Mission Today: Time to go fishing

given on Sunday, April 10, 2016

Scripture connection: John 21:1-19, NLT

Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.[a] This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[b] Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows,[c] have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards[d] from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others[f] will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

 

Reflection:

Let’s talk fishing. Sitting here in the sanctuary on a bright sunny spring morning, fishing may not be very far from one’s thoughts. Of course if someone has never fished, listening to John’s fishing story may not mean much at all. Yet to fishermen, and most of us know at least one who is so passionate about fishing they did go this morning rather than join us for worship, the story speaks to the heart.

When Simon Peter announced that he was going fishing, the others quickly said they would go with him. Remember, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen by trade. In Matthew 4:18-22, we learn how Jesus called them:

1                8 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. –NLT

 

Can you imagine what James’s and John’s father must have thought as they simply stood up from the task of mending nets and walked away!

Still, fishing was a vocation, a job that provided for families of the fishermen themselves but also for the customers who depended on the food source. Fishing was an industry to these men so they knew the basics but also the special insights that take casual fishing to a well-trained skill. Fishing was no hobby; it was a lifestyle.

When reading John’s gospel, fishing was a safe haven for Simon Peter. The days since the crucifixion must have been chaotic for the Apostles. Their emotions were swinging from euphoric highs to utter despairing lows.

Two times they witnessed Jesus’ return to assure them that he was alive, yet they had no plan. They had no idea what road was safe or what road lead to their own arrest or worse. As a small group, one had belayed their trust and was now dead. Others were draining them with thousands of questions of what to do now while some were turning away and resuming their old ways of living.

Going fishing was safe, and it was a way to get some sense of normalcy. Fishing could keep the hands busy while the mind sifted through all the events of the past and look ahead for direction. Simon Peter went fishing, and the others followed.

Stop and think about the events in our own lives. We all have had times that are so overwhelming that we lose a sense of stability. Yet, the very foundation of our Christian faith remains solid. We establish the routine of Sunday worship as an anchor for the week. Missing Sunday morning seems to make the week go on and on. There is no marker that ends one crazy week and refreshes us for the week ahead. There is no group of people who provide the nurturing support when we need it. There is no time for prayer, for scripture, and for direction—at least for many who are overwhelmed by the demands of daily life.

Arriving for worship and/or Sunday school is much like packing up and heading for a favorite fishing hole. There is a sense of peace that comes from stepping into the church, especially the sanctuary. There is a quiet unlike the quiet at home or at work. God is here.

Yet fishing is a process. A favorite fishing hole is no good if there is no pole or bait. There is skill in knowing the fish living below the water’s surface. Each breed goes for different styles of bait and live in that ecosystem differently. Avid and professional fishermen develop an internal mechanism that catalogs that information and can access it based on the weather conditions, the different locations, and even the seasons.

Jesus appeared that third time at the edge of the water. He understood the emotional turmoil these men were experiencing. Why he had told Simon Peter that before the cock crowed on that Sabbath morning (a Friday in the Jewish tradition) he would deny knowing Jesus three times. Remember how Peter felt when he heard the cock crow:

54 So they arrested him [Jesus] and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”

57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”

“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.

59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”

60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. –Luke 22:54-62, NLT

 

Peter left weeping bitterly. He knew what he had done, and he knew Jesus had known.

Going fishing was Peter’s safe haven. He had stayed with the other Apostles, yet he needed some time and space to begin the healing process. Fishing was an antidote for all the craziness of the past three years, much less the last three weeks (if the season accurately reflects that time span).

Undoubtedly each one of us can identify with Peter. We surely have done something we were told we would do or should not do only to be the wrong thing to do. We know that sense of regret, guilt, shame, or horror. Others are hurt. Something does not get done, or something goes terribly wrong. When the proverbial dust settles, we find ourselves in a quandary. Friends or family members are hurt or worse, lost. All kinds of damage occurs and needs repair.

Jesus’ third appearance along the edge of the Sea of Galilee provided Peter an antidote. Hear those final verses again:

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” –NLT

 

Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Three times Peter had denied even knowing Jesus. The antidote was necessary before Jesus could send Peter out on God’s mission: Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

Going fishing is God’s mission. We are here this morning to be equipped to carry on God’s mission to spread the story and to eradicate evil in any way we can. Going fishing takes practice, it takes the right gear, and it takes us.   Fishing provides mental and emotional feeding as well as food for our tables depending on one’s needs. Anybody can fish as long as they try.

God equips us, we just have to realize that we are at the local fishing hole and that we have all that we need to do all that we can. We can work alone or we can work as a team. We may know what it takes to reach others in the name of Jesus Christ, or we may need to educate ourselves formally or informally. As a team, we probably can catch more fish, so rally around each other and share what you know or what you want to try. God will work through you.

Closing prayer:

Dear Lord Almighty,

Each of us have denied you

as Simon Peter denied you.

Each of us loves you

as Simon Peter loves you.

 

Grant us forgiveness

as you forgave Simon Peter.

Grant us courage

as you gave the Apostles.

 

Equip us with the knowledge

of your story

Equip us with the skills

to share your story.

 

Pick us up

when we stumble and fall.

Pick us up

when we become discouraged.

 

With you guiding us,

we will step out of the boat.

With your Words,

we will share the Story.

 

May we discover

we are fishermen/women.

May our work

continue your mission.

 

Praise be to you,

Father, Son and Holy Ghost. –Amen

 

 

 

 

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