Fishers of Men
Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Jesus promised to make the disciples fishers of men. Now I love fishing. I always have. And I know the things that make a fisherman/woman good at what they do. So I found myself wondering, what are the things that make a fisher of men good at what they do?
There are a few factors when it comes to fishing that make a difference: Your interest level, or how dedicated you are to it, practice, your equipment, going to where the fish are, setting the hook, and being a good sport (in other words sticking to the legal size and bag limits, practicing catch and release.)
To start with I think to be really good at fishing, you have got to love it.
I reckon it’s the ones who get out there while its still dark, who sit around for hours on the day before they are going to go fishing, spooling up with new line, tying knots and sharpening hooks. I figure it is these anglers who take about 90% of the fish. I think it’s got to be in your blood. It’s got to be something that you have a passion for. But it doesn’t mean you have to be born that way.
I know some really successful fishermen, who are mad keen on fishing, who did not grow up that way. Some started fishing later in life, and found an affinity with it. Some had never tried it, or never even thought they would like it, were introduced to it by others, went along once or twice and got hooked. It’s the same with being fishers of men. Some of the people keenest on fishing are the ones who got caught themselves when they were older.
I think that practice is important. When i was 12 years old, I used to stand in my back yard, and cast lures into the swimming pool of the house we were renting. The lures had no hooks on them, but I wanted to see how close I could land them to the other side, without going too far and hitting the concrete on the far side. I smashed a lot of lures that way. But I wanted to be ready when the moment came when I had to make that all-or-nothing cast.
Some fishermen use thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, while others can be quite successful with some line wrapped around an old bottle. You might not feel like you are prepared, like you have the training and the equipment needed, but you can still get in there and give it a go.
I used to fish from a kayak, and on my kayak there was a fish-finder. Now some people tend to think this is cheating, but there is a lot of water out there, and most of it doesn’t contain fish. The fish finder tells me where the fish are, because you have to go to where the fish are. Otherwise you waste a lot of time and effort and feel like you are paddling around in circles. Where there are people hurting, where there are people missing something in their lives, that’s where God wants us to be fishing for people.
The first step is to fish outside our own four walls. (Although for some there is fishing to be done under their own roof.) But for most it means getting out there. When I come back from unsuccessful fishing trips, I console myself with the fact that I was more likely to catch one getting out there than I was sitting at home thinking about it. And you know, you can’t be afraid to have times when you catch nothing. You learn something every time, and it was better than not trying at all.
Setting the hook.
In the fishing world, there are two major types of fishing line. One, the older style, has a lot of stretch in it. The newer line, called braid, does not stretch at all. Now I tend to get a bit excited when I get a bite. I rip the rod up in the air to set the hook. That is okay with monofilament line, which stretches, because the hook doesn’t move too far. Just enough to set the hook.
With braid, the hook moves the same distance as the tip of the rod, so I quite often pull the hook out of the fishes mouth. We sometimes joke that I am just going to wind in a tiny pair of jaws. I am sure many a fish, after it’s first nibble, has headed in the other direction with a sore mouth.
Why am I telling you this? When fishing for people, we need to be ready to set the hook, to not say “I will talk to you about God one day, or you should come to my church one day” but “Let’s talk about God right now”, or” will you come to church with me, I will pick you up this Sunday morning at 8.”
But on the other hand, we dare not over-react when someone asks us the first tentative question, start dancing down the street singing about the angels rejoicing over this one sinner who repents, and leave the poor person running away sore and bruised, because we have pulled the hook out of their mouth.
No catch and release
I remember when I was about 7 years old, and my father and I returned one day to my Grandparents home in Dalby from a fishing trip on the Condamine river, my Grandfather remarked that if there is fishing in heaven, he hoped God made him the fishing warden. I think Grandad is out of luck on that one up there, because God’s kingdom has no rules about catch and release. There is no size limit in the kingdom of God, he wants the little tiddlers as well as the big ones. There is no bag limit, the nets are never too full. There is always room for another.
Isn’t it amazing that for so many people, fishing for fish is so relaxing, but the thought of being “fishers of men” is so terrifying? What are we afraid of? Embarrassment? I have come home a lot of times with a wet bum and no fish, but that doesn’t stop us trying. Failure? How do we measure that? Is it a failure to return empty-handed, or never to have set out at all?
Jesus calls us. Come, follow me. He is the fishing guide. They are his fish, after all. My prayer is that you all come to love fishing as I do. (And that you might be a lot better at it, than I am)
Dear Lord, let me catch a fish so big that, even I,
When speaking of it afterwards, will have no need to lie,
But when the time has come to fish for men, help me to do
The best I can, so many might be in the boat with you.