Called To Be Fishers Of People

What a great scripture to preach on! Bruce helped me out with the children’s sermon – he brought fishing rods and nets for the kids to see. :)

Mark 1:14-20

Called To Be Fishers Of People

I was looking through some old files on my computer this week and came across a folder that contained the sermons that I preached when I was in college in our Sunday morning chapel service.

When I was in seminary, I remember looking through that folder at one point and laughing at how poor my exegesis of scripture was, how naïve my view of theology was and how poorly structured the sermon was. In fact, I remember carefully filing that folder away, hoping that no one on my ordination committee or any potential search committee would ever see such green and inexperienced representations of who I was called to be.

It is funny because now, almost two years after graduating from seminary, with a few months of hospital chaplaincy and almost a year of parish ministry under my belt, I kind of want to pull them out of their folder. Because I have learned that sometimes in faith and in the church it is not about what you know – but it is about how you feel and how you act.

I preached my last college sermon on May 6, 2007. And in that sermon I said the following:

I don’t claim to have had the ability to impart any kind of deep knowledge of the biblical texts, or hidden meanings of the Gospels, the Letters or the Epistles. I don’t have that. But what I do have is a heart—I have emotions that are constantly running up a hill, down a hill, through a stream and over a mountain. I have a desire to communicate those emotions through words and actions. And I have a mind. A mind that fills my life with irrational thought, but rational action.

Nearly five years later I am realizing that what I had back then is really all that I need right now. Is the other stuff helpful? Yes. But does it fuel my excitement for the ministries that I am apart of, my love of worship and music and my compassion in pastoral care? No. It it really what ministry is all about? Absolutely not.

Which is why I think it is important for us to always remember that we are all in ministry together. This is the first point that I am going to make on this morning’s scripture reading.

Jesus called us all to be in ministry together. It does not matter that I am the pastor or that one person is a Trustee or one person is a Deacon or one person is on the Fellowship Committee or one person prefers to just participate in worship and activities – we are all called to be in ministry together. Look to your left and look to your right – these are the people who you are in this with. This is your church family – this is who you have been called to be in ministry with. These are the people you have been called to fish with.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Jesus did not call people who were already in ministry. Jesus did not go into the temples and find people who had already been given some kind of religious authority. Jesus did not have a checklist of classes that his disciples needed to take or families that they needed to be apart of. Jesus called ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Jesus called people like you and me.

We are all called to be in ministry together. Jesus called us all to be in ministry together.

The second point I want to make is about what, exactly, Jesus called us to do. Jesus did not call us to do something simple, something that would slip easily into the routine of our daily lives. Jesus called us to be fishers of people.

Now, the imagery here is obviously wonderful. Jesus told the fishermen to put down their fishing nets and follow him so that they could cast wider nets to gather God’s people to do ministry in the world.

And I think that was an intentional choice; I think the metaphor of casting small nets in safe and familiar waters versus going out in the world and casting larger nets in unfamiliar places is powerful. But obviously he was not just talking about calling fishermen into ministry; Jesus called and calls all humankind into ministry. And I think that Jesus calls us to leave the safety of what is known and to jump blindly into the unknown.

Jesus calls us all to be in ministry together – but he also calls us into a ministry that would absolutely push us to do more, to be more. He does not call us to do the things that we were already doing, he calls us to do the things that we one day dreamed of doing. He calls us to go one step further, to push the envelope, to be a part of something bigger than just us. Jesus calls us to cast wider nets – and to see what we might catch with them.

Jesus calls us into a ministry that would absolutely push us to do more, to be more.

The third and final point that I want to make about this morning’s scripture is this: Through this call that Jesus has given to us, we are promised a new life.

In the New Revised Standard Version of the bible, Jesus says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” This is not the greatest translation, because it makes it sound like Jesus is calling us to do some kind of task, something that we have to do, something that we can check off of our never-ending to-do lists before moving on to something else.

But it is not a task. A literal translation of this particular passage would probably read, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers for people.” Vanderbilt Professor Ted Smith looked at this discrepancy in translation and said the following: “There is a world of difference between ‘I will make you fish’ and ‘I will make you to become fishers.’ ‘I will make you fish’ gives us one more activity to work into our datebooks. … But ‘I will make you become fishers’? That promises a whole new life.” {Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 1, pg. 289}

Jesus was never in the business of forcing people to do anything. Jesus was in the business of transforming lives. Jesus was in the business of seeing what was wrong in the world and fighting to make it right. Jesus was in the business of doing what was right and Godly in his lifetime.
Jesus was in the business of finding a person’s potential and maximizing it in ministry. Jesus did not want us to follow him, Jesus wanted us to all take a journey together. “I will make you to become fishers” implies that a change is about to take place – not only in the lives of the people that we will meet along our journeys but also in our own lives as well.

Now, obviously this transformation will look different for each one of you, for each one of us. Jesus called us all into a ministry together, but he did not call for all of our ministries to look the same. And the beautiful thing is that Jesus equips us all to do what he has called us to do. Jesus said, “Come with me and I will make you become.” Jesus does not call us into something and then leave us to figure it out for ourselves. Jesus equips, guides and protects us along our journey.

What might that transformation look like for you? What would it look like in your homes, in your families? How would your relationships change, grow stronger? How much more fulfilled would you feel if you allowed yourself to be transformed? It is not about just finding room in your schedule to serve. I do believe that something powerful happens the moment you decided to set down your fishing net and follow Jesus.

And, in the end, all your really need is what I thought was not enough as I was graduating from college – heart, emotions, a desire to communicate and a mind filled with irrational thought, but rational action. Those are the human qualities that Jesus uses to do amazing things in the world. It is not about what we know; it is about how we feel and how we act. Jesus takes care of the rest when he calls us to be in ministry with him.
Jesus calls us all to be in ministry together. Jesus calls us into a ministry that absolutely pushes us to do more, to be more. And Jesus calls us into a ministry that promises us a transformation – and a new life.

Jesus said, “Come with me and I will make you become fishers for people.” What will that look like for you?

Thanks be to God for the gift that Jesus gave us and gives to us through this call into ministry!

Amen.

3 thoughts on “Called To Be Fishers Of People

  1. Sarah I was going to ask you if you had as many pair of shoes as Bruce does fishing “stuff”. Mike always laughs when I used to buy a new pair.. A girl can never have to many shoes is what I tell him. Another black pair? Yup…

  2. I love this post, Sarah! Love, love, love.

    I grew up part of the UCC, but I don’t really consider myself a very spiritual or religious person now that I’ve grown up. But this post really hit me. I don’t think I’ll ever be super into prayer or super into going to church, but I like that this post/sermon was a lot more about the spiritual side of somebody rather than the church/religion itself.

    I like that you said “Jesus called us all into a ministry together, but he did not call for all of our ministries to look the same.” I like the idea that I can practice spirituality in my own way, and it doesn’t have to be in a way that includes church. Or it could be. Who knows? Maybe I’ll change and want something different in the future.

    I also liked how you said that “It is not about what we know; it is about how we feel and how we act.” I really believe that, too. I always strive to live with my heart on my sleeve and to live each day like it’s my last. I think both those things are really important, and that’s really what my spirituality means to me.

    Thanks for writing this post :)

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