Early April is typically the start of fishing season. And as a kid, I loved to go fishing with my Dad… not so much for how to catch “the big one” as simply spending time with my Dad. When I was about age 7 or 8, he had me, my sister and brother practice casting our lines with a lead weight (instead of a hook) into a 5-gallon bucket. Can’t say I hit the mark very often! I also remember fishing in the Erie Canal just west of Palmyra, New York. One time we even watched a boat being raised in the lock while we stood on the concrete edging… petrified I’d fall in and drown!
After moving back to New Jersey near my Dad’s family, we fished in the large pond at Clifton’s Garret Mountain, Lake Hopatcong, and Upper Greenwood Lake in northern Jersey all where he’d fished as a youngster with his father. I never could bear to touch those squiggly worms, or put them on the hook, though my sister didn’t seem to mind so I left that nasty deed to her or Dad. I only managed to catch little fish, so was never even able to brag about catching “the big one!” And I could never manage to touch their slimy scaly bodies either! Ugh!!! Dad filleted them, and Mom cooked them up so scrumptiously!
But there’s another aspect of fishing we don’t often think about. I remember a song we sang as kids in East Palmyra Christian School, enjoying the hand motions that went along it: “I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men. I will make you fishers of men, if you follow Me…”
The words to this children’s song are taken directly from Jesus’ words to Peter and Andrew, two brothers who were fishing on the Sea of Galilee: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 NIV) Jesus called twelve men as His disciples, men from various backgrounds – Peter and Andrew (brothers, fishermen), John and James (brothers, fishermen), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (tax collector, a despised occupation), James, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed Jesus and then hung himself), Matthias (who replaced Judas), and Paul whom Jesus met on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:1-22)
Paul, a tentmaker, previously known as Saul, was a Jew who zealously killed many Christians before his conversion, thinking he was stopping the spread of heresy. Answering the call of God on that road, Paul became an Apostle, a fisher of men, and helped spread the Gospel far and wide, writing 13 New Testament books (or 14 books if he authored Hebrews).
Jesus had taught the initial twelve for three years, giving the example of His holy life and words for them to follow. It was His mission to teach them the foundations of His love and truth, knowing that He would later send them out to reach others in His name… with His words and example for us to follow today.
It makes us think a little deeper as we compare fishing gear and their function to that of fishing for the hearts of our friends. Letting others know Christ’s gift of love and forgiveness is our calling. For, in pondering Jesus’ words, we are reminded to fulfill Christ’s words in Matthew 28:19 to “…go and make disciples of all nations…,” and this poem began to take shape in my thoughts.
Linda A. Roorda
Walking along with pole in hand
The peace of nature to soothe the soul
With time to think and ponder life’s ways
To ease the tension from busy schedules.
With rod and reel slung over shoulder
Whistling a tune that lifts the soul
Down narrow path to water’s edge
Dappled shadows splay out from the sun.
Finding a spot along the shore
To sit a spell and cast out my line
The wiggling worms, bait for the fish
On hooks to lure and tempt the big one.
Standing on shore I cast out my line
And patiently wait, watching the dobber
Thinking of life, my family and friends
Thoughts to ponder, and wisdom to gain.
Did not our Lord say, “Come follow me,
And I will make you fishers of men.”
Allegory set in their working days
From fishing nets to fishing for souls.
The pole holds gear like Bibles the Word
It’s the main support as Scripture to life
Fishing depends on strength of the rod
As life relies on God’s truth to lead.
A reel is the heart which sends out the line
Reaching others with love for their soul
Extending a hand to draw from afar
To carry their load, burdens to lighten.
The line holds the lure of gospel truth
Our faith walk shared, testament to grace
With mercy gentle we lead them to Christ
Who transforms hearts, redeems by His love.
With hook we set the love of Jesus
His death took our sin, from One who knew none
For by his gift He purchased our souls
That in His life salvation we find.
A creel we need to hold new believers
A welcoming church to warmly receive,
To teach and guide for growth and change
That they may know new life in the Lord.
How like fishing is seeking lost souls
To draw them close with love from our heart
To help them see God’s truth from His word.
So pick up your pole, let God make the catch!
Photo Credit: My Mom took this on her old camera of me, my sister and Dad going fishing on a cold spring morning 1965, Lake Hopatcong, NJ