Jonah 3:1-5; 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
“Fishermen of Eire”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
When I began formulating how I was going to address this sermon, most especially what title I should give it, I was attempting to be unique and not bland. Now this is my first time in memory living near a large body of water, thus upon seeing this Gospel I thought, “You know what, Fishermen of Erie sounds unique.” Now, after thinking of this title, which too a good amount of time and effort, I got all giddy over my perceived accomplishment. I was excited over this hurdle I conquered, for “Fishermen of Erie”, from my perspective, was incredibly unique.
Of course it is not unique, I would wager every pastor who lives on or near the lake have thought of this title or something similar once in their life time. In fact, maybe a bland title would have been unique, because who uses bland titles for this Gospel these days? Why not call it, “Fishermen” or simply “Fisher of Men” or “The first Disciples”? This is one of those special cases where uniqueness and blandness has swapped places; when the unique become so common that they inevitably become bland and the bland become so sparse that they become the unique.
And to top it all off, after creating this title, and figuring that my sermon would tie the Gospel and Erie together, I present my sermon title to our lovely secretary Linda, almost like a child that caught a frog, or a pet that is presenting for you it’s prize kill. I was so excited, and that’s when she told me that John already gave a similar sermon fairly recently. And it dawned on me, what I thought was unique, up here was utterly common. Now is that going to stop me? No, because here is the thing, whereas I feel like a sad balloon that has lost half its air and is now rolling on the floor, this connection in of itself should be used frequently. Why? Because it is a means of tying our daily lives and things we commonly understand, the mundane, to concepts of the divine. And if we frequently bring up these ties that binds us, then it becomes easier for us to understand and appreciate the fullness of God’s amazing grace and glory and mercy.
When Jesus came to Peter and Andrew, Fishermen, did he call them to be Sowers of Faith? No, they were not gardeners. That would be like me, who just came from farmland, preaching about tractors to all of you. No, Jesus came to these fishermen and used a very interesting play on words, you who are fishermen, “follow me and I would make you become fishers of men.” Fishermen, Fishers of Men, get it? Jesus loved his puns and his play on words, and this is no different. In fact, I would believe, had Jesus had a following at that time, that many would have groaned at his pun. Most would have been fascinated by his wisdom and the connection he made, but I would still believe that there would have been some who would have groaned, fishermen, fisher of men, [groan].
But here is the thing, should we expect Jesus to be the only one who calls disciples to come and follow Him? Should we just sit idly by and wait for the Holy Spirit to enter into our neighbors and then act all surprised when they suddenly show up to our places of worship? Do we go about our peaceable lives, not trying to shake the boat, so as not to offend our non-Christian or supposedly-Christian neighbors? Is it better to keep a friend and wait for the Holy Spirit to enter into their live on account of nothing we do, rather than the potential to lose a friend but gain a brother or sister in with and through Christ?
I ask you this, what is the most loving thing you can do for your neighbor. Christ did tell us that the second greatest commandment is to love they neighbor, so what is the greatest way you can express such love? Why, preaching the Gospel. That is the highest form of love. For we know that through Christ, who died on the cross for our sake, was buried, took on our sins, went to Hell so we wouldn’t go to Hell, but rose most gloriously on the third day and will be with use now and forever – we know that we are indeed saved and will be in Heaven and will live eternally and will experience this joy alongside all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We know this to be true, as oppose to the horror of experiencing eternal damnation and pain and terror in the fire pits of Hell. Should we not, out of the kindness of our hearts, proclaim the Good News and serve as a testimony of what Christ has did for us for those who may not know Him yet so that they too, through the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Gospel we speak, may obtain faith in Christ and experience this joy and realize the truth which is revealed to us in Christ, that is that the Love of God which surpasses all understanding?
There is a reason why the first thing Jesus tells Peter, Simon bar-Zebedee, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men,” and one of the last things he tells Peter being the Great Commission, to preach, baptize, and teach in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is what it means to be a fisher of men, it is to be one who has been given the human responsibility, as disciples of Christ, of going out into the world so that others may have faith in Him. We are to go out into the open seas, which sometimes is calm and other times raging a fierce storm. We are to go out and brave whatever comes our way, cast our nets and our lines, with the Word being the bait and the hook, and wait.
Here is the thing; no amount of reason will convince anyone of believing. No crafty arguments, no models, no logical charts or rational processes, no nothing crafted and molded by human intellect will ever lead a non-believer towards faith in God. Now all these are important to teach to Christians not as tools to convince non-believers but as armor and a shield to protect your faith from the counterarguments of the world. Yet no amount, of reason will convince anyone of believing; No, not anything, but the Holy Spirit. For it is impossible for anyone to believe in Jesus Christ, thus it takes a miracle for such a realization to happen, and that miracle does indeed happen when the Holy Spirit enters into you. But how will the Holy Spirit enter into you if no one proclaims the Good News to you or baptizes you? This is how you convince anyone of believing, by proclaiming that Christ died for them. This is our human responsibility, this is what it means to be a fisher of men.
Now we are of Erie, not Capernaum, like the first of the disciples, but of all the disciples, the easiest to understand may just be Peter and Andrew due to our close proximity to the lake and the high likelihood that we either fish or are familiar to fishing. This includes gentle fishing, ice fishing, and the more extreme fishing during stormy winds. Fishing can be relaxing, sometimes it is outright boring; other times it is refreshing, other times, depending on how crazy you are, it is bizarrely cold; sometimes it is gentle, and other times you are traversing through rain and waves that would flip much smaller vessels; sometimes the catch is small, and other times you may need another fisher to help you reel in your big catch. Fishing comes with it its own fair share of variations. But there are several things that tie them all together. First, you go to a location where there are things to catch. Next you use the proper equipment necessary for catching. Then you wait. And last, you get your catch.
As fisher of men, we understand, how could you reach out to the people if you do not go out to where the people are? You don’t just wait for them to go to you, but you too must go out to them. And when you fish for men, you must always fish with the Word of God on your tongue. This is your proper equipment, for the Word whether through Scripture, vocal, or baptism is the bait and hook and net that ultimately catches the men you are fishing for. It is not acts of humanity or crafty arguments, though you may use them, but the Word which in the end makes believers. If I may, I have heard of so many supposed “mission trips” organized by other church bodies and I would ask them, “What did you do?” They would say things such as, “We dug a well.” “Uh-hung, and pray tell me, did you preach the Word?” “Well, no.” If you don’t
preach the Word, you did not conduct a mission trip. That is the only requirement. I’m reminded of those funny jokes which say, “you only had one job!”
And the last thing, as fisher of men, before we make our catch, is to wait. We may preach all we like, but in the end, it is up to them to receive. Now they cannot receive that which is not given to them, therefore we must preach, but just because we preach to them does not mean they will definitively become a Christian. Therefore we much have patience. Now this does not mean we stop preaching, and then wait, that is like casting or lines and after a couple seconds reeling in our hooks, placing our rods on the floor of our boats, waiting for several minutes, and wondering why we aren’t catching anything. The hook and the bait is the Word, therefore you, a fisher of men, needs to keep on preaching the Word so that eventually someone gets caught up by the Word. And once they do, it’s time to reel in the catch. And as the catch is being reeled in there will be much cheering and excitement.
That is what it means to be Fishermen of Erie.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, through your disciples many have come to see the glory of your Son Jesus Christ who lived, died, rose again, and lives for all eternity for our sake. Make us your willing fishermen so that through us many may be caught up by the Word. In your most Precious name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.