01 Feb When Was the Last Time You Went Fishing – Third Sunday after the Epiphany January 22 2023
Preacher: Rev. Stephen McPeek
Our Gospel reading today is anything but ambiguous. Jesus begins his ministry with two clear calls. He begins by a clear command to those who are listening: REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven has come. Secondly, he issues another clear command: FOLLOW ME and I will make you fish for people.
My question to us at the beginning of this sermon is: How seriously do we take the call and commands of Jesus?
Let’s start with the first command. REPENT. If I were to ask most of you, you would probably have a definition for this word. You might say it means to turn around 180 degrees, say you are sorry for something you have done that has hurt someone, stop with the bad behavior. Repent comes from the Greek word Metanoeō which means to change one’s mind, to turning with contrition from sin to God, to think differently, to morally reconsider.
In preparing for this sermon, I read something that I thought was really compelling:
While repentance/metanoia is difficult to describe, the phenomenon and its effects can be summed up in this statement: metanoia has occurred when something
(1) boundless and unexpected– it takes us way beyond our comfort zone
(2) beyond reason – normally way beyond reason, and intensely, deeply personal. It is not simply that we change our minds or even that they are persuaded to change, but rather that we OURSELVES are changed.
(3) mysteriously compelling sparks – we are caught up in something more powerful than any force of will we might generate. It produces momentum greater than our own desires, momentum that mysteriously propels our shift in attitude or action.
(4) non-conformity borne of conviction– metanoia always involves some kind of rejection of the status quo. For those who have experienced metanoia, to keep acting the same way they did before the change of heart and mind becomes intolerable, even impossible.
(5) deeper connection to others, and
(6) deeper knowledge of our own story and identity toward
(7) broadened horizons or a new world.
When we respond to the command of Jesus to repent, something deep and comprehensive happens. Our lives are transformed and continue to be transformed into the image of Jesus.
I experienced a major metanoia when I was 17 years old. I was on my way to Germany as an exchange student and a young man from Montana named Clark who I got to know through Future Farmers of America invited me to visit him on my way to Germany. I had been restless in spirit and wanting more of God, but as a Catholic, didn’t know what to do. I wrote in my journal the day before I left Hawaii, “In this year, I want to find God, and I want to find myself.” On the first night in Montana, Clark unexpectedly took me to his little church. The singing was vibrant and emotional, and the preaching with such conviction. I was not used to this type of worship and it began to move me. My brain was working overtime telling myself that this is just not Catholic and that I should be careful. But it became intensely and deeply personal. The pastor asked everyone who wanted to give their lives to Jesus to come forward. This type of thing was so foreign to me but there was this spark of energy that I could not resist, and I went forward, crying without knowing why I was crying. All I knew was that something was happening to me and it had to do with God. I knew from that moment that my life would be different even though I had no idea what that meant. Since then, I have been and continue to be a Jesus freak – a follower of Jesus. At 64 years of age, I am not as crazy and daring as I used to be, but the conviction is the same.
What about you?
The second call in today’s Gospel reading is the call to fish. When was the last time you went fishing? I come from a family of hobby fishers. Grandparents on both sides loved to fish. My paternal grandparents owned a cabin on a lake in Colorado. They would go out in a rowboat and catch trout. My maternal grandparents would get up super early in the morning and drive to the ocean and fish. My parents owned a motorboat in Hawaii and they would go out early in the morning to catch tuna and dorado – ahi and mahimahi. One thing was clear about fishing – it was intentional. You didn’t catch fish by just hoping for it – you had to actually prepare, get your bait ready, and you had to cast your line into the water. And when something bit, you could feel it and you would begin to reel in the catch.
Jesus commanded Simon Peter and Andrew, followed by James, John and Zebedee to FOLLOW ME and I will make you fish for me. These are not wishy washy words, but rather strong one – FOLLOW and I will MAKE YOU. We read that they responded immediately and began to follow Jesus.
I didn’t have the same love of fishing as my grandparents and parents had, but after my initial metanoia at 17, I received a love for fishing for people. Over the next years, it became normal for me to share the love of Jesus with people I didn’t know, offer to pray for them, ask them if they have a relationship with Jesus and have a church they belong to. It was a normal overflow of the life change of metanoia. I really loved going out into the plazas in the middle of big European cities and preaching to the crowds. When we started in Hamburg-Altona, it was really hard. One day in prayer, we had the impression that we should go regularly to the main square with a big cross and just read from the Bible and not preach. We did this weekly for a number of months and then we started preaching. Before we knew it, crowds of 200-300 would listen to us. We often had excellent pantomime and dance productions that we would offer followed by preaching the word of the cross of Christ. One day, an older German Baptist friend was curious about what we do on the streets, so I invited him to come with us. He was very skeptical and insisted that Germans would never respond to public preaching much less come forward to give their lives to God. On that day after we preached, 11 people came forward and he was shocked.
My last experience on the streets was on Ash Wednesday 4 years ago in Mainz. We did something called “Ashes to Go” where Fr. Chris Easthill and I vested and together with a few people from the Mainz congregation went out in the freezing cold with a sign that said, “Ashes to Go.” He was reticent because he had never done anything like this before. Vinny refused to go because it did not seem liturgically correct. But we went and it was amazing how many people came up to us for ashes and for a prayer.
- What would it look like at CtK if we learned how to fish? I know from personal conversations how many of you love CtK and benefit from being a part of our church.
- When is the last time you invited someone who is unchurched to come to church with you? What holds you back from inviting someone?
- When was the last time you initiated a conversation with one of your friends about God and actually shared your faith in God?
- When was the last time you asked to pray for someone and then did it right then and there?
People are a lot more open than you think. People need what we have been given a lot more than you think. People need and are open to the love and comfort of God a lot more than you think.
What they are not open to is hypocrisy or religion that is dead and empty.
I can imagine that some of you are reacting to what I am saying because it is just not Anglican/Episcopal. Going out on a street corner may not be Episcopalian but just look at what we prayed in our collect. We asked God for the grace to answer Jesus’ call and to PROCLAIM TO ALL PEOPLE the Good news of his salvation. Let us explore what is a good fit for us and let’s go fishing.
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.