Catch Anything Lately?

Heritage Presbyterian Church

5th Sunday After Epiphany
February 6, 2022

Scripture – Luke 5: 1-11

If you want to become a fisherman, someone needs to teach you how.  You cannot just go out to the water, run some type of string or cord or wire through a pole, tie a hook to the end, put something on the hook to attract fish, and then through the line into the water – and expect to catch anything.  It might work – I can’t say it won’t – but it probably won’t.

My dad taught me to fish for fish.

My grandfather and my Lord and a whole lot of great people taught me how to fish for people.

We’ve all seen fishermen, and if we haven’t, the Internet has endless videos of people catching endless fish somehow.  Some are incredible and some are ordinary.  But we know the basics…even if we’ve never done it before.

I doubt that Jesus was a fisherman, and yet he told Simon Peter that he would become a “fisher of people.”  Kind of a funny time to come up with that metaphor, just after catching a full net of fish.

So, let’s look at the type of “fishing” Jesus was talking about.

First of all, Jesus chose four men who already had experience in fishing.  They did it for a living.  They knew how to throw the nets, where to go, how to draw the nets in so that the fish couldn’t escape.  They probably knew which fish to keep, which to throw back, which would sell the best, and which were a waste of time and effort.  In other words, they knew fishing.

Jesus didn’t…but then…Jesus was talking about a different kind of fishing.  They knew how to fish, but they needed some re-training in order to do the type of fishing Jesus meant.

Next, Jesus also had to call fishermen who were willing to leave their profession behind and learn a new one.  Simon Peter spoke for everyone who has ever been called by the Lord throughout all time, in all circumstances, and in all situations.  

“Lord, pick somebody else.  I can’t do it.  I’m not the right person.  You can do better than me.  In fact, I am filled with sin, so just leave me alone and get away from me!”

Jesus didn’t leave.  What the fishermen who were called by the Lord forgot was that human sin, failure, and inadequacy are no obstacles to the Lord’s call.  He doesn’t take the perfect and make them holy.  He takes the imperfect and makes them just right for his will.   No matter what kind of person is being called to fish, that person is the right fisherman for that situation.  

In our own time and lives, we can also fuss, and fall on our faces, and yell about being called…the Lord calls with love anyway.  The thing that Simon Peter didn’t know at that time was that the same power that prompted him to fall before Jesus was the same power that lifted him up into the Lord’s service.  

It doesn’t just work for Apostles and holy people in the Bible.  It works for all of us ordinary people too.  And it still works today.

If someone today is a fisher of people, somehow that fisher got trained.  Somehow that fisher knows how to fish for people.  And somehow that fisher knows how to train others to do the same.

Now let’s look at what might work when fishing for people – and what probably won’t work.

All fishers know about bait and tactics.  They have special tools and special skills that they practiced.  What might those be today for fishers of people?

  1. Inviting someone to church or to a Bible study  

Multiple studies over time and in all sorts of churches and locations have shown that the number one reason people come to a specific church for the first time is an invitation from someone in that church. Pretty, flashy signs don’t usually work; eye-catching church web sites don’t usually work; appearing on the news because your church is controversial really won’t work.  Inviting someone does.

  • Forming a one-on-one relationship

No one is asking you to become Peter or Paul or Mary Magdalene or Joan of Arc.  You are called to form relationships with others – truly and honest ones.  If you have friends, they trust you.  If you tell them about what your church, they might also trust you to come and visit.  Brow-beating them with Jesus or Scripture or your church’s mission to convert the masses probably won’t work.

  •  Listening, listening, listening instead of talking, talking, talking

If you want to preach, go to seminary and learn how.  Get called to a church – or start one of your own.  And preach.  Otherwise, remember that a conversation is a two-sided thing.  The fisher and the fish are involved, not just existing separately. 

On various street corners all over our country – and probably around the world too – there are preachers shouting and condemning everyone within earshot that they are going to hell if they don’t repent right now.  I’ve even seen this on the strip in Las Vegas at night!  I have often wondered who they are actually reaching.  What is that type of fishing accomplishing?  Is there a relationship?  Do they actually catch any fish at all?  Or is it all about the fisherman?

  •  Being consistent and open and inviting people with love… y’know, like Jesus did.

My son once told me about a time he visited a small country church with a girl he had met.  He admitted that he was interested in the girl, and he went because she had invited him.  Instead of what he was used to experiencing in church, he told me that the pastor’s sermon was 45 minutes of yelling.  When he left, he was shaken – but not by the message; he was shaken by the experience.  We had an interesting discussion about how different churches do things.  But he insisted that there was NO love in what he experienced – only harsh warnings and loud condemnation.  If we follow the metaphor of Jesus making us into fishers of people, we must also ask ourselves, “What are we fishing with?  Is it working?  Do we need to try a different kind?”

Where are you fishing for people?  Find just the right spot; if it works, great!  Perhaps you might return there again.  If it doesn’t, perhaps you are wasting your time.  Be consistent.

If your church’s mission is to serve others, how is that being done?  Are you serving the locals in your area?  Are you serving a wider audience?  And are you serving in order to serve or are you serving to get more butts in the seats on Sunday morning.  Be consistent.

Ask yourself if you are flexible enough to bring in fishers to your congregation that don’t fish like you do…that like other types of fish…that go fishing in ways that you never considered.  Are you truly flexible?  Or are you just flexible in theory.  Again, fishers…be consistent.

In the end, what truly matters is spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who need to hear it.  

The world is just full of fish.  We need more fishers of people.

So, let’s go fishing and see what we catch.