Prov. 8:1-4, 22-31
Trinity Sunday C RCL
10:00 HE 2A
FISHING FOR (WO)MEN
Source: The Living Church 8/26/79 (G.Runkel),p.13.
A little boy said to a fisherman "Mr. Runkel, how come you always catch trout?"
"How come I always catch trout?" replied the fisherman. "Well, I guess it's because I go fishing - because I try to think like a fish."
The boy's own had father had read a lot about fishing - and that was good. And he was excellent at fly-tying - and that was good, too. But he actually fished only once in a while, when he thought conditions were just right, and when he didn't have something else that he wanted to do.
Now we have been talking about fishing the last couple of Sundays. You and I are in the position of fish, and we are taken up by the net which represents the Kingdom of Heaven. But we are also called to be fishers of men - to bring others into the Kingdom, into relationship with Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit is what (or rather Who) gives us this power to be fishers and not just fish.
Too many of us are one-hour-a-week Christians - like the little boy's own father - we are Christians when conditions are right and we don't have something else to do. But suppose we were to become serious about our discipleship. What is required of us if we wish to accept our Lord's offer to make us fishers of men?
Basically, there are FIVE things required of us. There may be more, but these will do for a start.
First, we must be willing to give people our time. Fishing takes time, and patience.
Secondly, we must respect people's background and beliefs and how far they are spiritually developed already. Big fish are more cautious, more wary, than little ones.
Thirdly, we must discover what they think is the purpose of life. In terms of fish: what food do they eat? What food feeds their souls now?
Fourthly, we must convince them that some gods are inadequate to the quality of life that human beings have a right to expect. In terms of fish, we would try to suggest that even if what they eat now keeps them alive, yet they are entitled to expect a better quality of life than they now have. And we think that we have a key to that better quality of life.
Fifthly, we must convince them of the fact that we have a relationship with God, and not just an opinion about Him.
Let us think a little about this last point, for unless we do have a relationship with God, and not merely an opinion of Him, all the other skills will be sterile and useless. We will catch no fish for the Lord.
Our knowledge of God comes to us through a Person, Jesus Christ. But in our enthusiasm for Him, we may say things that our hearers cannot understand, and present pictures of Him that may not be entirely true. If we are going to get through to people, we must watch our words, our vocabulary; we must use words that people will understand and cannot misinterpret. We must learn how people think, how they feel, how they can best be approached. Otherwise, like fish, they will not be caught.
Fish won't bite if you do not fish. But if you use the wrong bait, they won't bite either!
To us as Christians, Christ is God incarnate in human life. That is our Christian faith. But in introducing Him to others, that is not the place to begin. Like the first disciples, Peter, James and John, people in general must be brought to the point where they can see in Jesus the finest, the most thoughtful, the wisest person they have ever heard about. And as we spell out to people the gentle way in which Jesus dealt with people, and the gentle way He has dealt with us, then people will begin to see in Him something more than the finest human being they have ever heard about.
Our task is to help others see Jesus - to make them see how good He is, and not how bad they are: to raise Christ up, not to push them down. One of the things that the big evangelists and preachers seem not to realize is that our Lord seldom talked about people's sinfulness, but rather about His Father's love and concern for their well being. It is not for an evangelist, nor for you and me, to judge the worthiness of those he is trying to reach for Christ. Our task is to introduce Christ and to extend His love. For if we do little more than talk about people's sins, and their need for redemption, it is not likely that they will ever know the love of God that comes through Christ. That approach is poor bait for the fish we are trying to catch. Most people won't bite.
So, as one-to-one evangelists, we should not presume that the person we are talking to is any more sinful than we are, and we should not attempt to arouse in him or her a sense of sin. It is the Gospel of God's love, not the person's guilt, that we are commanded to give, in doses and at the level the person can cope with.
It took Peter a long time to reach the level of understanding that enabled him to say, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" - even though the Person trying to catch him was the Lord Jesus Himself! (Peter was called the Rock - and that may have referred to his rock-headedness about opening his eyes to Christ!). But if it took Peter such a long time, that means that in our day we should be humble about our abilities - and reliant on our tools. If Peter was hard to catch despite the fact that our Lord was a Man of prayer and a Student of the Scriptures which He read and preached about in the synagogues, then we had better keep our tools - our prayer and our Bible reading in good repair. And then, we must go fishing.
We have to tie flies for bait. We have to read up on fishing. We have to think about the task and how we shall approach it. And then, we have to go fishing.
The fish can't bite if you don't go fishing.