Hey, Have a Fish!
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
Give me a fish
and I’ll be a happy man!
Show me where to fish, and… I’m yours.
And you know there’s fishing and then there’s fishing.
Anybody who fishes knows,
there are days called, “good fish days.”
These are days when you catch so many—
just to say how many
sounds like bragging run amuck.
Then there are the days
spent waiting for the season to begin—
days of not fishing.
Also the days of fishing with no calls of, “fish On”—
these are the days you just say,
“Well, at least I was on the water…”
It appears that to be a friend of Jesus
is to catch fish in abundance.
However, with Jesus, the fish is the hook.
To eat a fish offered by Jesus
is to fish his waters,
and to cast in his boat.
So you catch the fish, cook the fish, bake some bread,
have a banquet, invite others to eat with you,
and the feast never ends,
and even sheep, it seems, eat fish, too.
John 21:1-13 — New Century Version
Later, Jesus showed himself to his followers again—this time at Lake Galilee. This is how he showed himself: Some of the followers were together: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the two sons of Zebedee, and two other followers. Simon Peter said, “I am going out to fish.” The others said, “We will go with you.” So
they went out and got into the boat. They fished that night but caught nothing. Early the next morning Jesus stood on the
shore, but the followers did not know it was Jesus. Then he said to them, “Friends, did you catch any fish?” They answered, “No.” He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they did, and they caught so many fish they could not pull the net back into the boat. The follower whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Peter heard him say this, he wrapped his coat around himself. (Peter had taken his clothes off.) Then he jumped into the water. The other followers went to shore in the boat, dragging the net full of fish. They were not very far from shore, only about a hundred yards.
When the followers stepped out of the boat and onto the shore, they saw a fire of hot coals. There were fish on the fire, and there was bread. Then Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” Simon Peter went into the boat and pulled the net to the shore. It was full of big fish, one hundred fifty-three in all, but even though there were so many, the net did not tear. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat.” None of the followers dared ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, along with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus showed himself to his followers after he was raised from the dead. When they finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” A third time he said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” Peter said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” He said to him, “Feed my sheep.
“Hey, Have A Fish”
By the way, I love to fish! Fishing is like a passion. I fly fish, I tie flies, I read books on fishing. Sometimes I think that if I weren’t doing this Christian Ministry thing, that I’d just spend my time wading around on beautiful waters, slapping a stick and presenting flies to shadows in riffles. In season, of course! Well, maybe not all the time.
You see, I actually like pastoring more than I like most of the other things I do. Exceptions to this are being with Cherie, watching my grandchildren grow and thrive, and being around my kids. After that pastoring is next, then the fishing, writing songs, taking pictures, singing, and hiking and other fun stuff like hanging out with my music pals. However it is ministry that makes this all possible. Hey, my life is pretty good!
For me, it’s the people in my congregation that have me hooked. I did not want to be a minister. All I wanted was to do photography for the rest of my life—or write songs or fish or some combination thereof. However God, it seems, wanted something else of me. And nineteen years ago I received a call to the Geyserville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I didn’t want it. No way! But it grew on me. It filled my heart, and ignited my spirit like nothing ever did before. It humbled me. It surprised me!
Now, if you know me, you know that I am not a humble person. I like who I am and I like what I do. I have a terminal degree in theology, and I know how to lead people. Actually, I don’t lead them, I just walk, and example, and teach by being as real as I can be. But as a pastor, I have to say that I am way out beyond my limits, in waters that are over the top of my waders, and sometimes it feels like I have a 36 inch steelhead on 8X tippet that I might lose at any second. YIKES!!!
But I do like these waters of ministry! Baptizing and marrying are vital and fun things to do. Preaching baffles me, because I have no clue how the me that I know as me, comes up with the words that come out of my mouth. Funerals, are hard, because I have been here long enough to now be burying people who are my friends and I love. But the whole thing is worth my own life, and that is what I thought I gave up when I took this position as pastor.
I was one of those disciples sitting in that boat. I fished a lot with no real success. Before I went to graduate school, everything I had tried, regardless of what I said as to how good or successful I was, had more or less failed. I don’t give up, and I hadn’t, so I wanted another hour of daylight and a few more casts at the life I thought I wanted. I just knew I could get something in my (mainly photography) life going. I knew I was good enough, I just couldn’t figure out how to turn my gifts and talents into a living. Music had not taken off. Photography was just one long heartbreaking struggle after another. One huge success for every ten or so pretty gruesome and grueling failures. Poverty, bills, more bills, no home to call home, and nothing but struggle for me if I went back to photography. Jesus said, “Hey, have a fish!” And the fish looked like the Geyserville Christian Church.
I had told God that if I could be shown how to get my life going, I would throw my whole self into the deal. I had no way of knowing that if I just gave in to the ministry thing that it would be the answer to this prayer. I thought it was just another sidetrack, another good attempt at nothing. I was pretty depressed. And to my amazement, when I took the hook, and God reeled me in, got me on the reel and turned me and stopped my run, everything just started to work.
The most interesting aspect of my saying “Yes,” to giving up all my skills, gifts, and interests in photography, poetry, songwriting, and music to go into the ministry, is that all these skills and gifts are now more an integral part of my life than they ever were before—more than I ever dreamed possible. They have become effortless, struggle free. It seems that I no longer need to work hard to make music or songs or images—they are now just part of the ebb and flow of my living.
I suppose that the most miraculous occurrence of change in my life is that I have gone from being afraid of people to loving them. I am not sure how that has happened, but it has. I still like my time alone. Aside from Cherie, I am still the one I like being alone with the most. I spend hours alone with just me, but I also spend hours with people and not only do I like doing so, I have fun now. I am still a little rough-edged and just a little wild. I suppose the disciples in that little boat on Lake Galilee never were quite tamed either.
I must admit that I did have to give some things up, but doing so just seemed to happen. I gave up my sense that I was a failure. I found something at which I was successful. I gave up the part of me that only seemed to listen to myself and tuned out others. I seemed to give that up as I found that I really liked people and learned to trust them and my cynicism and paranoia gradually ebbed. As I discovered myself being in sync and in place, my world expanded and I gave up my need to be first. Once I found that I no longer needed to be first and win, I discovered joy in watching others achieve those things I once thought I needed to have. And in giving up the need to be Top Dog, I gave up the need to have the best ideas. I learned to share—I share the ministry journey with my wife, Cherie, also an ordained minister, who has her own congregation to lead forty miles to the North of Geyserville, in Ukiah. We share ideas, and notes and pulpits from time to time. AND, I quit sweating the small stuff, and began trusting the processes of life and church and God and me. Yup, hook, line, and sinker, got me all the way.
Also, along this wild and crazy ministerial journey into the unknown, I have made some dear, dear friends. People to whom I trust my life and ministry. There are the people in my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, who have walked and laughed and cried with me through hard and good times and never wavered. There are those in the Disciples of Christ with whom I have shared meals and life and stories and laughter. There is my congregation, who are not afraid to stop me in the middle of a sermon and ask me what something I said means, or to make me laugh, during Communion. My Board of Directors and Elders and Deacons who work with me in keeping my small church more than afloat, but vital, in these rough times for small churches. In all the years before I came to Geyserville, I never once thought, or believed, that my life could be this full!
So when you’ve been praying for something to happen in your life that never quite seems to happen, and this Jesus character calls out to you from some unexpected place, and yells across the waters where floats your empty boat, “Hey, Have a fish!” do not say that you’d rather have sirloin or that you’re a vegan. Take the fish and get on with, or should I say, get out of the way of your life. It’ll be better that way.