to those we meet the other 166 hours in the week? What if we fished for Jesus with the lures of presence, of listening, of caring, of healing of being Christ in a broken and hurting world? What would our church look like then? How would our community change?