“The Joy of Faith and Other Great Fishing Stories” February 10, 2019
“The Joy of Our Faith, and Other Great Fishing Stories”
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
One of the most memorable fishing trips I have known didn’t start out as a fishing trip at all. I’m not really sure what it was we were doing in the dead of winter that day many years ago out in the brush outside of Keystone, So. Dakota but I do remember I was with a rather disreputable fellow named Jim Green and had my long haired Irish setter named Scarlet with us. We were probably looking to shoot some grouse for supper. I also remember lots of snow. Eventually, we came up to a creek called Battle Creek and I must have made some remark that it’s not very often that the shelf ice can get so thick along the edges like this. It has to get pretty doggone cold to freeze up a mountain stream like this. That’s when Jim had this dandy of an idea. “I bet there’s fish in there,” he said.
“Fish in where?”
“In the creek, you dufus!”
“Yea, makes sense to me. So what’s the plan? D’you want Scarlet to flush them out or do you happen to have a rod and reel in your back pocket?” I said.
“Naw, we don’t need a pole,” he snorted, “we’ll hand fish ‘em.” Now, like I said young Jim Green was a little on the unconventional side. He had grown up in the remote areas of rural Alaska and let’s just say, they do things a bit different up there. One of those things, evidently, was hand fishing. “When it gets like this,” he said, “the fish will lay up underneath the ice and just hang out. The secret is not to spook them.” And as he’s telling me this, he’s handing me his goose down coat and he’s rolling up his sleeve and I’m thinking that he’s going to a lot of trouble to pull off some kind of a joke on me; I just couldn’t figure out what it might be. But when he layed down on the ice and stuck his bare arm in that icy water, I knew he was dead serious.
“A little cold, ain’t it?” I asked.
“It only stings for a little bit,” he chattered, “then you go numb. But now listen, when you find ‘em under the ice – if you find them – you need to rub their bellies real easy until they calm down and then slide your fingers up to their gills and then…WHAMMO.” And as he said this, a 10 inch trout came flying out of the water and landed on the opposite bank. Scarlet, ever the bird dog and retriever ran over to make sure it didn’t flop back into the water. I couldn’t believe it. “I told you there was fish in there,” he said. He pulled out about 10 more fish, laughing the whole time and keeping the dog plenty busy, until his arm just quit working, and then he looked up at me and said, “Well, it’s your turn.”
Now, I am not one to brag about the indiscretions of my youth. I’ve always wondered what might have happened if a game warden had come along as we gathered up our catch in every pocket and piece of clothing that we could spare.
Heck, we had to make a bag of sorts out of my vest just to haul this tremendous catch back to town. I would like to think that he would have been so busy laughing that he’s wouldn’t have bothered with such things as citations or fines.
I do know that I could never take Scarlet fishing with me after that because I couldn’t keep her out of the water. She would pace and splash looking for fish the same way she did looking for pheasant or grouse and she loved every minute of it. The problem was, she was so fascinated with finding fish that she scared them off and I couldn’t catch a thing, which I guess, served me right. Anyhow, that’s my fishing story for the day.
The fishing stories of Jesus, on the other hand, are of whole different caliber. They tend to make mine story pale by comparison, but that’s as it should be. Today’s story from Luke 5 is a great example. Jesus borrows a boat from Peter who has been fishing all night to use as a podium to speak from. We all know how sound carries over water. Anyhow, when he is done speaking, he asks them to go out in the deep water and cast their nets. “Aw, come on, we haven’t caught a thing all night,” they bellyached, but they did it anyway and the rest of the story you know well. They end up with more fish than they can handle and almost sink the boat. Ever notice that so many of the miracle stories of Christ are about abundance and excess? So many fish that the nets are ripping, gallons of wine out of some old water jugs, food to feed thousands from a few loaves of bread and a couple dried up fish? Why? What’s the point? Is it showing off? Is it to make us feel bad? After all, it was Peter that said, “Go away from me. I’m a sinner,” after Jesus had done this incredible thing. Yes, after Jesus had done this incredible thing that Peter did not deserve.
You know, I came here this morning (afternoon) on this particularly nasty day to talk about our faith, to talk about the joy of our faith, and to talk about fishing. I’m not really inclined to get into the finer points of this, that, and the other thing but something did get my attention. Maybe God has chosen to give us a glimpse of the extravagant now and then because we need that. Maybe God has chosen to lavish all over us more than we deserve just because he loves us that much. Maybe by giving us a glimpse of our salvation he can restore the joy of our salvation. This is my simple thought for this day: the joy of my faith isn’t much different than that of a bird dog that spends her time looking for fish in the water for I have seen the majesty of God and I can’t help but praise him to the end of my days.
Amen & Shalom