Fishing for People
November 9, 2009
Family Communion Address.
( Mark 1, 14-20)
Have any of you ever been fishing?
What sort of fishing did you do?
‘Proper’ fishing with a rod & line? With bait or flies? What were you hoping to catch?
Or fishing in rock pools with a small net like this – or in a local river for sticklebacks or crabs?
For us fishing tends to be a hobby.
But for Simon Peter & Andrew, James & John, fishing was not a hobby but the way they earned their living.
It was a very hard way to make a living. They had to work all night, and sometimes they caught nothing, so didn’t make any money out of it. They had to look after their boats and mend their nets. Sometimes it was dangerous – on the Sea of Galilee, storms blew up unexpectedly and their little boat could be overturned and they could drown. But it was one of the few ways for people to make a living at that time and in that place.
They didn’t work with bait. They threw their nets over the side of the boat and then pulled them in, hoping they were full of fish. In order to be successful, they needed a good deal of local knowledge – where the best spots were where the shoals of fish lurked – what time of day, and what type of weather was best for catching a large haul of fish.
But although their life was difficult as fishermen, it was not an easy decision to give it all up and follow Jesus to become ‘fishers for people’. They had to leave their equipment behind, and their homes and their families – and who was going to look after their families while they were away following Jesus and working to spread the Gospel? And they were going off to do something for which they had no training and no experience. It could all have been disastrous.
They went because they believed in Jesus, and they had faith in him. They learned from him how to do what he did and how to encourage people to listen to God and follow him. The ‘bait’ they used now was the teaching of Jesus, his example of love and care for everyone, and the power they were given through the Holy Spirit. They said, like our first hymn “I will come, Lord, if you call me”.
When we are baptised, we become disciples of Jesus – and he expects us to ‘fish for people’ in his name, using just the same bait as the original fishermen disciples did – love, service and the good news of the Gospel.
It may not be our full-time job – but it is more than just a hobby – it is a central part of our lives as Christians, not just on a Sunday but every day of the week.
It may be hard – lots of people don’t want to listen. Just like people who fish for trout or fresh water fish or big fish in the oceans, we have to work out what sort of bait is right for different sorts of people, and we may have to work hard for a long time, without seeing any obvious ‘catch’ Just like real fishermen we have to learn patience and persistence.
Not many of us will be in the business of catching large hauls of people ( like those who fished with nets). But every one of us can fish for individual people.
Each of you has been given a small ‘fish’ with your service sheet. In a moment of quiet, I wonder whether you can think of one person – or a group of people – that you would like to catch for Christ. If there is such a person, write their name on the fish, and when you come up to communion, or when the service is over, come and place the ‘fish’ in the ‘net’. When you leave continue to pray for that person, and ask God to show you how you can ‘catch them for Christ’. And we will pray now that God’s Holy Spirit will give you the wisdom and the skill and the persistence to be good ‘fishers for people’.
Holy Spirit of God, help us to become good ‘fishers for people’. Help us to be good examples by the way we act and what we say. Help us to tell other people about you, and to welcome them into church so that they will know you and follow you.