It ain’t easy trolling for fish or souls in need
The Spirituality section is more necessary than ever
FLORIDA TODAY Engagement Editor John A. Torres sits down with spirituality columnist Norris Burkes to discuss the ongoing need for a positive message.
Rob Landers, Florida Today
I think it was Jesus who encouraged his disciples to become “fishers of men”. And honestly, this task seems a lot easier than the literal job of catching fish.
Fishing requires a level of patience that I don’t have. You would know that if you had ever seen me pacing the stage at one of my talks.
Last week, I was reminded of my distaste for fishing again when I took my grandsons and their parents on a fishing boat in Seward, Alaska. We were fishing the big halibut that we had seen people bringing home the day before, prehistoric 90-pound monsters.
To begin the trip, I put an anti-motion sickness patch on my arm and filed my visa to charter a boat from Alaskan Summertime Charters. Jon Tippit is the captain of AK Summertime. I trust Jon because he mentored my son, Michael, in his dream of being captain. It’s also my California neighbor during the winter months.
Including Jon and me, the little boat carried eight souls: my wife, Becky, our son, Michael, our daughter Brittney, her husband and two sons.
During our hour-long cruise to the fishing grounds, Jon acted as the guide, pointing out dolphins, whales, puffins, and WWII gun emplacement.
When we arrived he dropped anchor about 100ft from a rock formation where we started to fish in earnest. On my first cast, I landed a rockfish.
A few minutes later, this little catch took its revenge when my body started screaming to get my breakfast up.
My teenage grandsons joined me along the side, followed by their father.
Apart from the two professional fishermen on board, the only other people who held on were the fisherwomen.
This whole experience made me wonder how Jesus was so successful in recruiting sinners to be his first disciples.
The story is told in Mark 1:16-18.
“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the water, for they were fishing for a living. Jesus cried out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish people!” And they immediately left their nets and followed him.”
This passage has always bothered me because I come from a tradition that preaches that we Christians should always lag behind for souls. I was taught that we must first hook the unsuspecting sinner and convince him that he is doomed. Bring him to the altar of the church and help him towards the truth. It was the only way to save the poor fish – uh, man.
But over the years, my work as a chaplain has taught me to see a different angle from that of the fisherman.
We are not all fishermen. Thus, it seems more likely that Jesus used the fishing metaphor to personalize his message to Simon and Andrew.
While these anglers readily understood fish talk, you and I respond better to metaphors than we know. For example, the teacher may hear Jesus say, “Follow me and teach my people.”
The musician hears him say: “Follow me and sing the joys of the kingdom. Engineer can hear: “Follow me and help people solve their toughest problems.” We can all hear different words that reflect our calling. “Follow me and I’ll make you (fill in the blank).”
For me, in my job, that means helping people where they are, providing the help they need. I must not try to turn them into something they are not. Ultimately, I have to let Jesus do this.
Finally, I know the question you’re dying to ask this fisherman setter: did you catch anything? We missed the elusive halibut, but Brittney caught six rockfish against mine.
Yeah. I am certainly not a fisherman.
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