Fishers of Humanity

Good Morning,

We love to tell stories. Whenever we get together with my family there is always stories that are shared, whenever we get together with Steph’s family there are stories shared, and even some that are favorites that are repeated often. Narratives are how we pass information from one generation to the next. Narratives are the way we explain what has happened in our family history. Narratives are the way in which we communicate what is important in our lives. At every age, we tell stories. A few years ago, Steph and I attended the Bishops Retreat in Hershey and the speaker for the retreat was speaking on having fruitfulness. He spoke about knowing our own stories, knowing what God has done through us before, and dreaming about what God can do through us.

Stories reveal every aspect of our lives, good times, sad times, funny times and in-between times. Those narratives, however, are often missing something. They often have the absent link of our narratives is God. Whether God was seemingly active or inactive is sometimes left out of our narrative stories. Our culture is so afraid in a lot of ways to speak of God outside of the church walls that we repeatedly leave God out of our conversations. Instead of asking the question, “Where was God in all of this?” We tend to remain silent.

Worse yet, we couch our responses in certain ways to make people feel comfortable. Maybe that is ok in certain instances and maybe that is ok sometimes, but other times we need to be below. My call to pastoral ministry comes directly from 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2. Paul says that Christ loves compels us, Christ died for all, all who are in him are made new, and as believers we are Christ’s ambassadors. My mission is use the gifts which God gave me to teach, lead, and set a vision for spiritual formation and evangelism. I believe that God has created me for the ministry of helping those lost become reconciled back to their creator, to teach how as a person in the body of Christ we have a purpose and a role to play in sharing the Grace which God has freely given to us through the means of baptism and holy communion. It is my goal to equip both the congregation and lay leaders to grow in sanctifying grace and become the disciples which our Father has created them to be.

Part of being Christian inherently means that we are called to some higher purpose. Now each of us has our own gifts and graces, but we are called to join in the mission and ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Think about our passage from Mark. In this passage there are Simon and Andrew, James and John. Christ has invited them to come on this journey with him in quite a brilliant way. He takes the world that they know and understand, fishing, and expands it beyond the possibilities of what they would have known.

Now how many of us have gone fishing in your lifetime? I have not been very often, in fact the only time that I caught a fish was once with a church member a few years ago and once with my father in-law a few years after that. Somethings that I do know about fishing though is that it helps to know what you're fishing for. Some kinds of 'bait' attract one kind of fish and others attract another. And yet, people are less predictable than fish.

There are certain times of the day which are apparently better for fishing than others. And yes, there are probably certain times in life which may or may not be better than others to reach others with the gifts of God. Times when people are already asking big questions... times of great joy and great sadness, for instance. Or certain times of year when people just find themselves thinking about matters of faith --- Christmas or Easter, for instance. Certainly you and I who are bearers of this good news would do well to 'follow' Jesus into such times and places. Certainly we are called to be as present as we possibly can be then so that we won't miss an opportunity to share what we have been given to pass along.

And, of course, there will be no fish to be 'caught' if the water is polluted or has run dry. This surely is a call to people of faith to care for people as they seek to meet the basic needs of their lives. And to seek to change things when necessary. If people are hungry or afraid, for instance, they may not have the time, the energy, or the will to even consider larger questions. If people are stretched too thin by the demands of everyday life, I expect the result is the same.

Finally, fishing takes patience. We can’t expect that everything we try to do together for the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ will simply work right off the bat, but that doesn't mean that it wont work. One more thing and here I find myself returning again to where I started. In this story, Jesus calls four fishermen from lives they knew by heart into lives they could not have imagined although at least part of them must have been wondering or they would not have left their nets so quickly to take up after Jesus. I wonder now what it is that Jesus is calling us away from and what Jesus is calling us to, don't you? I wonder how our worlds would change if we just 'left our nets behind' and stepped into the new life before us. I wonder how the world itself would change if we just did this, too.

Friends to have been called by God to this mission in the world. This church that we call the United Methodist Church, was never meant to be a church. John and Charles Wesley never set out to begin a new church, they had set out to reform the church of their day. They saw the brokenness of the church and how the system was no longer working and they sought to refocus the people on being holy and sharing the love which God has given. Are you an evangelical? I hope so.

It's a trick question, of course, especially for a word that's so controversial and complex. "Evangelical" is one of those words that dies the death of a thousand qualifications. That's a shame, because it's an important word. Far beyond mere knee jerk reactions, today you can read sophisticated studies about "evangelicals" from every imaginable perspective: historical, cultural, ethnic, sociological, gender, economic, political, ecclesiastical, missiological, theological, and biblical.

There is such broad diversity of traditions that could be included under the umbrella term "evangelical" — Dutch Calvinists, African- American Baptists, all manner of Anabaptists, Catholic charismatics, converts to Orthodoxy, Episcopalians in Africa, Brazilian and Korean pentecostals, the Southern Baptist Convention, and, let's not forget, the original evangelicals in America, the Methodists, thanks to the trans-Atlantic preaching of the British John Wesley.

The thing that has often been lost with those of this movement is that we don't hold true to the vision of our historical leaders. The calling that they believed in and it is the very same calling that Jesus gave to his disciples over 2000 years ago. This world needs to experience the grace of God and though it is with them they may not recognize it if good faithful Christians do nothing in response to the grace that is present with them. We need to pray for our callings so that we may find where God is leading us. We need to act on our callings so that others will know Jesus. We need to share our stories so that this world may be transformed by the renewing of all our minds. We need transformation in this world so that we can live as the beloved children of God that we are. Amen.