What do you like doing with your dad?
Growing up, fishing was our thing. He would take me fishing a lot. It was our father-son time together. When I was little we did mostly lake fishing, but as I got older, he would take me out on half-day boats. It was the best. The challenge of catching a fish, battling against this primal force of nature, and then bringing it in. It was always exciting. But mostly I loved going out with my dad and hanging out. When we would go to the lake, I’d bring a stack of comics from the library with me and just sort of sit in the car or in a chair and blissfully read about Doctor Strange or the Hulk. My dad would do all the real work. He would let me do all the fun stuff like cast the line and reel the fish in, but the hard stuff? That was all dad. All I did was read comics, eat hamburgers from the burger place, and reel the fish in once he caught them. When I was about eight years old, my dad took me fishing at Puddingstone Lake and we caught ELEVEN fish. It was amazing. ELEVEN fish! My dad let me reel all of them in. It was one of the best times we had on the lake. When we got home, I RAN into the house and shouted, “Mom! Mom! Guess what? I caught ELEVEN fish and Dad didn’t catch a single one!” Fishing with my dad was great but I know that if he had been by himself, he probably could have caught more. He also would have had more peace and quiet. He didn’t NEED me there. He WANTED me there. And that makes it all the more special.
God is like that.
God is like your dad who wants to take you fishing. Sure, he could do it all by himself, but the joy of spending time with you, of sharing those moments together, are treasured by God. God doesn’t NEED you. He WANTS you. He wants you to be part of what he’s doing. He wants you to spend time with him, to help him, to be part of this amazing plan he has for the universe. But he leaves it up to us. Whether we want to help is up to us. God doesn’t force us. So we’re always free to say “no.” Have you ever said “no” to your parents? Have you ever looked back and thought, “What an idiot I am!” I have. When I was in college, my parents were going to take my sisters with them to Hawaii. HAWAII! I’d never been to Hawaii. My sisters had never been to Hawaii. I think my dad was there once when he was in the Navy, but I don’t think my mom had ever been there either. At the time, I was working at Disneyland and enjoying the free time of summer. But my parents asked me if I’d like to go. In my head, I was thinking I’d have to take time off of work, they might not give it to me, and besides, I’d have the whole house all to myself. So I said, “No, thanks.” HAWAII! It wouldn’t be for about another 20 years before I’d have the chance to go. In the meantime, the rest of my family had this wonderful memory about their time on the islands and they had this beautiful family photo up on top of the TV with all of them in Hawaii. All of them except me. Of course, it was my own fault. But those are both the benefits and the drawbacks of free will. We get to decide, but sometimes we don’t always make the best choices.
What will you choose?
Are you going to help your Dad or will you say “No thanks?” Because your Father in Heaven is waiting for you, is reaching out to you, is hoping you’ll say, “Let’s go catch some fish!” Fishing is God’s favorite sport. You don’t see any mention of football or basketball or baseball or hockey in the Bible. True, they weren’t invented yet and fishing in the Bible isn’t mentioned as a sport but as a way of life. But fish play a vital role in the story of God. The fish is a symbol for Jesus. Jesus shared fishes and loaves with the five thousand. Jonah from the Old Testament wasn’t swallowed by a whale but by a giant fish. And fish are one of the animals specifically mentioned in the creation story. Fishing itself is venerated, not for the act of catching fish, but what it means in a deeper sense. We will hear about that in our passage this morning.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
God wants us to be fishers of people.
That is the role we were created for. And while you don’t literally have to be a fisherman to do that, the qualities that make up the character of a successful fisherman are what Jesus is hoping for from us. Patience. Perseverance. Strength. Trust. We see these qualities in Simon Peter’s story right here. They had been fishing all night (perseverance) but without any luck. Then this teacher comes up and asks one of the fisherman, Simon, to take him a bit off shore. Simon must be pretty tired. He just got done after a long night of fishing and Jesus catches him while he and his partners are cleaning their nets. I imagine Simon was looking forward to a nice hot meal and some sleep, but out of respect for this teacher he takes him a little bit off shore so that those gathered around could all hear him better (patience). I don’t know exactly what Jesus was teaching that day, but Simon Peter must have respected Jesus quite a bit because even though he had just got done cleaning the nets and was ready to go home, he does as Jesus asks and takes him out to sea and then casts his nets in the water. He says to Jesus, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets (trust).” And then they caught so many fish, it almost broke their nets. They had to have James and John and everyone in the other boats come to help (strength). But what really showed the kind of strength and trust Jesus is looking for is how they left everything behind, including this career changing catch to follow him.
Do you have what it takes to be a fisher of men?
Or fisher of people to be more precise. Do you have the patience, perseverance, strength, and trust God is looking for? Because it takes all of these attributes to be successful. You have to be patient when trying to catch a fish because it can take a long time for one to bite. You have to have perseverance because not everything you try will work and sometimes you’ll fail before you succeed. But you can’t give up. You need to have strength to bring the fish in because its natural instinct is to flee. And you have to have trust that your efforts are not in vain. All of these same qualities apply when it comes to fishing for people. When you’re trying to help someone know and trust in Christ, that can be a lifelong effort. It may take some people decades to come around if ever. We have to have perseverance in the waiting. We can’t give up just because some choose not to go deeper in their faith. Because you never know who might just blossom in their belief. We are like the sower of seeds who keeps faithfully spreading them, not knowing which ones will sprout but being faithful to the process. Which is where trust comes in. We have to trust in God to make faith blossom. We can only do our part, but it’s up to God and the people God is trying to reach for it to grow. And the strength comes in strength of character. There will always be people who doubt you or even question if it’s the right thing to do. There are people who will resist or push back or even call you names and insult you, but you must be strong when this happens and again trust in God that what you’re doing is exactly what God wants you to do. Because God does want you with him in his work. God wants you to be a part of it. He wants to grow closer to you and sharing in this effort will bring you closer to him. And the best part is when you see these efforts come to fruition, you’ll feel a sense of joy that only comes from doing God’s work.
I love to cook.
And when Emma was younger, we used to cook fish together. She would come in the kitchen and I’d ask her if she wanted to help and she always did. She loved it especially when I cooked panko-breaded fish. We would get messy together and it was a lot of fun. And like my dad, I didn’t need the help. I could have done it all by myself. But I was so happy every time Emma wanted to help because it meant I got to spend time with her and that we would get to know each other, that our bond would grow stronger. And I hope that every time we spend moments like these together, we are building memories that let her know I love her and value her just because she is my child. We all need that and that’s something God wants for each and every one of us, too. God wants us to live a life where we feel WANTED. Because a person who knows they are valued is a person who approaches life with vigor and energy and hope. God has a plan for you. As he told Jeremiah, it’s a plan to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Praise God. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.