Chaplain Norris Burkes: Trolling for souls
I think it was Jesus who encouraged his followers to become “fishers of men.” And honestly, that task seems much easier than the literal job of fishing for fish.
Fishing requires a level of patience I don’t have. You’d know this about me if you’ve ever watched me pace the stage during one of my talks.
I was reminded again this past week of my distaste for fishing when I took my grandsons and their parents on a fishing boat in Seward, Alaska. We were fishing for the big halibut we’d seen people bring home the day before, 90-pound prehistoric monsters.
To begin the journey, I slapped an anti-motion sickness patch on my arm and plunked down my Visa to charter a boat from Alaskan Summertime Charters. Jon Tippit is the captain of AK Summertime. I trust Jon because he has mentored my son, Michael, in his dream of being a captain. He’s also my California neighbor during the winter months.
Including Jon, the little boat carried eight souls: my wife, Becky, our son, Michael, our daughter Brittney, and her husband and two sons.
During our one-hour cruise toward the fishing grounds, Jon played the guide, pointing out the dolphins, whales, puffins and WW2 gun emplacements.
When we arrived, he dropped anchor about 100 feet from a rock formation where we began fishing in earnest. On my first cast, I brought up one rockfish.
A few minutes later, that little catch took his revenge when my body began screaming to bring up my breakfast.
My teenage grandsons joined me along the side, followed by their dad.
Besides the two professional fishermen on board, the only other folks standing their ground were the fisherwomen.
The whole experience had me wondering how Jesus was so successful recruiting fishermen 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 throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him”
That passage has always bothered me because I come from a tradition that preaches how we Christians should always be out trolling for souls. I was taught that we must first hook the unsuspecting sinner and convince him that he is doomed. Get him to the church altar and help him toward the truth. This was the only way to save the poor fish – er, man.
But over the years, my chaplain work has taught me to see a different angle than the angler view.
Not all of us are fishermen. So, it seems more likely that Jesus employed the fishing metaphor to personalize his message to Simon and Andrew.
While these anglers easily understood the fish talk, you and I respond better to metaphors 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.” The engineer may hear, “Follow me and help folks solve their most complex issues.” All of us may hear different words that reflect our calling. “Follow me and I will make you (fill in the blank).”
To me, in my line of work, it means helping people where they are, rendering the aid that is needed. I’m not to try and change them into something they aren’t. In the end, I need to let Jesus do that.
Finally, I know the question you’re all dying to ask this fisherman poser — Did you catch anything? We missed the elusive halibut, but Brittney caught six rockfish to my one.
Yup. I’m definitely not a fisherman.
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Chaplain Norris will be the guest speaker on Sunday, July 10, at 10:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Nevada City. All are welcome to attend.
There’s a joke that asks, “How do you tell the difference between Catholics and Baptists in a liquor store?”
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