1 Corinthians 15: 1-11—————-Luke 5: 1-11
February 6, 2022—————-Rev. Patrick Mecham
5th Sunday after Epiphany
One of my friends had an Uncle Ted who taught him how to tie a fly to the leader line for fly fishing. He has a treasured memory of the passing along of that life-skill, and he has used it for years! I personally find it to be a very helpful experience to explore all the important things in my treasure chest of skills and knowledge, and to remember each person who intentionally gave me that skill or knowledge. I hold them in my heart for a while, feeling grateful for their gift. And, of course, now it is my turn to pass on that which I have received!
Today’s scripture passages relate to this very subject. Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “I handed on to you what I in turn had received.” And Jesus says to Peter and the other fishermen, “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be catching people.” Let’s see what these texts tell us about Fishing with Jesus.
An Amazing Catch
In our Gospel reading, we have learned that the fishermen had spent the whole night fishing and had caught nothing. These were not recreational fishing ventures—they depended on fish for their living! I am sure they were in a surly mood, sitting there washing the vegetation out of their nets. Jesus asked Simon to let him address the crowds from his boat, just pushed a little way out from the shore. (It would have been great acoustics!) I think Simon might have been touched by the teachings of Jesus, because when he was asked to go out to deeper water and let down his nets, he first resisted and then obeyed. Just imagine this “non-fisherman” telling a REAL fisherman to let down the nets! When they did it, they had so many fish that they nearly swamped their boat—and had to call for another boat to help bring in the fish!
This is a very abbreviated version of the story of how Jesus ended up catching Simon Peter, James, John, and Andrew. They were AMAZED at the size of the catch—and Peter suddenly became aware of his own sinfulness. But Jesus didn’t focus on that. He simply told him to not be afraid. Then he re-directed him into a new life in which he was going to be part of the effort to bring people closer to God!
Paul Fishing in Corinth
Some years after this interaction with Simon Peter and the fishermen, a young, ambitious Pharisee by the name of Saul was also “caught” and recruited to “fish for people.” He traveled into Gentile territory and established churches in many cities. He adopted his Greek name, Paul, and we have many letters from him that were written to encourage and instruct the new Christians in these churches.
He writes the good news that:
- Christ died for our sins
- He was buried and resurrected
- He appeared to many people
- And, because of GRACE, he also appeared to Paul
You all know that Paul started out persecuting the church, and that he was rescued from the path of destruction. In his writings, you can see that he was delighted with the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Christ!
This is the reason he is proclaiming the gospel, and rejoicing that many came to believe. As he said in Romans 10:14-15, “How, then, can they call on the one they had not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear, without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Hopefully, that is you and I—those who bring good news! Those who are “fishing with Jesus.”)
Fishing with Love
We can’t really have any success on our own. I love the story from John where some of the disciples decided to go fishing after the crucifixion. They caught nothing all night. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but they did not recognize him. He said, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They gave the shortest answer in the Bible: “NO.” Then he said, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” And, déjà vu, their net was so full they couldn’t haul in the catch! When they came to shore, he already had breakfast waiting for them and told them, “Feed my lambs.”
It was a reminder that fishing with Jesus was
more important than just making a living.
Now, if you and I want to fish with Jesus, we need to remember how he treated people.
- Jesus always cared first with unconditional love and acceptance;
- He was always gentle in his correction in the context of love;
- No matter how people responded to him, he continued to love them!
When you and I have an opportunity to share the gospel, it’s important that we don’t “hit them over the head” with the good news, grab them and drag them into the Kingdom! That just “scares the fish away!” (We are fishing, NOT hunting!) We need to remember how winsome Jesus was, how engaging and open he was, ready to have a relationship with anyone—even those who had been shunned by religious purists!
We begin by laying aside our judgment, and developing curiosity in its place. We ask questions, we show interest in hearing about people’s experience and values and losses. And, again, we hear them without judgment. This is one way to love people the way Jesus loved them.
Within the context of that caring relationship, the good news will flow like a spring of life-giving water! Friends, fishing with Jesus is simply passing on that which we have received. It’s putting people in touch with the healing power of The Great Physician. You and I don’t DO anything. We just let God’s love flow through us, creating a “net” of caring and sharing—just like the net that drew us in!