Sunday, January 23, 2011

Calling All Fishermen

One thing about fishing, most fishermen would never want to leave half of their gear at home when going out in search of that lunker.

In today's worship service, Psalm 27 was shortened not only by being cut in half, but by two verses at the very beginning. We chanted verses 1 and 4-9. I am not sure why the Revised Common Lectionary makes these cuts as I can see more opportunities for the homilist with the full Psalm rather than with a shortened version. Here is the entire Psalm, using the translation we read, with the omitted verses highlighted.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.

6 Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!

10 If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.

13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Since we left the dock without a full tackle box, lets carry the analogy a little further...

Today's sermon started from the story of the call of Peter, Andrew, James, and John found in Matthew 4:12-23 and also drew from the story of the disciples casting their nets in John 21:1-6.

While I might have focused on the promise to make the disciples fishers of people, and the need follow Jesus' instructions in order to do so (which works also with John 21), instead we heard about the abundance of the catch without really driving home the point that without Jesus, we will remain lousy fisherfolk. Our homily probably worked for those in need of a "feel good" sermon, but I didn't leave church with any clue as to how to put more fish in the boat.

Undeterred, I spent the last several minutes thinking about it, and here are some suggestions:

1. For directions, first look for Jesus.

Where are his directions to be found? Where is He to be found? First and foremost, in scripture and prayer. One thing that sticks out in the disciples' futile attempts to catch fish in John 21 is the fact that they were relying on their own ideas as to how to fish, until Jesus shows up. You don't see them setting out on their fishing trip after first praying for Jesus' help. Oops. They figured that they knew all there was to know about catching fish. We are guilty of this all the time. Left to our own devices, the catch will be poor.

Given the current trends in attendance at Sunday worship services, I suspect we are making the same mistake the disciples made.

2. Use the proper bait.

The other day, while receiving the host and wine through intinction, the celebrant struggled to find my mouth and nearly missed. I, of course, was chasing the body and blood as the celebrant waved it in front of my gaping mouth. While I think that such a lure should attract even the most finicky fish, the fact of the matter is that fish are quite turned off when human scent has rubbed off onto the bait. They might nibble but a nibble is about all you will get. People will not swallow the Gospel when it has been tainted, twisted, and tied into knots by the hand of man. Give it too them straight, and freely, and they will feed well and often.

3. Spend as much time on the water as possible.

You can't catch fish if you don't wet your hook.

4. Know what is in the tackle box.

The scriptures contain all that you need. Open your tackle box up and look inside regularly. There is something in there for any and all kinds of fish.

5. "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27: the unread verses)

When the fish aren't biting, wait, not for a bite, but for the Lord who will be your guide.

6. Teach others to fish.

And the Church will be fed.


  1. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Ok - so you and I must have heard different sermons - The sermon was about communication and recognizing the divinity of Jesus. Maybe you should listen more carefully!

  2. Anon 353,

    I have to disagree. For the purpose of this blog, today's sermon should probably be ignored as it focused more on the personal story of the rector's calling, or lack of a verbal call as he stated, his response, and Jesus as sonar, than the divinity of Christ (a discourse upon which really would have perked the ears), and missed the opportunity to dig into the call to be changed into fishers of men which I am focusing upon.

  3. The idea of being patient and letting God witness to others through us, is one we often forget. Too many times, we wish to go barreling into a situation without listening to what the Holy Spirit wants us to do. Good that we pause and remember, it's not really we who are fishing, but Christ.