Sermon on the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany, All Saints, Ft. Lauderdale

If you have ever been fishing, you know that there is a lot of planning that goes into a fishing trip.  The first step is to gather all of the fishing rods and to make sure the reels are well oiled, the line is fresh, and that the tackle that you will need is ready to go in each of the tackle boxes lined up ready to be packed into the car.  The gas tank in the boat has to be filled, the boat trailer has to be hitched to the car, and the lunches prepared for a day out on the lake or river.  Once you are out on the lake, you find the perfect lure for the water conditions that day.  If it is particularly murky you might choose a lure that is brightly colored and has a few small shiny blades that twist and turn in the water to get the attention of the fish or you could choose a spinner bait that buzzes across the top of the water making a constant noise as it travels from where you cast it back to the end of the rod.  On a clear day and in clear water, you might choose a top water lure that you gently tug back towards you zigging and zagging across the water or a plastic worm baited with oil that will attract a fish as it bobs up and down beneath the surface tempting a large bass to swallow it up.  The more you fish, the more you learn that fishing is not a science but an art form.  You learn that to catch the bass that starts off as this big (show small hands) and eventually grows to be THIS big (large hands) requires the patience of learning the art of choosing the right lure, casting in the right places, and a little bit of luck.  Of course, that is only if you are talking about the more modern form of fishing – the form in which you have access to all this fancy equipment meant to help you catch the biggest fish possible.

But there is another form of fishing that is much easier.  All it requires is a cane pole, a little bit of fishing line, and a bucket of worms.  (And perhaps a large plastic bucket to sit on while waiting on the bank of the lake!)  This simpler form of fishing does not require much – just a desire to be out there and to cast a line into the water with the hope that a fish will come by to accept the invitation to a delicious worm on the end of a hook.  Unlike the fancy kind of fishing with the fancy lures, the even fancier rods, and the expensive reels, the simpler form of fishing just asks for your patience and diligent attention to the cork floating in the water.  Once you have set up your plastic bucket for a seat, you bait your hook and toss the line out into the water with the hope of catching a crappie or with a whole lot of luck, a bass on the end of the line.  The simpler form only asks that you remain diligent in the task of casting the invitation back into the water time and again until finally a fish accepts the invitation and the cork goes under the water.  Ah – the moment you have been waiting for – the moment that invitation to a juicy worm was accepted, and the moment that you set the hook to bring the fish back to the surface and into that bucket filled with water you have been using as a seat.  Though it is a simpler form of fishing, it is no less exciting when that invitation is accepted; you still have caught a fish that may start out being this big until it grows over the course of the next few days to being THIS big – and all on a cane pole too!

Funny how that simpler form of fishing results in just as much delight as if we had been using all that fancy tackle, rods, and reels.  Just by extending the line into the water, we catch a fish and experience the same level of joy as if we had all that fancy equipment at our disposal.  Just like the simpler form of fishing, we do not have to use fancy equipment to issue an invitation to someone.  In fact, it only takes the simplest of tools for us to invite someone to attend some event, a night on the town with friends, or yes, even to church.  The only lure that is required for us to be successful in that invitation is a willingness to share our lives with another person, to be present with that person in the moment, and to continue to invite another into our lives each and every day.  Our experience is not unlike what we find in the gospel today when Jesus invites Peter, Andrew, James, and John into relationship with him.  The invitation is a simple one:  Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.  Jesus invites these ordinary people into his life to achieve extraordinary ends.  Jesus invites them to become fishers of people, but what are we to make of this invitation?  Are we to think that Jesus invites us to use the most expensive of lures attached to the best rods and reels that money could buy?  Or is it simpler than that?  The invitation to the disciples is a simple one, and the task before the disciples is equally as simple.  Jesus is calling the disciples into relationship with him, and through him, the disciples are called into relationship with others.

Just as the disciples are called into relationship with Jesus and through Jesus with others, we are being called to share our lives with others around us each and every day.  We are invited to find out where God is working in our lives in the ordinariness of each day.  God is not only present during those extraordinary moments of life; we need only to seek God in the every day in order to find that God is there with us.  in looking for God, we are drawn into relationship with God and discover that God is at work in our lives at every moment, but we also are called to listen to where God is calling us to invite others into our lives.  The invitation does not need to be fancy or written on stationary with gold trim around it.  The invitation is simply casting that line into the sea of people around us and waiting for someone to accept that invitation.  It is the act of inviting another person to share with you a moment in life that will more than likely be something ordinary, and by sharing something ordinary with each other, we begin to discover that extraordinary things happen.  We begin to form a relationship that asks us to be present with another person and for that person to be present with us.  We begin to share our lives with each other in such a way that we start to depend on each other for support as we move through our ordinary daily lives, and we begin to be be thankful for the act of invitation.  We begin to cherish the fact that these other people are part of our lives and that we are able to rely on them for support in the ordinariness of our lives.

As a seminarian, you begin to rely on the support of others in a number of different ways.  You rely on your classmates to be your support network as you move through the grueling semesters, and you find life in the relationships that you create along the path of academic work.  You rely on the funding of scholarships to help pay for the costs of tuition, books, health insurance, and various other costs that come with being in graduate school.  Most importantly, you begin to rely on the support of the members of your home parish in a new and profound way.  You begin to understand that your invitation to ministry relies upon others accepting their own invitation to ministry, and if you did not realize it beforehand, you begin to understand that ministry is always a shared activity in which you rely on the support of others.

The support that I have received from All Saints is something that I give thanks for each and every day.  I see the struggles of some of my classmates to find the dollars and cents to make ends meet each month, and I give thanks for the continuous support of All Saints’ support in the form of a monthly check that helps me during my time in seminary.  I give thanks for the fact that you have agreed to support me in a very tangible way during my time of formation, and I give thanks for the fact that I have a great parish to come home and visit each time I am able to sneak away from Austin for a weekend in Fort Lauderdale.

Just like the person that sits on the side of the bank with a cane pole and a bucket of worms, All Saints extended an invitation to me several years ago that I am so glad to have accepted.  You, like Jesus, extended an invitation of love and have continued to extend that invitation to me and to others each and every day.  The invitation is a simple one, but it is no less profound.  In the ordinariness of life, you, the people of All Saints, are the invitation to others to come to Christ’s table and to share in the love of Christ through relationship with each other.  But let us not confine that invitation simply to our time here at church.  Let us take that invitation out into our daily, ordinary lives to find God in the most unexpected of places.  Let us take the invitation that God has given to us and share it with others that are in our lives.  We may just find that extraordinary things happen in the most ordinary of circumstances.