Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed. A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father. From there he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God’s kingdom was his theme—that beginning right now they were under God’s government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives.
With all that white stuff on the ground and all the cold we’ve been enduring, I thought we needed a little taste of something to remind us it will warm up…someday. I’m sure there have been dreams of the lake—not frozen—and warm summer breezes. So this picture is me on Pelican Lake in Orr, Minnesota a few years ago. Orr is 40 miles from International Falls. It was a cool August day and I needed a jacket, but I didn’t need a parka like today. I can only imagine what Pelican Lake looks like today.
It is sometimes difficult to connect with this story of fishing from the New Testament when we think of fishing with today’s mindset. We primarily know line fishing—a pole, line, hook, bait, one person fishing for one fish, restful, no hurry. What’s the saying, Gary? A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.
Now if you live in the Mississippi delta or the coastal areas where people do commercial fishing, you have a better idea of what Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were doing when Jesus met them—net fishing. It was a big net with weights around the outside and it took more than one person to cast it. You caught many fish at once and it was labor intensive.
The stories in the Gospels depict people whose lives were often disrupted by Jesus’ call to follow him. These fishermen were doing what they did every day—fishing. It was their livelihood. Jesus shows up and says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” There was no interview, no list of qualifications, and no job description. Jesus called ordinary people right in the middle of their ordinary lives. It was net fishing—labor intensive, hard work that required persistence and dedication. It also required working together and being partners, building community as they worked.
While Peter, Andrew, James and John had no idea what Jesus was going to teach them to do, we do. We know the rest of the story. We know how Jesus fished for people.
- He connected them to God—love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, mind
- He connected them to one another—love your neighbor
- He empowered them to love—as you love yourself
We have so much more information than Peter, Andrew, James and John had the day Jesus called them to fish for people. We have the whole of Jesus’ ministry. We have the job description.
- Meet peoples’ needs
- Connect them to God
- Connect them to one another
- Empower them to love
We know the ministry God calls us to is a partnership—remember, we’re net fishing. It is about building relationships so that together we can meet the needs of the people—the people here at St. John, the people in our community and people we may never know around the world. It is said that people find their greatest sense of fulfillment, meaning and purpose in relationships. Perhaps that is why social media is such a big deal in our day. We can connect anywhere, anytime. We need each other.
Jesus issues the same call to us—to be in genuine and real relationships with the people around us, and to be in those relationships the way Jesus was: bearing each other's burdens; caring for each other, especially the vulnerable; holding onto each other through thick and thin; and always with the hope and promise of God’s abundant grace. Sometimes that call—to be in Christ-shaped relationships with others will take us far from home. And sometimes it will take shape in and among the people right around us. But it will always involves people—not simply a mission or a ministry or a movement, but actual, flesh-and-blood people. Jesus says, “Follow me and I will show you how to change your life.”
In the last week we have remembered again the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. He is most often called Dr. King, but it is good to remember that before he was Dr. King, he was Rev. King, and before he was Rev. King, he was a young man. He was an ordinary person just like us. He answered the same call as Peter and Andrew. One of the most important details about Martin Luther King Jr. is he followed Jesus. He built relationships and changed the landscape of this nation based on his relationship with Jesus.
Prayer activity if time
Jesus called ordinary people right in the middle of their ordinary lives to be in relationship with the ordinary people all around them and through that they did extraordinary things. Today Jesus still calls us. “Oh, Jesus, you have looked into my eyes, kindly smiling, you’ve called out my name. On the sand I have abandoned my small boat. Now with you, I will seek other seas.”
Let’s go fishing—shall we?
Call to mind one person with whom you are in relationship. Perhaps it’s a relationship that brings you particular joy, or sorrow, or frustration, or hope. It doesn’t really matter, just so long as it’s significant. Once you have that person in mind, take a moment to pray for that person…and to believe that God is using you to make a difference in the life of the person for whom you are praying.
Martin Luther King, Jr., 20th century
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”