The text for this sermon is Matthew 4:18-22. Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Trinity and St. Jacob’s on January 22, 2017, the Third Sunday after Epiphany.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today I want us to go fishing! Last Sunday we heard the formula for Christian outreach and growth: first you believe and then you share that belief and finally you invite another to come with you to meet Jesus. I concluded my sermon with a fair-warning that this Sunday we will be practicing our invitations to folks we know outside this congregation. Hope you’re ready.
Our gospel lesson for today is about the calling of the first disciples of Jesus. It is significant that the first 4 disciples are fishermen by trade. Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee and saw Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake and Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And Matthew tells us: at once they left their nets and followed him.
Then Jesus saw two other brothers, James and John, who were out in a boat with their father Zebedee. Jesus called them to follow him and Matthew tells us: and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Let’s talk about what you need to go fishing in a lake or pond or river. You need the right tools.
I have here my pole and it has fishing line and I’ve attached my hook and weights. I have a spool of multi-colored filament line. Why is it multi-colored? Every fifteen feet it changes color so you can gauge the depth you want and be where the fish are.
I have my nets with me because I know that I will be catching fish. Attitude and patience and persistence are so important in fishing.
I will choose the right bait that will attract the kind of fish I want and I will go fishing at the best time of day and look for the places where the fish actually are hanging out.
How do we translate all that into “fishing for men” as Jesus says?
Let’s start with the knowing where the fish are. Let’s start with a truth: this church building is not the best place to fish in. The fish are out there and they are where you are in your everyday life: your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, the folks you bump into in unexpected ways.
Carol drove to Goodwill in Fredericksburg to donate some items. On her car was a bumper sticker for our church. The man behind her got out of his car and asked if that church was any good? It was obvious that he did not know she was one of the pastors. Carol’s quick response was, “Why it’s one of the best I’ve ever been a part of!” Long story short, he and his wife came to worship and were utterly surprised to learn who Carol was. After we retired they joined the church and he is now on the Council and she chairs the Christian Education Committee.
Fishing doesn’t have to an arduous task. It should come naturally in our everyday lives. It is listening and waiting for when someone has a need that a Christian Community can fulfill. Also, I think this is a liberating thought: their salvation does not depend on you. You go fishing and give the invitation and it is the Holy Spirit who then takes over and has responsibility for their response. Not you!
I sincerely believe that every one of us here today has the right bait, we are out in the lake every day, and we even know how to fish. The problem is: we’re just not fishing. Without fishing, we can’t catch fish. This congregation will not grow.
Let me find out from you about fishing. Some of you are somewhat new to this congregation. Who first invited you to come and what did they say?
I’m looking for someone who has gone fishing in the last year or two and actually invited someone to come and see Jesus here. What person did you invite and how did you do it?
Palm Sunday this year is on April 9. That’s 11 Sundays from now. We will be receiving new members. I pray that you will take seriously this call to be “fishers of men” and invite folks to “come and see” Jesus here. The Holy Spirit is willing. Are we willing?
Thanks be to God. Amen!