2/8/04, Ep5C, Scout Sunday
hat a great story for our many young scouts to hear on Scout Sunday. One of the great things that scouting teaches is a love for the outdoors and camping. Our text is about guys out fishing on a lake all night. This theme is apropos for the rest of us too because we hear that the New Testament plan for bringing new people into the Kingdom of God is the role of everyone who chooses to follow Jesus. We are called to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to become his partners in Fishing For Folks.
Now some of you may be shy and afraid of the prospects of dealing with strangers. Don’ worry, the Spirit of God will help us. He’s kind of like the super nice fishing guide who takes you out on the lake in his big nice boat and baits your hook, shows you where to cast, and almost reels in the fish for you. The Holy Spirit will provide the opportunity and will tell you what to say. In fact, oftemtimes you don’t have to say anything much at all; but you can just show by the example of your lifestyle what Christ has done for you.
The plot of today’s text involves the second calling of Simon Peter, The Big Fisherman, who was to become the leader of the Apostles. Peter, along with his brother Andrew, and the other two brothers, James and John, had been following Jesus in his initial stage of traveling ministry, but in this story they had gone back to fishing, perhaps on a day off, or as a means of making some money to cover expenses. However, this second level of a deeper calling, recorded in today’s story, marks the beginning of Jesus’ traveling ministry outside the close by northern towns of Palestine, and would require a full time commitment from all of the Apostles, and the others who would follow Jesus along the dusty roads of Palestine. >From now on they all would be a more integral part of sharing the Good News that Jesus Christ was the long awaited Messiah, the Savior of the World, and was ushering in his Kindgom. It was similar to the games of the regular season being over and it is now time for the critical playoffs.
In today’s world, you might say that we are still operating under a schedule as if we are still in the playoffs. We are called to be more focused and intense because the the games are about over and our season will soon end. For two-thousand years the Church has operated as if its end is near. This modus operandi has continually called forth a higher level of effort. For example, our United Methodist Mission Statement and model for ministry for the past seven years has been the succinct five words: “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.” This goal should lie at the center of all else that we do as a local church and as a denominational branch of the universal invisible body of Christ. As a first priority we must lead new persons to Christ and also make sure that those who are on our church rolls have not fallen away. Additionally, we are to equip and train church members to become bearers of the Good News, the Gospel, in the workplace, in the schools, and in the malls. Ten million Methodists can obviously reach more people than a few thousand clergy.
I struck up a conversation with a stranger at Arbor Place Mall last Friday. He was also sitting in the soft seats waiting on the wife. He had two small boys that he was trying to herd. I reminded him that before he knew it, the years woulf fly by and his precious boys would be grown and gone, as are my daughters. I told him about our camping throughout the 48 contiguous states, when the girls were younger. He said that was something he wanted to do. He had traveled a lot before his marriage and seemed to be inspired to start his family out on the grand voyage. He was from near Lost Mountain so I told him about our Hope United Methodist Church near his home. I shared with him how much the church has meant to our family, and the many children and youth programs that we have at any local congregation in the growing edge of Metro-Atlanta. He asked how I had decided to become a pastor, thus inviting me to share my happy story of how I had been converted at age twenty-one, and how God had also called me to preach, as a part of that same experience. I tried to not drag the story out too long, and I felt like he was caught up in my excitement. About then, his wife and teenage daughter showed up, and as I watched them walk down the mall I could tell that he was explaining to them what had just happened. I somehow feel that they are in worship somewhere this morning.
My encounter with this total stranger is typical of the kind of normal conversation that the the Holy Spirit can use to bring precious souls into a local church where they will have their best hope of experiencing salvation, and growing in their faith. Actually, talking about Jesus, and what he can do for folks, and families, should be as normal as a conversation as we might have in bragging about our Carrollton High School boys basketball team’s 25-0, regular season record, and how we hope and pray that they will have a perfect season when the dust settles after the playoff games.
Every doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief, scout, student, coach, teacher, salesperson, nurse; all of us are called to become Fishers For Folks. A dentist friend tells how he has a perfect opportunity to tell folks about what the Lord is doing in his life, as he has patients stretched out in his dental chair unable to run away. Sometimes he simply tells them how he was in church last Sunday and what the sermon was about and perhaps how he has been helped so often in his life by the presence and guidance of God. He also loves to tell about his kids and how much they love their Sunday School class and how much the church has helped him in his marriage and in his work. Conversational evangelism is as easy as eating pie.
As were the fishermen by the Sea of Galilee called to become Fishers of Folks, so are we given this high calling. As many have already found out, it is a great joy to be used by the Spirit as an instrument of his calling someone else through you. Be thinking about what succinct words you might say and commit yourself to share your personal story the next time the Holy Spirit gives you an opportunity to touch someone’s soul.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor