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    Feb 10, 2019

    The 5th Sunday after the Epiphany

    Passage: Luke 5:1-11

    Preacher: The Rev. Nathan M. Finnin

    Series: Year C: 2019-2020

    Category: Epiphany

    Detail:

    This morning’s reading from Luke is where we get one of the most popular images for evangelism: that is, that the disciples, and by extension we, are called to be “fishers of men.” Actually, that’s the language from Mark. This morning’s translation is a bit creepier. Luke says, “from now on, you will be catching people.” Oh, lovely. You know, I’ve NEVER really cared for this image. The idea of being fishers of men, or catchers of people has always seemed somehow off to me.

    I mean, who wants to be caught? Who wants to be caught on a hook or trapped in a net, or gigged with…whatever you gig things with? How exactly does that communicate God’s gracious love to someone? I’m not a fisherman, but I don’t think many fish are any better-off for having been caught.

    So if I wasn’t already a follower of Jesus Christ, or perhaps, to be fair, if I wasn’t someone who tries to be a follower of Christ, I don’t think that I’d respond well to a bunch of people who wanted to “catch me” for Jesus. 

    And it certainly doesn’t extend the kind of radical hospitality that has been in vogue in the Episcopal Church in the last decade. “There’s a new one…let’s catch ‘em!” The other reason this imagery of catching and/or fishing doesn’t really resonance with me is that I’ve never particularly enjoyed fishing.  I know this lowers my street cred with some of you…

    Some of my friends love to fish, some of my family like to fish. But not me. Could you imagine me sitting still and quietly in a boat for any length of time? We would all be miserable! So the thought of me giving my life to following Jesus in order to learn how to be a catcher of persons just doesn’t stir up anything inside me. Now, I’m not suggesting that discipleship is about me, or the feelings it stirs up, just that the thought of being a fisher of ANYTHING sounds boring, and being a catcher of people sounds boring AND exhausting.

    So as I was preparing for this morning’s sermon, I started to ask myself “what am I missing in this passage?” And the place that question took me was this; What if Jesus never intended fishing to become our main metaphor for evangelism? 

    What if Jesus was only inviting Simon and John and James to be “fishers of men” because that’s who they were — fishermen?  Years ago, when I was preaching on the parallel package from Mark I came across the writing of Jeff Stiggins, the Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence who suggests just that:

    If Simon and James and John had been carpenters, Jesus would not have invited them to be “catchers of people!”Rather, he have invited them to follow him and learn how to be “builders of the God Kingdom?”

     If they had been physicians, Jesus would not have invited them to be “catchers of people!”Jesus would have invited them to follow him and learn how to help heal a broken world.

    If they had been lawyers, Jesus would not have invited them to be “catchers of people!”Jesus would have invited them to fight for justice!

     If they had been bankers, Jesus would not have invited them to be “catchers of people!” Jesus would have invited them to invest in people and communities, knowing that those investments would pay dividends for generations to come.[i]

    In short, Stiggins makes a compelling argument that Jesus invited Simon and James and John to follow him and join him in God’s work in a way that was a fit for them! In a way that made sense in the context of their lives. And I can’t help but find that argument compelling. You see, fishing wasn’t simply a hobby for Simon and James and John. It wasn’t something they did to blow off steam, or as an excuse to fill up the cooler and get out of the house. They were Fishermen in the truest sense of the word. Stiggins points out that their lives, their income, their identity was as fishermen. Now, if this is true, it suggests that Jesus calls us to follow him and join in God’s work in ways that fit who we are, too. [ii] 

    I can’t help but notice how congruent that is with my understanding and experience of God. We don’t have to become something or someone that we aren’t in order to follow God. And that’s the Good News. My experience has been that God rarely if ever calls us to be something we’re not. Rather, God asks us to stop being the people we know we’re not! To stop wearing the masks we’ve grown accustomed to. To stop pretending we’re OK with behavior and values that we’re NOT OK with. To stop pretending that there’s not something inside us that recoils in the face of injustice, oppression, inequity, and abuse. So instead, God frees us to bring the best of who we are…to bring the realest and truest parts of ourselves, and offer it up as we join in God’s work in the world. 

    So whether you are a lawyer or an artist, a nurse or a stay-at-home parent, a teacher or a supervisor, a rocket scientist or a day laborer, Jesus calls you to use the talents and strengths and knowledge and passions and wisdom and intuition that you have to make the contribution to the God’s Kingdom that you alone can make. [iii]

    Imagine the freedom and purpose Jesus offers each of us by inviting us to join him by being who we are and investing this in blessing others? So, if Jesus calls us to invest who we are in serving others, it also means we can (and should!) quit focusing on what we don’t have or who we aren’t as an excuse for not ministering to others. 

    I don’t have to be as rich as someone else, or as smart or as successful or as educated or as “together-seeming” order to minister. Heck, you don’t even have to be as good or as nice….which is great news for many of us!! In fact, focusing on what we don’t have, or how we don’t feel, or convincing ourselves that we’re somehow not capable or equipped is really just a way of avoiding responsibility for making out contribution to what God is doing in the world.

    Stiggins goes on to write: “God has already equipped us to make the contribution that God wants us to make.  Let me say this again…

    “God has already equipped us to make the contribution that God wants us to make.”

    Sure, we grow and learn as we mature in faith and years, but that doesn’t mean we try to be something or someone we’re not. It means that as we grow, as we learn…as we venture into the deep, we become more fully who God created us to be.[iv]

    In “The Future Starts Now,” Kelly Fryer says: “Be who you are.  See what you have.  Do what matters.”

    [v]Be who you are.

    See what you have.

    Do what matters.

    Now, the risk with a catchy slogan like that is that we interpret it to mean, “be whatever you want.” That’s NOT what I’m suggesting here. And, that’s not the invitation we are given by Jesus. We are not invited to be “whatever we want.” We are invited to be who we truly are. There’s a difference. “Whatever we want” is often dictated by ego, by envy and jealousy, by loneliness and fear. “Who we are” is dictated by God. And we discover the difference between being whatever we want, and being who we actually are, when we accept the invitation into the deep waters. When we venture into the places where we’re scared. To the places where we’re uncertain. We discover the difference between being whatever we want, and who we actually are, when our nets start breaking. When the containers we’ve used for years break apart, and we call on the people around us to help, and it feels like we’re drowning, and we actually have to rely on the God we claim to believe in. That’s what happens in deep waters.

    Sure, Simon and James and John could have stayed in the shallow water. We can all stay in the shallow parts of our lives if we’d like. But we’re invited out into so much more.

    We’re invited to take our skills, and our tools, and our gifts…We’re invited to take our wounds, and our sorrows, and our doubts, and we’re invited to do kingdom work, with each other, and for each other. That’s the good-news. And sometimes we need to be reminded of the “good news.” We see that in the opening of the letter to the Corinthians this morning: “I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you..”

    We need to be reminded of the good news...Not because we’re bad people....because we forget. We just forget. And that’s why we come back...week after week. Or every other week. Or quarterly.,. That’s why we come back. Because we need to be reminded.

    We need to be reminded that we are called as we are…

    We need to be reminded that we are called where we are….

    We need to be reminded that we are called how we are..

     

     

     

    [i] http://ctblog.flumc.org/?p=84

     

    [ii] ibid.

    [iii] http://www.marcalanschelske.com/i-will-make-you-fishers-of-men-really/

    [iv] http://ctblog.flumc.org/?p=84

    [v] http://pubpastor.blogspot.com/p/emerging-missional-links.html