Text: John 21:1-6. Mission Festival Sermon.
God’s grace and peace are yours through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do you like to fish? Maybe a better question would be, “Do you like to catch fish?” I’m not a fisherman myself, but some people have tried to get me to try fishing by saying, “The best part about fishing is being in the boat away from everything. If you happen to catch some fish, that’s a bonus.” How would you like to have your fishing trip go like this? You throw your lines into the water and then fish jump into the boat. Wow! That would be okay, wouldn’t it? All you have to do is sit in the boat with your line in the water and the fish jump right in. It’s a lot like that when fishing for men. The best part about fishing for men is being in the boat, spreading the Good News that Jesus died for us, away from the pressures and troubles of getting here on time and getting the kids there on time and getting the supper on time. If God blesses us with a catch of fish, that’s really a bonus. And best of all, we know that we will catch fish when we fish for men. Oftentimes this happens indirectly. We put our lines in the ware to fish for men. We spread the Gospel message. And then the fish jump into the boat from the other side. The Lord uses our work to bring us the fish. Maybe an example will help to clarify this. At our congregation we have friendship Sundays. We encourage people for weeks to invite their friends to worship with them. We pass out sheets helping people think of people they know who don’t believe in Jesus. We promise a simplified order of service with hymns, reading and message tailored for the first time worshiper. Each time our friendship Sunday has gone something like this. For days and weeks members tell me,”Pastor, I feel so bad. I’ve invited these people and they said, ‘No.’ or they can’t come.” Then on that very Sunday people who were not invited by anyone show up. We put our lines in the water by inviting people. The Lord used those invitations of our members. But he used them to bring other people to worship with us that day. Today, for this mission festival we are going to CELEBRATE GOD’S INDIRECT BLESSINGS. We’ll see how GOD USES OUR WORK. But in the ends, GOD BRINGS THE INCREASE.
I. God uses our work. A. We notice first of all the work of the disciples. 1. Simon Peter, the leader and spokesman for the disciples, says simply, I’m going out to fish. For them this was more labor than leisure. They were professional fishermen. So they went out into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. All night and caught nothing! Seven professionals and caught nothing. Not a good deadliest catch episode. They must have been ready to give up. 2. Sounds like us fishing for men. “Yeah, we did evangelism once, but we didn’t get any members from it. It was a waste of time.” “Our pastor is too busy with hospital visits, shut in calls, funerals, Sunday school. He doesn’t have time to chase all over the countryside and do evangelism.” “We’re too old to be hitting the streets. We know all our neighbors. They all go to church anyway.” We give up. Sinful people with sinful ideas. We don’t even give get the Good News out. At least the disciples put out their nets.
B. Then Jesus stood on the shore. Jesus has done far more than stand at a distance. 1. Jesus came right into the midst of our sinful world. Jesus wore our skin, our bones, our blood. Jesus even wore our sin. Jesus picked up our doubt and picked up our discouragement and he went to the cross with it to forgive it. Jesus wore our failures to spread the Word on his shoulders and washed us clean of every one of them. The times we didn’t want to talk about Jesus, forgiven. The times we worried more about the carpet than people’s souls, forgiven. The times we never put out lines in the water because we didn’t think God could use them, wiped away, done, gone, in the past. We are God’s perfect children, with a perfect status in God’s eyes through our baptism. We are God’s forgiven children, his body and blood stand on our lips to take away sin once and for all. This Savior Jesus lives. He rose. He’s alive. He’s with us. He’s helping us. He’s encouraging us to get our lines in the water. 2. Yes, maybe we tried evangelism once, did a canvas or had a booth at a fair and didn’t get any members from it. Jesus empowers us to see that it’s not about getting members. It’s about sharing the good news of Jesus. It’s about letting our lines in the water and letting God use our efforts. Yeah, our pastor is busy with a million other things. Maybe he needs some lay people to help him do evangelism. Maybe he needs some people who can help visit the sick and the shutins so he has more time to do evangelism and show people how to do it. Maybe he needs and you need to schedule scared evangelism time that isn’t touched by anything else. Maybe you’re too old to be hitting the streets. Let me tell you about the OWLS group in your area. OWLS stands for Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors. These OWLS, all of them over 55, helped our church in Arcadia by calling every person in the phone book in Arcadia, Independence and Whitewall, close to equal to the size of Watertown.
Application: What I’m getting at is this, “Put your lines in the water. God uses our work.” In Galesville we get a list of people who have moved to our area. We visit these people to put our lines in the ware and to have chances to share the Good News. We have a booth at the County Fair and at the community expo. We pass out thousands of recipe cards and Little Debbie Snack cakes at local parades. We’ve had community picnics. We’ve put up door hangers. We’ve canvassed for VBS, for Christmas, for Easter. We have a large yellow pages ad. And can I point directly to those things bringing us lots of members? Not really.
