The Epiphany season teaches us about the effect that God’s manifestation (Epiphany) in Christ can have on the lives and mission of those who believe. Most of us aren’t fishermen. For us fishing is a leisure pursuit for those who enjoy a bit of quiet time by the river. So, when we read of Jesus calling his friends to become ‘fishers of people’, the imagery seems a bit out of date, after all most of us get our fish from the supermarket or the fishmonger. But despite the imagery, the message is clear, those who let down their nets in faith, will harvest a catch.
Most of us would have no problem with getting into a boat with Jesus and listening intently to his wonderful teachings, but when it comes to dropping the nets to fish, we shake our heads. Not only do we doubt our abilities, we doubt the fact that Jesus can catch anything either!
There are plenty of reasons why many of us are shy evangelists. Some of us believe that to be Christian, is primarily a “private matter.” It is hard to resist this view, it is the primary view about religion communicated to us by the culture in which we have grown up. Many Christians buy into this view.
Getting in the boat is fine, after all, water is calming and therapeutic. It is true, boats and water can be very calming and relaxing. But that does not alter the fact that God wants us to go fishing, not just as a spiritual exercise but to actually catch some fish! “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people,” says the Lord.
Another reason we can be shy evangelists is that we believe that we are not up to the task at hand. The faith is great, but we are not up to sharing it with others. We are afraid that they won’t listen. We are afraid they will think we are fanatics. We are afraid they won’t get it, so we say “why bother?” if God wants to catch more people, then it’s up to God to do his own fishing!
Christianity isn’t a spectator sport. There are no armchair faithful. We’re all out on the water, all hands on deck, everyone help cast those nets, and everyone help haul them in.
If the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly good news, then everyone should be able to hear it.
The fact that we have been called to fish for people, shows that God has remarkable hope for and great confidence in the church, for God has given the work of making disciples to us, a bunch of amateurs, those who can’t distinguish port from starboard. It’s not because we are able, but it’s because God is able. God is able to work a work within us, giving us what it takes to haul in a great catch.
The point really is Epiphany. God is here, in us and with us. Let’s share it with others. God is telling us that the ministry Christ began in the world is now ours. What we need to do is to get out on the water, drop out nets and hold firmly to the gospel message that has been proclaimed to us. God will be in the boat beside us, and God will give us our catch, so that God can gather his harvest, and all through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Yours in Christ
David G Vale