There’s something “fishy” about being Christians. It goes back to the Old Testament story the majority of Hebrew and Christian scholars identify, in the best use of the word, as being a “fable” – fiction used to carry fact.
One of the leading characters is a great fish, whose role was to show Jonah his refusal to be God’s messenger caused him, when swallowing the run-away prophet, to be sickened with indigestion until he belched Jonah onto dry land,smelling worse than “fishy.”
Then: The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” and he got on a boat headed to Nineveh and did what God had asked him to do.
Call it the “Gospel boat” that transported Jonah to deliver God’s message that turned a people seemingly too incorrigible, too rebellious, too wicked to ever deserve to be forgiven, to beg for God to be merciful and, as a line in one of our confessions reads, let them “turn from their evil ways and live.” God listened, changed his mind, and pardoned them.
The easily overlooked prop in the drama is the boat which Christians later made a symbol for the Scripture and Sacraments and the onboard community itself, committed to Christ to be active parts of His Body, the church,
with their home base being like a ship from which members who are the crew go on land as God’s messengers, and return to be sheltered, and in turbulent times, ride out the storms on life’s sea around them; a shelter that prompted Christians to visualize as being like Noah’s Ark, of which Reinhold Niebuhr said, "… If it weren't for the storm outside, you couldn't stand the stink inside."
There’s something “fishy” about being Christians, who may cause a congregation to be filled with the aroma of Noah’s Ark, proving that we are less than perfect people who may at times bring our less than Christ-like conduct and attitudes and vocabulary into the congregation and carry them out into the home and workplace and community.
That’s why we have a time of confession when we come together in worship and when we have our private prayer times with God. Like the Ninevites, we need to confess that, as a church, we are “fishy” Christians in need of God’s pardoning mercy.
There is something else that makes us “fishy” Christians. It goes back to the Gospel according to Mark that wastes no time in charting the course of Jesus’ ministry. In Mark’s Gospel: As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen, who made up one-third of the twelve Jesus chose to follow Him and learn from Him.
As in the Old Testament story when the overlooked prop may be the boat, in the Gospel it is the fisherman’s net
The four Jesus called weren’t fly fishermen; they didn’t bait a hook and throw out the line to snag a fish. They fished with large nets, filled with whatever they dragged in.
When Jesus asked them to leave their boats and families and the shore and waters of the Sea of Galilee, He expected them to keep using their skill at casting nets as He said,“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
The call that has us saying of ourselves, “There’s something ‘fishy’ about being Christians.
The “fishiness” of learning to practice the skills the first fishermen brought to the ministry to which Jesus called them, so that, like them, we cast the net of the Good News of God, present among us in Jesus, and with that net, pull people on-board to become part of the crew on Christ’s boat called the church.
“Fishy” Christians who cast abroad, broadcast, God’s Good News in Jesus Christ, with the love those fishermen had for their work of casting nets to catch fish.
Now that love is made more intense as we know the love with which we are loved by God, love that casts the shadow of Christ’s cross over the world.
“Fishy” Christians who cast abroad, broadcast, God’s Good News in Jesus Christ, with an awareness of where to drop the nets, knowing the best times and places, what fishermen call “hot holes,” are when a couple is preparing to be married, when parents are planning to have their child baptized, when it’s time for a 2 or 3 year old to begin to come to Church school, or when a couple is going through a divorce or the trauma of illness or death of a loved one. The times to pull a person into the love and care of a congregation, held in the faith of God’s intention to give us peace and make us secure in the promise of eternal life.
“Fishy” Christians who cast abroad, broadcast, God’s Good News in Jesus Christ, knowing that another “hot hole” is found in a person who is literally hungering for food to feed an empty soul, who has tasted all the world advertises and entices us to drown in debt to have, and still feels something is missing; people waiting to be pulled on-board where they will be fed with the bread of Scripture and the sacrament of Holy Communion, and received into the care of Christ’s supportive crew.
“Fishy” Christians who cast abroad, broadcast, God’s Good News in Jesus Christ, with one exception to fishing with a net; no one is tossed out; we let God do the sorting; we do the welcoming.
In the words a pastor heard when he asked fisherman in his congregation why they were the ones Jesus chose to call, they said,“because to be a fisherman or woman you’ve got to love it, be dedicated to it, know where the fish are, and be patient.” (Quoted from "Fishing for Christ,” Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington.)
There’s something “fishy” about being Christians. It beings with, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” with the same love God has for each of us.
The world is the sea, God’s Good news in Jesus is the net, the church is the boat, and members are the crew; “fishy” Christians. AMEN.