Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Matthew 4: 18-20
We are all familiar with the concept of “fishing.” The fisherman baits a hook, casts a line attached to a pole into a body of water, and waits for a bite. The other way a fisherman works is to cast a net into an area where there are lots of fish and then some of the fish get trapped in the net. Of course, fishing is not always successful. The line may have to be cast many times before a fish bite. Some fish may escape from the net. Sometimes the fisherman will have to locate a new spot as the fish may not be biting where he is casting. And sometimes the fisherman gets lots of bites in one area and stays there for a while because he is enjoying success in catching fish.
When Jesus called the first disciples, He didn’t tell them “Come and I will make you idle spectators.” He didn’t tell them “Come and I won’t expect much from you.” He certainly didn’t tell them “Come with me, I’ve got this great product you will love to consume.” He told them “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mathew 4:19) He told them “Come with me and together we can change the world.” Christ makes the same call to every one of His disciples, to every one of us. It’s not just the priest who are supposed to be “fishing” for people. Every disciple has that same charge. The priest might be looked at as the fishing boat captain. One of his jobs is to steer the boat to a place where fish are biting. In other words, he is supposed to lead the community in creating the environment where Christ is preached and lived. However, as for “catching fish,” bringing others to Christ, that is everyone’s job.
Bringing people to Christ is a lot like fishing. First there must be bait. There must be something attractive about a church community in order to bring people there and encourage them to “bite.” Secondly, we must deliberately cast the line. We must purposely throw the net with the intention of catching fish. This is done by inviting people to come to church. This is done by seeing a neighbor or a friend who is struggling and asking them to pray, to bring God into their struggle. Just as with fishing, some will shy away. There will be times that the line is cast and there is no bite. In fact, most fishermen fail to catch fish more often than they catch them. If a fisherman casts ten times, maybe he gets a bite one out of the ten times. However, he still goes fishing, he still casts the line, always with the anticipated joy of catching a fish. And even in failure, he casts the line again, anticipating the next cast will yield the next fish.
Part of being a Christian is not only caring for our own salvation, but for the salvation of our neighbor. That neighbor includes the person next to us in the pews each Sunday. It also includes the person who lives next door to us, who perhaps has no relationship with Christ.
There are many subtle ways to cast the line. Have you ever invited someone to church? Have you ever asked a neighbor to come to church with you on Christmas? Have you ever invited a neighbor who is going through a tough time to pray together? I cast the line often, and most of the time I do not have success, at least not success that I can see. When I visit a parishioner in the hospital and there is another bed in the room, I always ask to pray with the person in the next bed. Sometimes I pray with the medical staff. While I may not directly be inviting them to church, I am inviting them to Christ. I have invited my neighbors to come to church—so far, none have. But I have cast the net and this is what Christ cares about. If one person out of a hundred bites, that’s one more person who has found Christ, and one more person who can potentially become a fisherman and bring others. So cast the line in subtle ways. Pray with the person who is crying on your shoulder. Invite a person who needs a friend to come to church, to come and worship and to stay and have fellowship.
In our parish, for the past couple of years, we have had a “come and see” dinner at our festival. We have a table in front of the church at the Greek festival where we welcome people to our church. We encourage them to take a tour. We hand out literature about Orthodoxy and about our parish. And we do it with a smile. We create an environment that is safe and welcoming. We invite people who want to learn more about our faith to “come and see” us a couple of weeks later, at a free dinner offered one night at our church. Several people invite their neighbors and their co-workers to come, people whom they’ve spoken to about our church, whose curiosity is piqued and who come to see what we are about. We’ve already had a couple of people join our church because of the “come and see” dinner. And there are many who have come who have decided not to join. Maybe they came to see, or maybe they came for the free meal. It’s immaterial. Just like it is immaterial if the fisherman casts ten times or a hundred times before getting a bite.
God expects each of us to fish for people. He expects us to care not only about our own salvation but about the salvation of our neighbor. I also don’t think He keeps score on how many “bites” we get. Those are things we cannot control. I think He is more concerned with how many times we cast the line.
There are many people in our society who do not know Christ. There are many people who are lost and Christ can help them find their way. If we never cast the line for Christ, we will never net any fish. Part of our participation in the life of the church is as a fisherman, each of us casting His line. The more lines that are cast, the more chance for more fish to be caught.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth! Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted by the mouths of babes and infants, Thou hast founded a bulwark because of Thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast established; what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou has put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth! Psalm 8
Go catch some fish for Christ!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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