Transition: But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t using our efforts. God is using our efforts to bring the increase. We have more members at our congregation than we have ever had. Our congregation in Arcadia went from 15 members to 50 in just over a year. People like Marc and Lori Connelly and their children Taylor and Trisha. We knocked on their door and didn’t see them in worship for over a year before they came for the first time. Now they are active members. People like Robert and Laura Ali. They got one of our Little Debbie oatmeal pies at our first parade in Arcadia. They got a knock on the door. We visited them several times. Two years later, Laura happened to work with our vicar’s wife, Jill. Jill and her husband, Tyler, our vicar became friends with Robert and Laura. They shared the good news. Robert and Laura not only have been confirmed, they’ve shared the good news with relatives who are now taking instruction classes. Rosa and David Mooney weren’t so sure about church. They had had bad experiences in the past. But one of our members, Debbie, worked with Rosa and talked to her. We got together and how Rosa is inviting friends, telling them how great it is to hear the Good News and how much she loves her church. God uses our work. God brings the increase.
II. God brings the increase. A. We notice how Jesus overcame the obstacles in this fishing trip. 1. We mentioned the discouragement of the disciples. These professionals worked hard all night and caught nothing. Their efforts didn’t seem to matter. This is almost what Jesus expects as he approaches them. He calls out literally, Friends, you haven’t caught any fish, have you? 2. Well, why don’t you try this, Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. This was strange advice. How could this stranger, standing on the shore, one hundred yards away, know where there would be fish? Didn’t he know the best hours for fishing had past? Didn’t he know that was the wrong side of the boat? These disciples were smart fishermen. Either they had tried that side of the boat or they knew it wasn’t the best place to look for fish.
B. But look at what happened. When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 1. Wow!!! This made no sense, but it worked. They had worked all night and nothing worked, now this worked. This great number of fish would be sure to keep them going for a while, maybe a very long while. We need to see mission work like a slot machine, not a vending machine. Here’s what I mean. With a vending machine, you put a little bit in and you expect a little bit in return. With a slot machine, you put a lot in, waiting to hit the jackpot. If we see mission work as a vending machine, put a little in, do a canvass, invite one friend and don’t get anything right away, we will give up. But see mission work as a slot machine. Keep putting in, keep trying, keep inviting, keep trying something new, and if there is one person who hears the good news, that’s the jackpot. If Jesus brings the increase of one member, that’s the jackpot. Every soul is the jackpot. One soul is the reason to keep going, keep doing, keep trying. God brings the increase. 2. Jesus was teaching them a few things. For one, he had taught them that he used their work. Their night of fishing was not in vain. That the night of fishing laid the foundation for this big catch. Secondly, we learn that Jesus often brings the increases just when we are about to give up. Just when we finally give up on doing it ourselves in when Jesus brings the increase. Thirdly, Jesus taught them to trust in him, even when his commands seem foolish. Preaching, teaching, baptizing, Lord’s Supper. that’s how Jesus promises to bring the increase. And finally, through all this, Jesus is showing his power. He is the one who gives the increase. He’s the only one who can make the fish jump in the boat.
Application: Let me share with you an example of such an indirect blessing from my personal life. Eric Baily. This is a personal story of indirect blessings. You’ll have to listen closely to follow this one. In high school I had a friend by the name of Dave. While I was at the seminary, Dave started dating a girl named Kim. Kim went to UW-L. When I received the call to serve in Holmen and Galesville, Dave and Kim would attend church in Galesville from time to time when Dave was visiting for the weekend. Then Kim started bringing a few of her friends with her to church in Galesville. One of Kim’s friends was named Rachel. Rachel was experiencing the pressures of college and gave me a call to see if I would come talk to her. That’s how I met Eric, Rachel’s boyfriend. Rachel and Eric are now married. Eric had been to worship a few times and had been involved in some things with our church and wanted to be a member. Did you follow all that? Dave met Kim. Kim knew Rachel. Rachel is married to Eric. Eric is my friend’s wife’s friend’s fiancé. Try saying that five times fast. That’s how God has brought Eric into his kingdom, indirectly using lots of people, people who were just throwing their lines in the water, people who were just talking to their friends about Jesus and bringing them to church. God used the work of many people over a span of over 15 years. Finally, God brings the increase. If you sat down and thought about it, you probably have an Eric, too, someone whom God has indirectly bought into his kingdom through your efforts. Celebrate God’s indirect blessings. Amen.