Sunday, 25 January 2015

Followers and Fishers

A few years ago we took Tim and Lucy to a Barramundi farm in Townsville.

For around $15 for half an hour we were each give a rod and a bucket of bait and sent to a damn which was about a big as the church.

You put your bait on a hook, you cast out your line, you reeled it in and on just about every cast you caught a fish – a barramundi.

In a world of instant gratification catching fish at the fish farm was as easy as surfing the net.

But real fishing isn’t as easy.

When Jesus saw Simon and Andrew and called them saying ““Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”   I am pretty sure that their experience of fishing was very different.

Fishing was their trade and fishing involved preparation, perseverance, patience and persistence.

It was hard work.  So Jesus wasn’t inviting them to the barramundi farm he was inviting them to follow him and to get their hands dirty.

Now there are two distinct parts of this statement: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”   

The first is an invitation to be a follower – to follow a leader, to learn from them, to be a student and a disciple and a part of the group of followers.

The second is the encouragement that who they are following and what they are learning is worth sharing with others – to fish for people.

Jesus wanted Simon and Andrew to be “followers and fishers”.

During the week I made the suggestion to the Church Council that this should be our theme for 2015.  That we should celebrate being “Followers and Fishers”.

You see by your very presence here this morning you are indicating that for whatever reason you came today you have responded to the call of Jesus to follow him.

Maybe you don’t think about it in those terms but in all likelihood at some point in your life someone asked, ”Do you want to go to church with me?” or “What do you think about that God stuff?” or “What do you know about Jesus?”

Even if you are still a bit uncommitted about your faith and belief the invitation has been given and you are here this morning.

So we respond to the invitation to be followers and as we respond we also begin to learn; to learn about God from Jesus.  But Jesus is not physically here so our leaning takes place within the community of faith.

We look at other Christians, other followers, and we learn about God by how they live and what they say and do.  We learn from people who we read about through history and we learn about it from each other. 

So I want you to take a moment to think about your own encounters with the idea of following Jesus and in particular who it is that may have helped you to know what that means. 

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We are followers and we are also fishers.

We learn as followers, which is preparation for fishing but then we do go fishing: we share what we learn and experience in our relationship with God with others.

The other night at Church Council I began with a question.  It was a fairly simple question but a really important one, “Why do you keep coming to St Lucia Uniting Church?”

For some on the church council an immediate response came to mind whilst for others it was harder.  In everything we did at Church Council the other night this was the most important working out why we are here.  Why we bother!

One of the first answers shared was friendship.  Jesus came among us to encourage us to love one another – friendship, and friendship in the context of a church community, is vitally important to our lives and here we can meet new people and we can learn to be friends.

Some else shared loyalty.  Our first loyalty is to Jesus not simply this congregation but to Jesus.  Yet loyalty once again is a value that we can aspire to – loyalty to Jesus and one another in a world where advertises and brands are constantly competing for out loyalty.

Another person said word and sacrament.  Each week you come here to listen for God speaking to you, you seek to understand how to better follow Jesus.  Sometimes in the discipline of coming and sometimes in the personal experience of God’s silence it is easy to lose sight of this reality – God is speaking to us as we meet week by week.

Yet each week people come here hoping to encounter the divine and some weeks it happens.

The reason this little activity was the most important thing we did at Church Council is because if do not understand why this community of faith that we call St Lucia Uniting Church is important and why we come here then why would anyone else bother.

Being able to say we come here and why it is important is part of our preparation for the work of fishing.  It is rigging line and baiting the hook.

I have been asked on more than one occasion how I am going to grow the congregation, how am I going to get new people in.

Today what I am doing is this.  I am telling you that all of us, every one of you, is a “Follower and a Fisher” and that it is not my job alone to grow the congregation.

Today I am giving out the fishing rods and helping you bait your hooks.

A colleague of mine in a workshop about church growth was asked how do increase the size of your congregation.  He said that’s easy you can do it in one week.  You get everyone in the congregation to invite someone to come along – if they do it the congregation have doubled in size by the next week.  It is as easy and as complex as that. And just like fishing sometimes you have to through the line in more than once – you have to be persistent, patient and persevere. 

To help us do this to invite someone along in 2 weeks time we are having our Church Open day for 2015. 

There are three tasks for you to do as followers to be fishers of people.  The first is to think about why you come here and learn to say to people why this place is important to be a part of.  Second, and this may be a bit harder for some of you invite someone to the open day, and if that person no, invite someone else, and if that person no, invite someone else and so on – go fishing!

Third, pray!  It is said that unless the Lord builds the house those who labour, labour in vain.  Commit yourself to pray about new people coming along, pray for insight as to why it is important for you to be here, pray for God to build this house.

You are called to be followers and fishers.


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