A Fishing Expedition

Sunday, January 21, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church – Loudonville, NY
Mark 1:14-20

“Space. The final Frontier. These are the voyagers of the Starship Enterprise. It’s 5 year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Anyone who has ever watched Star Trek will be familiar with these words. They are a mission statement of the crew on the spaceship. They chart a course and investigate the planet and its surroundings. They have a mission and they have a plan. And so they go off on expeditions. They don’t always know what kind of situation they will find themselves in. They could be walking into danger, but they go anyway. They follow their calling, their mission.

In last week’s gospel Jesus called two disciples, Phillip and Nathaniel, and today we hear in Mark’s gospel that he has just called four more. Jesus is calling people to follow him and the surprising thing is that they immediately stop what they are doing and follow him. They hear his voice and he compels them to change what they are currently doing and follow go in a completely different direction. What’s even more surprising is that like the crew from the Starship Enterprise they are being called to follow into the great unknown. They too will explore strange new worlds, new lands. They will go into Gentile territory; they will go into enemy territory, and spread the good news. The disciples have no idea what they are getting into. They too could be walking into danger. John the Baptist has just been imprisoned, so they know they may suffer because of their association with Jesus. They don’t know what lies ahead, but they go anyway. Jesus is inviting them to a fishing expedition, but it’s not the kind of fishing trip they usually go on.

No, Jesus tells them, “I will make you fish for people.” More accurately he tells them, “I will make you to become fishers for people.” Jesus is not calling them to do something; he is calling them to become something. He is calling them to become more than who they currently are. The disciples had ordinary jobs like fishermen and yet they were created by God to be more than just people who earn a living. They were created with a purpose. They were created in the image of God and Jesus was calling them to live into that being. Maybe that’s why they immediately left what they were doing. It wasn’t that they didn’t enjoy what they were doing, but they heard in Jesus’ voice the opportunity to become even more than they were. They may not have understood what that meant, but they were excited at the possibility to become fishers for people.

What does that mean? It’s an odd statement isn’t it? Jesus wasn’t telling them to catch people in a net like they would fish was he? No, he was inviting them to learn how to gather people together. Jesus was inviting the disciples to learn from him how to gather people together like a school of fish and teach them about the kingdom of God. He was inviting them to learn how to share with others that “the kingdom of God has come near.” And just as Jesus did not have to bait the disciples into following him, they did not have to bait or trick people to get them to hear the good news. They only had to speak the truth of promise and hope as Jesus did to the disciples and the people would gather. They would come as quickly as fish would come to feed. They would gather together in multitudes. Enough that their nets would be overflowing.

Now that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be problems as these fish gather together. It doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be a feeding frenzy, because as fish gather together in great numbers, they can become aggressive for food – the temptation is always there to want to get more for themselves individually, and get their own way. And Jesus’ words don’t always reassure or comfort us. Sometimes they challenge us to do things we’d rather not do, and to face things about us that we need to change. But Jesus’ words of truth are always words that lead to life and wholeness.

And Jesus is calling us today to live into this life of wholeness as his disciples. He is calling us to learn to become more than we currently are. He is calling us to live into the fullness of all that God created us to be. Jesus called the disciples to become fishers for people because they were already fishermen. He wanted them to use the gifts they were given to the glory of God and not just to earn money to live. He was calling them to cast their nets bigger, to think bigger than what they were used to. Their gifts could be used to lead others into a better life, a life of purpose and meaning found in following Jesus.

What are the gifts that God has given to us and how are we using them for the glory of God? If Mark were to write the gospel today perhaps we would hear him say that Jesus called some to be sew-ers for people, because they like to sew. Or maybe there would be singers for people, and artists for people. There might be farmers for people, administrators for people, nurses for people, teachers for people, bakers for people, or even yoga instructors for people. Hey, we all could learn to be a little more flexible and not just physically! Yes, Jesus is calling us to use whatever gifts we have to lead others to God. Jesus is saying that life is more than just earning a paycheck, but life is about relationships – with God and with people. That is our mission.

Next week we will be having our annual meeting, a time to see what God has accomplished through Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in the past year, and discern what God is calling us to do next. I hope you’re all planning on being there because our annual meeting is a time to look at the budget not as a spreadsheet of salaries and figures, but as a mission plan, a visible way to see how God is working through us to accomplish God’s mission.  The numbers in our budget reflect how we have provided worship opportunities, pastoral care, Christian education, outreach, evangelism, social ministry, and social justice. It reflects how we have ministered to people and that is cause to celebrate. Our annual report is a way we can see the many ways Good Shepherd Lutheran Church makes a difference in this community. It’s a time when we can begin to think about all the gifts that God has blessed us with and prayerfully listen to how God may be calling us to use those gifts in ways we never imagined. The Holy Spirit can cast the net even wider and deeper than we ever could if we are willing to abandon our small boats, surrender our wills, and follow Jesus. He is calling us to be disciples.

Like the first disciples we may not always know where we are headed, but Jesus tells us -as he did them – to dream big. He tells us to stop trying to go after the little fish, to stop focusing on the things that really don’t matter – those little annoyances that pull us away from focusing on God’s will- for we are called to be more than that. We don’t have time to waste because the kingdom of God is here. That is what truly matters.

God has used this congregation to do so many wonderful things in the lives of people here, in our community and even around the world, and God has even bigger things in store for the coming year. Imagine what would happen if we just left our nets – the way we always do things – and let the Holy Spirit guide our actions! Imagine how we’d be changed if we didn’t let fear get in our way! Imagine the miracles that might be unleashed if instead of worrying about what could go wrong, we believed in the possibilities!

“Faith. The final Frontier. These are the voyagers of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Its mission: to explore strange new possibilities, to seek out new life and new disciples, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” It’s not a bad mission statement, especially when God is in charge of the expedition. May the Holy Spirit lead us forth with a bold and courageous faith. Amen!

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