Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fishing for People

Audio of this sermon can be heard here.

Every once in a while, a crazy fish jumps out of the water and right into the boat, but, most of the time, the fisherman has to coax the fish onto a hook and then reel it in. That's how fishing works. Longtime anglers have their favorite spots--places where they know fish are likely to bite, but even they can have trouble. The etiquette of fishing dictates that, whenever you walk past someone sitting on the bank fishing, you're supposed to ask, "How are they biting?" instead of starting out with "Catch anything?" It's a polite way of asking someone if they've had any success without directly pointing out the person's failure. If they aren't biting at all, it's time to move along to another spot or perhaps pack up altogether. The fish don't come to you. You have to go to the fish. You have to find them. You have to convince them that they would be better off biting the tasty worm that you've thrown out for them to eat than swimming along on their own.

In Matthew 4, Jesus looks at Andrew and Simon and says, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." In Deuteronomy 30, Moses says, "Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away...No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe." In Romans 10, Paul writes, "For, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?...But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for 'Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.'"

From the days of Moses, God's people have seen that God himself comes near to them, to speak to them and to give them clear direction for their lives. Jesus himself is God's Word coming near to us--to be with us, to be one of us. And, in that great coming-near of God, Paul writes, the whole world can see and know that God's will for them is salvation. Think about that: God isn't hiding from us, waiting for us to say the right words, do the right things, and hold the right beliefs before we can find him; for all time and in every generation, God is searching for us, reaching out to us, fishing for us. I suppose the question is whether we are biting.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. The one who, at least in John's account, brought his brother Simon to Jesus. He's the one to whom some Greeks spoke about wanting to see Jesus. Those who are members of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew commit to personal evangelism--helping friends and family know who Jesus is. But the feast of St. Andrew reminds us that evangelism isn't about bringing someone to Jesus but about helping them know that, in Christ, God is already searching for them. What good news that is!

God is the fisherman. God is the one who has come to us. God is the one who refuses to give up on God's people. God is the one who searches for the lost and celebrates when they are found. When Jesus commissions us to "fish for people," we do so as participants in God's great love for the world. Isn't it nice to know that you are loved like that--loved with a pursuing, searching, yearning love that has no limits? When we invite people to know God and to know Jesus, we are inviting them to know that they are loved in the same way. So become an evangelist. Share that good news. It's as easy as inviting someone to see that God is already looking for her/him because of God's never-ending love.

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