Follow me! And I will make you fishers of men.
My grandfather and namesake, Jack Snow, is a fisherman. Kinda - actually, he ran the fish hatcheries for the state of Alabama and developed his own strain of largemouth bass in 1973. There is a picture of him that my grandmother loved with him holding a fish and smiling. I can't read this passage of scripture without seeing him in waders and that inviting smile next to a tub in the hatchery.
This passage in Mark is about the beginnings of Jesus ministry. Things are moving quickly as John the Baptist is put in jail. Jesus starts taking the Gospel out. He no longer waits at the Jordan for people to just show. He is urgent - repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand! (or maybe available or touchable or within grasp - you get the idea. Here and yet, not yet)
But fishing isn't always a walk down memory lane. This week has been hard for me on the internet. It seems wherever I turn there is a blog, a story, an article about exceptional pain. There are stories of incredible hope. Sure. But those are few and far between on my reader list. Sometimes its just a whine or a crack at something that matters to me. But there are few places that I can just read without fear of finding difficult life situations. And believe me, there are stories of pain that need to be told.
But, really? I'm not fishing for the kind of stuff I'm finding. Largemouth Bass are beautiful. But any person fishing would tell you that not all fish are beautiful. Catfish? blech. Bluegill? Pretty, but small. Crappie? pretty bland, actually. What about salwater fish... usually gorgeous. But you know, not all fish are beautiful.
The hagfish is particularly disgusting. It is basically a worm with an amazing defense mechanism. It produces slime. Its also a bottom feeder - scavenger and gets into decaying carcasses to eat them from the inside out. What does all this have to do with Jesus? Well, in my ministry, when I fish for men, I often don't catch the pretty fish. There are plenty of fish. Plenty of people who need the love of Christ in their lives. I'm OFTEN tempted to throw a lot of those fish back...
The blatantly obvious is the call of God. We very carefully mistake which people we are called to. We carefully mistake the obvious fish in our lives.
There is a joke among the cabinet in the North Alabama Conference - "90% of ministers in North Alabama are called to Birmingham." In other words - everyone wants to be in an area that has the population that makes fishing...well... easier.
Think about it - not all people are beautiful either. Some are hurt, some are ugly, some don't have money for the church or can afford to take me to lunch once in a while. Who wants those people in their lives? You know - if you bring enough ugly people into your church, people won't want to come anymore. Or so they say. I don't know a church that has actually tested that theory yet.
What a bunch of lies. Christ's nets don't let certain fish through and only pick up the pretty ones. Or the ones that are meaty. Or the ones that taste good or sell for a lot at market. Or the perfect ones with no blemishes. All fish are worth catching. All fish are worth going after.
Not all people will benefit my ministry or my life. That does not mean I should exclude them from whatever ministry Christ calls me to. Follow me! And you'll catch all kinds of fish. The fish no one wants. The fish too small to matter. The fish that, when you put them all together, fill the nets and tip the boat from the massive numbers of them all.
I can still see my granddaddy with that smile. Holding a catfish. I will try my best, graddaddy, to not carefully mistake the obvious. You never did in your life, and I won't either.