The Rev’d Roger Elks
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Hello. I remember one little holiday we had in St Ives one year when the children were young. We were fishing off the end of the pier with little crab hooks and lines. Nothing very sophisticated. And Susie, my second daughter, who was probably about eight at the time, suddenly got a catch after we’d been fishing, probably for a little while, and nothing much was happening. A little bit of excitement at the end of the pier of children and just a few fishermen. Anyway, she had a catch and we pulled it up and there was this fish flapping around on the end of the hook. It was very exciting. Susie was actually quite shocked. I don’t think we were really expecting to catch anything like that, and we certainly didn’t know what to do with it. And I just remember this thing flapping on the ground. I’m afraid I didn’t know much about what to do either. And one of the chaps there kindly picked it up and de-gouged it for us and gave it to us, and we took it back and put it in the fridge, and it went smelly and we threw it away after a few days.
Jesus called people who were fishermen, and he called others to be fishermen. Let’s read today’s reading Mark Chapter 1 Verse 14.
New International Version
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
I remember an evangelist coming to speak to us at a theological college, a chap called Daniel Cousins, and he was telling us about the importance of conversion, about bringing people to see and accept Jesus Christ as saviour. He used the analogy of fishing as, he said, he enjoys fishing. He goes out for a day’s fishing and then comes back. And his wife said, “Did you catch any?” And sometimes he just has to say, “No, I didn’t catch any, but I influenced quite a few”. And he used that as an example to say fishing is about catching fish and evangelism is about bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, about the importance of conversion being part of the decision process of someone coming to follow Jesus Christ. Nothing is more exciting than seeing that happen, and I used to think it was all about the decision. But now I realise that the decision is really only five per cent, if not less, of the process of coming to know Jesus Christ.
Fishing is a patient business. I’m not a fisherman, but we have all seen fishermen standing quietly or sitting quietly with the fishing rod. Even with a fishing net, it is a patient business. Remember the story of the disciples fishing all night without catching anything? When you’re fishing, certainly with a rod, you’re almost forming a relationship with the fish, aren’t you? As you seek to just get the fish to trust the environment in which it is and in which is your hook and your bait. You have to be in the right place. You have to be at the right time. You have to use the right bait or the right fly or lure. You have to have the right weather. Then you have to wait.
We are all called to be fishers of people and to do so we have to get all the things right. And it’s hard work to do that, but we’re called to fish. That’s what Jesus has called us to do as individuals and as a church. We get all those things right: the love, the welcome, the witness, the lifestyle, the preaching, the church. We have to get all those things right – and God does the rest. There is a lovely verse in Acts Chapter 2 about the early church: “and the Lord added to their number daily those who are being saved”.
So today, don’t forget that you and I are always fishing for the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t be shocked if one of those fish lands at our feet flapping around and says to you. “I want to believe as you do. Can you tell me about Jesus?” Are you ready for that? What an exciting life it is to be fishers of men and women for Jesus. Amen.
Eternal Father at the baptism of Jesus, you revealed Him to be your Son and your Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove. Grant that we who are born again by water and the Spirit may be faithful as your adopted children through Jesus Christ, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. One God now and forever. Amen.