January 18, 2023: Fishing for people

Reading: Matthew 4:12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

 

Reflection

So, what does it mean to fish for people? I think many of us think “evangelism,” when we hear that phrase. I wonder, though, if sometimes we go fishing for people for the wrong reasons. Often, it becomes all about the numbers, and how many people we can bring in to become church members. It is an easy path to go down, because we tend to measure everything in numbers, as in how many show up for worship on a given Sunday morning, or how many we have on the membership rolls.

We quite often tend to measure success in numbers, and nothing else. But you know Jesus did not say; ”I’ll teach you to fish for people, and I will guarantee that your churches are filled on Sunday mornings, if you do it right.” No, what Jesus says, first of all, is “follow me,” which is the very first rule of discipleship, and evangelism, for that matter. We follow Jesus and we seek to grow as his disciples.

So, why would we want to follow Jesus, and why would we want to invite others to come with us on that journey? To me, it is more than anything about God’s unconditional love and grace. And it is about God’s faithfulness. The world will eventually disappoint us, but God is always there, perhaps not always in ways we expect, yet God always shows up, whether in Christian community, or through words and acts of kindness and grace, from friends and strangers alike.

I want others to be able to experience God’s love in such ways as well. In a world filled with all kinds of “lures,” it is easy to take the bait that looks most attractive, only to find out that it still leaves us searching for something deeper in the end; as in a closer relationship with God.

It is when we seek to get to know our neighbor, and in sharing our faith in loving and caring ways, that I think we are most faithful in our calling to go and make disciples. It is when we extend God’s grace to those around us, and we do so in the name of Christ, that we help to sow seeds of faith.

There are no guarantees that sharing our faith in grace-filled and loving ways will lead to church membership, and that’s OK. We cannot predict how the Holy Spirit might work in their lives, yet I trust that it is God’s grace that will eventually change the world, and our calling is to share that message in word and deed.

–Tormod Svensson

 

Prayer

Gracious God, you have shown us your unconditional, eternal grace through the life, death and resurrection of your beloved son, Jesus Christ. Help us to faithfully share that love with the world, for the sake of the world.

Amen.