Fishing for people. What images come to mind with this phrase? Can we move beyond the simplistic “rounding people up for Jesus” and talk about making connections, about the interwoven net of interrelationships of influence and support? The fishing idea needs to expand beyond the numbers, wide enough to include acceptance and hospitality. Jesus is inviting his followers to a life of engagement. Here again, we can celebrate the moments of fellowship within the life of the community, particularly the ones that open arms wide to include those who are not yet a part of the church. Lift up teams and individuals who are finding ways to use their gifts and their connections and their vocations to further the cause of Christ in direct and indirect ways. Here is where we can thank teachers, who might not be able to be direct in their “fishing” expeditions but can certainly represent the love of Christ in how they treat their charges, how they interact with staff and administration. Celebrate the businesspeople who work to improve the community in ways that aren’t always reflected in the bottom line. Encourage the neighbors who bring a shepherding, caring presence into their communities. Fishing for people is more than filling pews on a Sunday morning.
How do we convince people that following Jesus is not simply about a state of being, but a call to doing? Certainly, there is a need for training, for preparation, for growing as disciples; but the end is always an outward focus, always looking for ways to connect, to widen the net.
Our prayers are not just for ourselves, but for the needs of the community around us. Our prayers are not just for our aches and pains, but for the brokenness of the “least of these” around us, the hungry and the hurting. Our songs are not just about the state of our souls or the home we have in heaven, but about the influence we can have on building the kin-dom of God in the world where we live.
Our text is a call story; let’s think about reissuing that call. Some of those who are worshiping in your congregation answered that call so long ago that they forgot what it was like to be new in the faith, to be so energized by this new relationship with Christ that they couldn’t help but tell everyone they knew. Remind them. Ask them to make the choice again. “I Have Decided” (The Faith We Sing, #2129) is a great chorus to sing today. It is simple and repetitive, but it is a reminder of the decision being made here. And it might be a way to recapture a little of the passion behind the choice. “Follow me,” says Jesus, “and I’ll keep you busy, keep you bubbling over with a desire to connect, to share, to gather. Follow me and you’ll never be alone again.”
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.