Fishing and Farming
I have done some fishing—not as much as I would like—but I do plan to do more in years to come. And I’ve done some farming—only in the back yard—yet it is has been a dream of mine. Maybe a plot of land with a trout creek winding through it…One can at least dream.
Wait a minute here: I am a fisherman and a farmer already, actually somewhat of a journeyman, if my many years of experience count. And, biblically speaking, we all are. Now is my opportunity to speak of some of the finer points of both fishing and farming.
Jesus said to Peter and Andrew his brother, who were both actual fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
They knew how to use nets and drag lines with baited hooks. They loved the big hauls, and they also knew the disappointment of fishing all day and night without a bite. They learned to take the bad with the good.
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John Zebedee, and two other unnamed disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee). The seven fishermen toiled all night but did not catch even one fish. Before the disciples knew it was Jesus, they were told by a person on the shore to cast their net “on the right side of the boat and you will find some” (John 21:6). It turned out there were 153 fish in the net they dragged to shore. Jesus then cooked up some of the fish for a joyous breakfast.
Fishing = evangelism. The great commission to make disciples of all nations, to take the saving message of the cross to the entire world—this missionary evangelism may be likened to fishing.
The knowledgeable fisherman is patient. He or she throws out the bait, using the best possible methods appropriate to the stream, lake, or sea. Then the wait, being alert for the nibble, the stiffening line, the tip of the pole suddenly bent, and there is a fish on the line. Sometimes the hook is not set just right and the fish flops off, perhaps to be caught at a later time by someone else—this is fishing. Sometimes nothing, sometimes just a few, or sometimes a full net.
The fisherman lives to fish, dreams of fishing, speaks of fishing, is among family and friends who also fish, and though success might be illusive, the fishing goes on.
The metaphor is perfect; Peter and the rest, fishermen they were and fish they did, and the impact of their catch impacts us yet.
My dad taught us Philpott boys how to fish when we were little and took us with him to streams and rivers all over the Portland, Oregon area: the Willamette, Sandy, Columbia, and many of the streams whose headwaters were on Mt. Hood, like the Clackamus. Fish, fish, fish—we loved it and I still do, and both kinds.
Trout on the line—a person who comes to Christ through a simple witness of the grace and love we see in His cross—this is what it is all about, that specialness that the fisherman alone knows.
Jesus’ parable of the Sower is one I have long considered a favorite. It is about a farmer who plants seeds, and the message of this parable is of great importance to all Christians.
The sower goes out to sow. (I am looking at Mark’s rendering of the parable found in 4:1-9, and also at Jesus’ explanation as to it’s meaning in verses 13-20.)
This is how it works: the farmer, the sower, goes out into the field. That is half of it or even more—the going out. The seed we understand to be the “word” of God, the story of who Jesus is and what Jesus did, and the word is scattered about.
There are many soils, many terrains, and many different climates and weather patterns; thus each farm must be dealt with differently, but the seed is sown nonetheless.
The farmer casts the seed about, and it ends up all over the place—on the road, in rocky areas, among weeds, and even some on really good dirt. There is a certain extravagance here—the farmer lets go handfulls of seed, scattered almost to the wind. The tiny seeds fall where they may.
The farmer knows that only some of the seed will yield a crop, the birds will get their share, the rocks will prevent a real plant from developing, and weeds will choke out plants that looked healthy at first. Despite it all, there will be fruit in varying amounts.
Some farmers will see a large harvest, others somewhat less, still others not so much. That is merely a detail. The great thing is to be a farmer, a sower of seeds, and then wait and see what God will do. We may have the best seed and the finest soil, but it all depends on what God has in mind. And we do not find fault, blame ourselves, or even compare ourselves to other farmers. It is just good to be there in the fields, throwing out the seed as best we are able.
Fishing and sowing—the great adventure, a privilege beyond description; and we get to do this.
February 5, 2015