It’s been a while since I posted here. A lot has happened in the past few months. I resigned from a seven year post at a local church. I’ve been grieving and giving thanks for the community I was privileged to serve. Ive lost friends and family along the way, nevertheless I remain grateful and excited about what’s next!
Now I’m back on the job market, applying to jobs that allows me to focus on youth work, and doing some pulpit supply. Here’s my first sermon in a long time. Feedback welcome!
This moment marks Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Prior to this, John the Baptist has been baptizing people in the River of Jordan, which feeds directly into the Sea of Galilee. Now, after John was arrested, scripture tells us that Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kin-dom has come near, repent (make an about face) and believe in the Good News.
As he passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andre casting a net into the sea (commonplace for those who were fishers in an economy that depended on them, even though by this time there they were pretty much hired hands, labor workers if you will, since Rome had started construction on a new city amidst their villages and had found new ways to tax the fishers and their profit). The Empire was getting closer and closer by the minute.
Nevertheless, as Jesus approaches the fishers he says something somewhat cryptic, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
And the Gospel says, they immediately left their nets and followed him. Then Jesus continued further, and when he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were mending their nets, immediately he called to them with the same proclamation, and they left their father in the board and followed Jesus
Can you imagine? Jesus walking into your home or place of work and basically telling you to quit and follow him? Maybe you love your job, maybe you don’t. However the financial insecurity is sure to scary just abut anyone.
Better yet, can you image Jesus walking into the White House and saying, ‘this is a sinking ship, there’s nothing left for you here, another kin-dom is at hand, stop what you are doing and follow me. And then he follows it up with,
“I will make you fisher of people.”
Now I need to pause and say, I am not too familiar with fishing. I get that there are hooks, bait, and a whole lot of patient waiting for the right bite to occur. However, some of these originally folks had nets! Surely that makes the fishing process a little bit easier (although I certainly wouldn’t want to try this technique on people!)
That said, we see in other gospels, fisher men having a hard time catching anything prior to leaving their nets behind. The BOOM, Jesus is there to tell them to try again, put you nets here and you will catch more fish than you know what to do with. And it happened. Then soon after he invites them to abandon those same lucrative nets.
So what do we glean from these stories? And what does Jesus mean when he says he will make you “fisher of people”?
Jesus was on a mission to spread the Good News, this alone was an affront to the Roman Empire – and now he was taking their fisherman away! Indeed, this was the same empire that had built a new building in the sea of Galilee in order to monitor the fishermen and tax them. Again this was the same empire that arrested and would eventually kill John the Baptist.
With this in mind, there was no time to waste. The Roman was far reaching. So Jesus sought out people who were being oppressed, enslaved, and said follow me towards a new kin-dom.
This is the kind of Jesus was see over and over; even with the threat of death, he calls people to join his mission. Not only that, he goes to the places where they are,
This for me brings new meaning to the phrase, ‘I will make you fisher of people.” It is mor than an evangelical call to “save souls,” but rather a liberative invitation towards freedom. Moreover, it was about going to where these people were and calling them to new life.
When I was in seminary, I had the honor and privilege to work with the Night Ministry. Some of you may be familiar with their work. Since the mid-80s, TNM saw a need to go where the homeless were. It was their mission to make human connection, provide basic health care, and connect folks with housing resources. The population ranges from infants to seniors, however my focus was to connect with the youth.
Youth tend to be more transient than the rest of the homeless population. As I got to know them, I got to hear about their usual hangout spots; libraries, bridges, tent cities, shelters, and other youth programming in the area. However, when someone went missing, I was tasked with the job to go find them, make sure they were alright, safe and sound. In other words, I was being called to fish for people.
This tumultuous journey sometimes last for days, taking me to hospitals, police precints, jail cells, court appearances, and and even into their families home (a place as toxic as it once was nurturing). In these moments I heard the still speaking God who was calling me to go where the people were.
Last week, Rev. Knox asked, “Are we still listening to the God who is still speaking?
I hope so. But I want to push us a little further and ask, are we taking action?
God calls the prophets to act. Jesus calls the fishermen to leave their nets.
In these instances, there is little time for preparation. And in Mark’s gospel we see this re-iterated over and over again with his use of the word, immediately. It sparks urgency. Remember, the kin-dom is near!
So what is holding you back? Work, family, a mortgage to page, sports, social media, time commitments, illness? All of these are real things in our lives today.
But here’s the thing: we can all be fishers of people.
In congregations like these, people sometimes go missing. Sickness can keep them away, often home or hospital bound. Substance use. Domestic abuse. A divorce. A coming out. Feelings of being unworthy to worship. So what do we do?
We fish and throw them a line. Maybe a card that says, “we miss you.” A phone call inviting someone for coffee or lunch. We reach out in faith and go to the places where the people are.
We may fish and find ourselves at local pantry, feeding people (just as Jesus did).
We go to where the most vulnerable, people are and we call them back to life.
Sometimes this journey is scary. And it may take you our of your comfort zone. But that’s okay. Because God is calling you to meet God’s people where they are. God is calling to you fish for the people who may feel lost, abandoned, isolated, or worse.
And you, my friends, can do something about it. So listen. And act.