Who’s been fishing before? And how did you go? Catch anything? If there is one thing fishermen hate, it is missing a fish when it took the bait. Perhaps we might have fallen asleep or gone to do something else, when all of a sudden BANG! The fish strikes and takes the bait, but we are not there to hook the fish by jagging the line, and so it just swims off. I think you would be a very popular person if you could tell fishermen when a fish was about to strike.
Because knowing when a fish will bite is an impossible task, we get so tired of waiting around that we often just walk off, and then to our horror, we miss the bite. However, there are a number of things you can buy to help us not to miss the bite. I have brought some along with me. (explain the use of the reel drag; the bell, and the glow stick).
When you have this gear on, you can then go about doing the important things you need to like preparing food, setting up camp and talking with other fisherman, but you will also be able to keep watch, ready for a strike at any time.
We often feel the same way about Jesus return as we do of fishing. We get sick of waiting around. We begin to feel as if Jesus words, ‘keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.’ And again ‘So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’ are meant for another generation, not us. After all how long has it been since Jesus first spoke these words? 2000 plus years!
Yes, it is so easy to become tired and even apathetic about Jesus return. We hear it every year and some Christians even talk about it as if it were to happen tomorrow; but it doesn’t. Nothing happens and so we are not really sure what do with the ‘keep watch and be ready.’ Do we ignore Jesus’ words and go on with our lives believing the likely hood that he won’t return in our life time anyway? This would be a feasible option except for one point. If we believe, and I know we do, that Jesus words are truth and they are the way and the life, then he must return and will return, at any time.
The people in Noah’s day knew what the forecast was, knew Noah was building an ark and that he expected the imminent arrival of rain, yet they refused to believe his words; actually, they refused to believe the word of God. They lived by sight not by faith. They couldn’t see a cloud in sight and so rejected the word of Noah as a joke and went about their normal business without a thought to what might be coming.
The question begs to be asked ‘is today any different?’ Do we also live by sight rather than by faith? A fisherman who is not prepared with the right gear and the right knowledge, looks at the ocean and sees nothing, sees no change; no fish and so leaves his rod and attends to other things saying to himself ‘there is no urgency there are no fish coming today.’ Perhaps we all are thinking this way about the return of Jesus. ‘He won’t come today, let us attend to other more pressing matters.’
We take a look around see the busyness of life, see yet another Christmas, yet another year coming to a close; we see no changes, no evidence of Jesus return and act like the unprepared fisherman and go do other things. We have convinced ourselves Jesus will never return in our lifetime, and so the urgency the early Christians felt, is no longer our urgency.
Perhaps this loss of urgency about Christ’s return is reflected in our shrinking mission budgets and shrinking pool of people willing to become pastors, evangelists and lay leaders. Perhaps this lack of mission urgency is also reflected in the declining numbers in Church. Hard questions, but questions we as a church need to be reflecting on.
Jesus says ‘be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him’. Are you ready? Are you like the fisherman with all the warning gear in readiness of the bite? Well, to be ready as a Christian is to have all the right gear; to be fully prepared for the inevitable return of Christ Jesus. And the good news is that you already have the right gear. There is nothing more you can do to be ready. The right gear is given to you in baptism. On that special day, when the water and the word of God poured down on you head, salvation became yours and you are readied by God himself for the return of Jesus.
Luther writes ‘Stated most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit and purpose of baptism is to save. No one is baptised for the purpose of making them a prince, but as the words say, ‘he who is baptised and believes will be saved’. To be saved is, as we know, nothing else than to be delivered form sins, from death, and from the devil, and to come into Christ’s kingdom and live with him forever’.
You have the right gear; you have been saved and made ready by baptism.
However, to remain ready for Jesus return, as he asks, is to make use of the salvation gear given to us. A good fisherman doesn’t leave his gear in his tackle box, no, he puts on the bell, the drag and the light so that he is ready for the unknown time of the bite. We can make ourselves ready for Jesus return by putting on our gear; baptism and Holy Communion.
In this salvation gear, are given the continuing forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith that make us constantly ready for Jesus. When we confess our sins to God seeking his forgiveness, we make use of baptism’s power of forgiveness. To come to communion for the body and blood of our Lord Jesus, is to dwell in him and he in us; continually making us pure and holy until that great day when we actually receive the glorious crown of life.
And part of being ready is to check up on each other, to ensure we are all using the right gear and ensuring we have it on in readiness. When we see one of our brothers or sisters in Christ no longer making use of their gift; no longer confessing their sins, no longer receiving the forgiveness offered to them, perhaps we could go and visit them and remind them that the glorious day of the Lord will come; And to encourage them to be ready for that day.
And if we see or know someone who has yet to be given the right gear of salvation; someone who is not baptised and doesn’t believe in Jesus, wouldn’t it be important to us, as a mater of urgency, to speak the good news of Jesus to them; to allow God the make them ready also.
Yes, this is what Jesus means when he says ‘keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come’. When we do all these things we are in deed being ready and keeping watch for his return. We don’t need to fear this day, or get tired of waiting, for we already know we have the gifts of salvation; baptism and Holy Communion. It is just a matter of making use of these gifts, just as a fisherman makes use of his gear.