January 23, 2005

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

"Catch of the Day"

(Matthew 4:12-23)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


INTRODUCTION:

The year I turned sixteen, we loaded up in family station wagon and drove to Florida to see my Dad's brother Bob. Uncle Bob and Aunt Betsy lived in Miami. One of the cool things about living in Miami was the fresh seafood. You see, I love seafood. If it swims in the water, I'll eat it. I'd rather eat seafood than almost anything else. It doesn't have to be fried, either. It can be baked, broiled, pan fried, steamed or even poached, if done just right. I even like sushi and sashimi (you know the Japanese raw seafood dishes).

Uncle Bob and Aunt Bets had a whole bunch of kids. The year I was sixteen, there two teenage boys in their home, plus a teenage girl. My little brother Glen, was 12 and Uncle Bob had a twelve year old son, too. So, the two Dads, three teenage boys and 2 twelve year old boys loaded up in our station wagon and went to an all you can eat seafood restaurant. It was family style, where they bring it out in bowls and platters. Scallops, crab cakes, crab, clams (both fried and steamed), oysters (both fried and steamed), both baked fish and fried fish and of course shrimp (boiled, fried, butterflied and stuffed),

It was a teenager's heaven sent meal. All you could eat of all the stuff you loved. We were all in hog heaven, or maybe that should have been pig out heaven.

The food was delicious, so was being out with Dad like that, that didn't happen very often. But you know what I remember most about that meal? I have no idea how long we had been there, or how much we had eaten. I know I did my part because I can remember eating and eating and eating. I tried everything.

But the thing I really remember is that manager came out and asked us to leave. That's right, at an all you can eat restaurant, we were asked to leave because we'd eaten too much. Oh, man, that made my Dad and Uncle Bob both mad. I can remember phrases like "I'm not going to pay" and "I'll call the police." But that's about all, there wasn't any fight or anything, and I think they probably paid, but we left. Dad was mad but that event became one of those family legends that we talked about from time to time. And of course, as we recounted it, the mounds of seafood got bigger and bigger and bigger, as did what Dad told the manager. But we all had a good laugh about it.

One of the things about a really good seafood restaurant is they always have a "Catch of the Day." Sometimes "Catch of the Day" it means that it's the freshest fish or it's a fish that's fairly rare. In the restaurant business it has to do with their special or their specialty.

But in trophy and sport fishing and even in commercial fishing the "Catch of the Day" means the biggest fish or the biggest haul of fish.

In that sense, I guess you could say that Jesus pulled in the "Catch of the Day" when he hauled in Peter, James, John and Andrew that day by the Sea of Galilee. It might not have been his biggest catch, but it certainly was the "Catch of the Day" and each of these disciples would have their own times when they too, would make a "Catch of the Day"

Let's look at the passage: Matthew 4:12-23

Matthew 4:12-23 (NRSV)

[12] Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.

[13] He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,

[14] so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

[15] "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--

[16] the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."

[17] From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

[18] As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen.

[19] And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."

[20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

[21] As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them.

[22] Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

[23] Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

As we found out last week, Andrew had already become a fisher of people. Andrew had moved from a seeker to a pointer and introduced his brother Simon to Jesus. That must have been some special kind of encounter. Jesus must have really been struck by something in Simon's character that set him apart. Jesus even gave him a new name. Peter, the Rock.

But apparently, Peter didn't just immediately jump onboard. Or maybe he did and didn't really know what that meant until Jesus came walking along the beach that day where they were fishing and said: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.

They might have been the Catch of the Day but they caught something too. That day those four men and all the others who would follow later, experienced the Catch of the Day. They Caught the Dream, the Vision and Mission of Jesus.


I. DREAM:

Jim Egan worked at the West Coast Computer Fair in 1977. His job was to help customers decorate their booths. Industry shows are the cheapest way to reach customers within the trade, but some undercapitalized entrepreneurs hardly have enough to rent a booth, let alone pay for the decorations. Egan was approached by a couple of long-haired kids who wanted some chrome displays to make their booth "look flashy." Egan said he had the displays but they were for rent. The kids said they were short of cash, but perhaps Egan might like some stock in their new company. Egan, who had seen them come and go in his twenty years in the business, said he would accept only hard cash. So Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs did without the chrome, fixed up their booth, and kept the stock in Apple Computer to themselves. Presumably, Jim Egan is still decorating booths for hard cash. (1)

But I'll bet he wishes he had caught onto the dream of those two young men. Just like the IBM official who told a young Bill Gates, "Why would anyone want to have a computer on their desk?"

We have to have dreams don't we. We may even need dreams before we can catch a Vision. Because I believe that the Vision coalesces out of the substance of the dreams. Dreams are sort of ethereal and nondescript but a vision has solidity.

But you have dream first. Walt Disney said, "If you can dream it, you can do it."

I agree, it's just that some dreams take longer to do or implement. And some dreams are dependent upon others. Israel dreamed of the coming of the Messiah. When he showed up, many of them thought it was too good to be true and wouldn't accept Jesus for who He was.

But there were those who, like Peter, James, John and Andrew, knew immediately and dropped everything to follow. The dream not only lived in them but the dream had become alive in them and began to coalesce into a Vision.


