“A Fishy Tale”
Epiphany 5 – February 10, 2019 – Year C – Annual Meeting
One of the challenging tasks a congregation faces is choosing a new minister. A member of the Search Committee undergoing this endless process finally lost patience. So, he stood up and read a letter purporting to be from another applicant.
“Friends: Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I’ve been a preacher with much success and also had some success as a writer. Some say I’m a good organizer. I’ve been a leader most places I’ve been.
I’m over 50 years of age. I have never preached in one place for more than 3 years. In some places I have left town after my work has caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail 3 or 4 times, but not because of any real wrongdoing. My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I’ve not got along well with religious leaders in towns where I have preached. In fact, some have threated me and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I have baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you.”
The committee member looked over the committee. “Well, what do you think? Shall we call him?”
The good church folks were aghast. Call an unhealthy, trouble-making, absent-minded ex-jailbird? Was the committee member crazy? Who signed that application?
Who had such colossal nerve?
The committee member eyed them all keenly before he answered. “It’s signed, ‘The Apostle Paul.”
If we were truly honest, most of us could write a similar letter of application. Our impatience, fears, and lack of experience is often viewed as a detriment. Many of us would say we do not read the Bible on a regular basis, we don’t have time or interest in extra projects and responsibilities pertaining to the church, and our faith is just not strong enough. Such is the litany that is all too common. Would we give our list of excuses if we too were called to serve our God?
In a short while we will start our Annual Meeting. One of our agenda items is naming a Search Committee. This group of people will be charged with the task of determining a future direction for this congregation. There will be questionnaires and group feedback opportunities in the months ahead, to help the committee discern the faithful course. One part of the task of the Search Committee is discerning the type of ministry that will best meet your needs. There are many types and styles of ministry. Part time, student, Recognized Lay, intentional interim, full time, ordained and diaconal are just some of the options. You will be hearing more as the months unfold.
In fact, you will hear accounts of how candidates for ministry heard Jesus telling them that they will be catching people, in Jesus’ name. For Simon Peter, James and John, it was after a long, tiring night of fishing. They were exhausted. So, when Jesus told Simon to go out into the deep water and put down his net, Simon was less than thrilled. He had a full night of unsuccessful fishing. The last thing he wanted to do was do back out and let down his nets. But, the Master had spoken and being the obliging sort, Simon did as he was commanded. Lo and behold, he caught so many fish he needed help to reel them in. After signalling his partners in another boat, and together hauling in an amazing catch of fish, Simon fell to his knees and pleaded with Jesus to go away, for Simon acknowledged his own sinfulness. Jesus was not deterred by Simon’s honesty and humbleness. “From now on you will be catching people.”
What a directive! What an amazing challenge! What a new focus for life! It is a call to all of us. Jesus says to not be afraid. In spite of lack of training or experience those fishers of old were called to introduce Jesus to others. And it is that same call that we hear today. We are to draw people close to Jesus’ welcoming love. It is a call that each of us are to respond to. Whether it be that we visit the lonely or the ill, or assist the tired and troubled, we do so as followers of Jesus. When we search the deep waters of our lives, we see there the awesome reflection of God who calls us to follow the way of Christ. It is the way of peace and justice. We fling the doors of the church wide open inviting the community to come in and find sanctuary in the midst of stress and challenge. There, all might experience Christ’s welcome and encouragement.
May we fish the waters of acceptance. Cast your net into the river of love. And remember, from now on you will be catching people, in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.