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Let’s Go Fishing

Matthew 4:18-20

3 Epiphany, A

"18While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him."

These four Galilean fishermen are not being invited to a stroll along the beach, but to a life of discipleship, a personal attachment to Jesus, learning from him, and drawing others to him. Without question or argument they left their nets and went with him. They became fishers of people.

You here in this church today are modern day disciples of Jesus. Just like the Sons of Zebedee, you and I have been called to help Jesus catch people, to throw out the wide Gospel net and bring people into God’s kingdom. So, just how has your fishing been? Have you caught anyone lately? How strong is your desire to be what Jesus calls us to be? How strong is your desire to be a fisher of people? Have you reeled anyone in lately? Have you had a nibble or two? One that got away? Have you even put your line out?

I dare say that most of us would have to say that we have not been very successful fishers. And like those who come in from a day’s fishing with an empty bucket we have all kinds of excuses. We blame the weather, the tide, the bait, the wind or whatever. When it comes to fishing with Jesus, we say we don’t want to offend people, religion is a private matter, we don’t want to be too pushy and force our faith on others, we don’t want others to think that we are religious cranks, we say that getting people into the church is the job of the pastor the elders or the council.

On another occasion we hear of Peter offering all kinds of excuses why he should not go out fishing. We have fished all night and caught nothing. We are tired from being out on the water all night, and besides this isn’t the best time to go fishing. And we know what happened. Peter did go out and he hauled in a huge catch. It was so big that other boats had to be brought in to land the catch. Peter had all the reasons why not to go fishing. He obeyed and took Jesus at his word and look what happened. Too often we can’t get excited about fishing for people. We don’t take Jesus at his word and so miss out on the catch just waiting below the surface.

The funny thing about fishing with Jesus is that suddenly we get all tongue tied and shy. Strange isn’t it - how in many areas of life people can get really excited by things. A fisherman never tires of talking about the one that got away or how big the fish was that he pulled in. We never seem to tire of talking about our families, their successes and misfortunes. We can always find something to say about the weather, prices, movies, politics and our health. We can talk for hours about our latest holiday. But when it comes to talking about our faith we suddenly become unaccountably shy. Few people are excited by the prospect of sharing their faith, and of telling people about how important God is to them and indeed to the world.

There are probably a couple of good reasons why people are so reluctant to speak about their faith. Firstly, they don’t feel well informed enough about their faith. It’s been quite awhile since they attended Bible study, or they have never taken the time to put into words what they believe. Secondly, the Spirit of God has been kept at arm’s length and they don’t see the need to express their faith and let others know what Jesus means to them. They may feel that if the unchurched seriously want to know about Christianity they know where the church and what time services are.

Most certainly many of our conversations do little to identify us as disciples of Christ, nor do they do much to attract others to God’s net, or help them to come to know and experience the love of God in their lives. When a window of opportunity arises to share their faith, we suddenly get all nervous and keep quiet. It’s easy to slip out of the fishing business. It’s easy for us as individuals and as a congregation to place fishing for people at the lower end of the priorities in our lives and the church. There are much more comfortable and less threatening things to be done.

I hardly need to tell you that the last command that Jesus gave before he returned to heaven was to go and make disciples, to baptize and to teach. In the words of today’s text that simply means to become a fisher of men, woman and children. The Scriptures clearly point out that God wants us to speak of him to others for him; and that God wants to use us to convey the message of his love and mercy and grace.

Who will speak - who will point the way to God for God - if it isn’t us? Who will tell the many in our community who don’t have any idea who Jesus is and the forgiveness that he gives - if it isn’t us? Who will comfort the sick and dying and proclaim God’s gracious love to those whose consciences afflict them - if it isn’t us? Who will witness to the good news of God’s care, and proclaim his life giving power - if it isn’t us? Who will reach out with God’s love to those who are heading for eternal damnation - if it isn’t us?

We have the good news about Jesus. It is news that tells of the love of God and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on he cross. It is news that tells us that in spite of our sinfulness we have a God who has saved us and promised us a place in heaven. He has made us his own through holy baptism and brought into his family and keeps on loving us even when we don’t feel loved or are terribly unlovable.

It’s the kind of good news that is worth talking about. So how about going fishing with Jesus? We have God’s Word that is as powerful and as relevant as ever. What Jesus is looking for is a church full of Peters and Andrews who are willing to place fishing for people as a top priority in their Christian lives. So, friends, let’s go fishing!


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