II. VISION:

What helped with that dream coalescing into a Vision was the Vision which Jesus had.

Jesus had a vision of the world where there was no more guilt or sin. Where the virtues of honesty, truthfulness, trust and care prevailed. A world where the love of and for God and love for our neighbors rules everything we do.

That type of world, Jesus called the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom not of power and might. A kingdom which doesn't have any physical borders, but a kingdom that lives in the heart. A kingdom with a King who moves us to do what is right simply because we know it's right. A kingdom in which the King moves us to love one another because we have experienced His love for us. A Kingdom filled with people whose purpose is to honor God with their lives. That's the Vision Jesus had. And that's the Vision that captured Peter, James, John and Andrew.

I wonder what that Vision would look like? J. Edwin Orr, a former professor of Church history at Fuller Theological Seminary, described the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Welsh Revivals of the nineteenth century. As people sought the infilling of the Holy Spirit they did all they could to confess all their wrongdoings and to make restitution.

Believe it or not this created severe problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales. Over the years workers had pilfered all kinds of things. Everything from wheelbarrows to hammers had been "borrowed" or stolen. However, as the people sought to get right with God they started to return what they had taken. The result was that it wasn't long before the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property.

There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the shipyards had to put up signs that read, IF YOU HAVE BEEN LED BY GOD TO RETURN WHAT YOU HAVE STOLEN, PLEASE KNOW THAT THE MANAGEMENT FORGIVES YOU AND WISHES YOU TO KEEP WHAT YOU HAVE TAKEN. (2)

That's the Vision Jesus had. And that's the Vision that captured Peter, James, John and Andrew. Their Dream had Coalesced into a Vision and that Vision became their Mission.


III. MISSION:

A Mission that Jesus confirmed at His ascension, He told them "Go, into all the world making disciples of every nation, baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit." And that's what they did. That was their Mission. That's what their followers did. That's what the followers of the followers did all the way down to us. That's what we're called to do, as well. And when have the Dream and the Vision, the Mission isn't hard at all, even in the worst of circumstances.

When the missionaries were forced to leave China in 1951, and Christians began to be oppressed by the Communist government, the future of the church looked bleak. In the preceding decades of western mission work, many of the approximately one million Protestant Christians had become "rice Christians," accepting the forms of Christianity more for personal gain than genuine conviction. When the pressures began to mount, they soon fell away. With the coming of the Cultural Revolution and the suppression of all institutional religious functions, it seemed that Christianity in China was doomed.

Yet during this period of terrible persecution, committed Christians, not afraid to defy the principalities of this world, began to meet secretly in their homes. When regular church services were outlawed during the "Great Leap Forward," these informal cottage meetings became the primary structure of the church. As their pastors were killed or imprisoned, members of the laity came forward to provide leadership. Women especially took an active role. When their houses were searched by the Red Guards, and all Bibles and Christian literature destroyed, the people drew upon their memory of Scripture and shared experiences to build up one another in the faith.

As the Christians in these small groups displayed extraordinary courage, zeal, and love, the gospel spread to their neighbors and fellow workers. Freely they gave their own food and clothing to the needy and poor, especially to those whose breadwinners had been killed or thrown into prison. They visited the bereaved and prayed for the sick, often seeing God miraculously heal.

Typical of this, was the way some believers cared for a Communist school teacher who became seriously ill. So genuine was their compassion, that upon her recovery she, too, accepted Christ, only to suffer public ridicule on return to her work.

Required to appear at a public "confession" meeting, she protested: "When I was ill, you did nothing to help me. It was the Christians who did everything!" That fact shamed her critics into silence. (3)

Today the Church in Communist China is alive and growing because individual Christians did their part to be fishers of people.

They too, had become part of the Catch of the Day. Not only that but they Caught the Dream, The Vision and the Mission of Christ and made it their own.


CONCLUSION:

It sounds like a fish story, but journalists have verified it. Jim Cone was boating on the Intra coastal Waterway in North Carolina when a Spanish Mackerel jumped into his boat. It grazed his daughter's head and landed in his wife's lap. Other than a few small cuts, there were no injuries except to the fish.

Most fishermen do not expect the catch to come to them. (4) They realize that they have to go out to where the fish are. You and I go out to where the fish are every day. But the question is, Are we living in such a way that people think the faith we exhibit could be the Catch of the Day for them?

Are we living a life that is filled with the Dream, the Vision and the Mission of Christ?

How about you? Are you ready to go fishing? Are you ready to live the life which proclaims Jesus as the Catch of the Day, better than seafood any day?

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

______________________________

Bibliography

1. Peter Hay, THE BOOK OF BUSINESS ANECDOTES, p. 212.

2. Tony Campolo, HOW TO BE PENTCOSTAL, (Dallas: Word, 1991), pp. 92-93.

3. Leslie Lyall, GOD REIGNS IN CHINA (London: Hodder and Stough, 1985), pp. 178, 214, 215. Cited in Robert E. Coleman, THE SPARK THAT IGNITES, (Minneapolis, MN: World Wide Publications, 1989), pp. 75-76.

4. Preaching, January-February 2003

Other References Consulted

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Preaching Magazine (Preaching Resources, Jackson, TN)

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The New Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)

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