How to Fish for People

Meditation on Mark 1:14-20

Jan. 24, 2021

Pastor Karen Crawford

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 43812

Audio of the message:

How to Fish for People

Do we have any folks who enjoy fishing, here? I know a few people in our congregation who would rather fish than do many other things.

That’s true for the Swigert family. I saw photos of them fishing last summer and I could tell they are PASSIONATE about fishing! Because I am not someone who fishes, I asked Sarah Swigert how her family does it. What equipment and bait do they use? Where do they go? What do they catch? What do they do with the fish they catch?

 “This is one of our boys’ favorite things to do!” she says. Their neighbor has a farm pond for quick fishing, but they also like to go to Salt Fork. They had a pontoon boat for 3 summers, but with the addition of the dog, they outgrew it!  So, for now it’s “bank fishing.” They use lures, spinner bait, worms, minnows or chicken liver. They catch blue gill, crappie, bass & catfish.  They would love to catch a walleye or muskie, but none yet!

Ethan Swigert

They tie their own lures, bait the hooks, and release the fish. A couple times, they have fished for dinner, but typically it’s catch and release. They “surf fish” on vacation at the beach. Last summer, they had a chance to go deep sea fishing.  Evan caught a Bonita, and Andrew caught a King Mackerel, which they ate.

Evan Swigert
Andrew Swigert

But isn’t there always a big fish that gets away? That’s one of the frustrating things about fishing. You can put a lot of effort and time into it—and still go home without any fish.

Ethan caught a King Mackerel like Evan on their deep-sea fishing trip, Sarah says. “He fought it all the way to the boat, but just before he hauled it in, it got off the line!”

I wondered how the three boys learned to fish and developed a love for fishing.  “Matt is a phenomenal and patient teacher,” Sarah says of her husband. “He has instilled a love of nature and sense of responsibility as outdoorsmen.”

Matt and Evan Swigert

Sarah, too, plays a role in her children developing fisher skills. “I love to watch them,” she says, “and I’m always glad to go along. I’m usually a spectator, but sometimes I catch a fish!”

Like me, she doesn’t like to touch the bait—or the fish. But it’s no problem when you are fishing alongside those who are deeply passionate about it.

“The boys always bait my hook,” she says, “and if I’m lucky enough to catch something, they take it off the line!”

***

Today’s reading in the gospel of Mark teaches us about fishing in the days of Jesus Christ, how he chooses fishers as his first disciples, and that it is Christ’s desire for all his followers to learn to “fish for people.” Jesus looks to professional fishers, employed in the commercial fishing industry to teach us how to be faithful disciples today.

 Jesus, in calling his disciples, is building a team. Any of you served as a volunteer or professional coach? How important is it to build a team and not just have a few excellent players? Very important, right? He is intentionally choosing those with certain practical skills, experience and temperaments—those whom he knew he could shape and mold for the work he would prepare them to do. They would need to be a hardy bunch, strong enough to be outside for much of the time, traveling by foot or boat from place to place, even climbing mountains on which their master would preach, teach and pray.

In both call stories in today’s passage, the men are working in family-owned and operated businesses, which was common in Jesus’ day. He first encounters Simon (Peter) and his brother, Andrew, then the sons of Zebedee, working in a larger, more prosperous business, as Zebedee has his own boat AND hired men. Notice how Jesus doesn’t call Zebedee to be one of his first followers. For to be able to fish for people requires the willingness to immediately let go of every worldly attachment—hometown and kin, identity and occupation.  

Wow. Let me say that again.

To be able to fish for people requires the willingness to immediately let go of every worldly attachment—hometown and kin, identity and occupation.  

Christ doesn’t choose the brilliant or highly educated for his original 12. He doesn’t choose the wealthy or those in the ruling classes, though the message of the gospel is for all people. He doesn’t choose anybody who is already somebody important in their society. He chooses from the margins, the lowly, the outcast. He sees potential in a despised tax collector in Matthew and Luke!

Here’s something to encourage us all. He doesn’t choose anyone who is PERFECT! Isn’t that great news?? The ones whom Christ chooses struggle with what the Lord requires of them. For example, Jonah goes in the opposite way of Ninevah when God calls him to go and preach to them, warn them of the coming judgment because of their evil ways. The Ninevites are enemies of God and God’s people. Ninevah is an Assyrian city, the capital and largest city in the Neo-Assyrian Empire. In fact, Ninevah, for about 50 years—before it is sacked by the Babylonians and other former subject peoples in 612 B.C.E.—is the largest city in the world.

The Lord is patient with Jonah and never gives up on him—or on Ninevah. When Jonah would rather drown in the sea than go there, God sends a great fish to rescue him and stir him to repent and turn back to God. After 3 days of doing nothing but praying, Jonah is finally ready to change the focus of his life—and obey the Lord. He goes and preaches the sermon of his life! And the king and the people of Ninevah repent, humble themselves before the God of Israel, and change their ways.

Simon Peter is a great example of one who struggles and makes plenty of mistakes, yet our gracious God is always ready to forgive him and use him, anyway.

Jesus first encounters Simon (Peter) and his brother, Andrew, in Mark casting a net into the sea. No fishing poles or bait are used in ancient commercial fishing, but there’s plenty of grueling, physical labor. Cast the net. Haul it back in. Empty it out. Cast the net. Haul it back in. Mend the broken nets. Fishers could work all night and be completely exhausted—and have nothing but a few stories of the fish that got away.

In Simon Peter’s call in Luke, Jesus shouts from the shoreline, suggesting that Peter and the other fishers go back out into the deep water and fish some more. Simon (Peter) objects, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Friends, each of Christ’s original 12 disciples receive and respond to his personal invitation. I am here to tell you that the Lord works that same way today. Christ is the one who does the choosing, though we may hear the invitation through the voice of a human being.

 God still chooses ordinary, imperfect people, people who struggle working out what hearing the call of Jesus means for our lives today. Are you struggling? That doesn’t mean that God isn’t calling you.

First, we must believe in the good news and that we are chosen and empowered to serve. And that now is the time to respond to the call. What’s in the way of you responding, with all your heart, soul, mind and might?

Drop your nets. Leave the old life behind. This moment is what counts.

We are forgiven for all our sins, in Jesus Christ! We have a great teacher. The one who calls us to follow is with us, guiding our footsteps, showing us the way. Don’t lie awake at night, worrying about the things of this world. Trust. Obey.

We serve the God of second chances, who never gave up on Jonah. He never gave up on Peter! God will never give up on you. Or me! We don’t always get it right the first time, do we? Sometimes we give in to fear or excuses. God knows that about us. God loves us anyway!

So, drop your nets!

This Word of God is FOR YOU. Listen!

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…” John 15:16

 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for choosing us, allowing us to hear your voice, beckoning us to follow. Help us, Lord, to believe the good news and repent, turn from the old, foolish, self-centered, unfruitful ways of thinking and living–and simply obey. Sometimes we are like Jonah and Peter and struggle with the call. “It’s too hard. We’re afraid.” But you love us, anyway, and gave up your Son to bring us back into right relationship with you. Thank you for your Spirit that is with us every moment, guiding and strengthening us as we seek you faithfully each day. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.  

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton, Ohio since January 2019. Come and visit! God's love is here for you!

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