“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” So says Matthew 4:19 in the Gospel appointed for this Feast of St. Andrew. Some would call him the first missionary in the company of disciples. One of the two main images for mission and ministry in the New Testament is that of fishing. The other is that of a shepherd.
My mind goes to fishing in the context of remembering St. Andrew, whom we know along with his brother Peter, was a fisherman. It will not be a surprise for many of you that I find the image of fishing compelling, as I am a passionate fly fisher. If you need evidence, all you need to know is that a rainbow trout appears on the front panel of my green set of Eucharistic vestments.
What may be a surprise, however, is that when my mind goes to fishing, it also goes to grace, that unmerited, undeserved gift of God. Norman Maclean, in the novella “A River Runs Through It,” says it best: “My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”
When I wave in the wind a bamboo fly rod made from a living grass by loving hands through a process of drying, splitting, milling, sanding, gluing and varnishing that takes 300 to 500 hours of crafting; cast a fly that I wrapped and tied to a hook through the manipulations of my own fingers; use feathers and hair from animals of God’s creation that once had blood coursing through their veins; and watch a sleek muscular trout rise to take it that I am told has been virtually unchanged in the gene pool for 25 million years; that is grace, it is art, and it is never easy.
We pray in the Collect for this day that we would have the same grace given to Andrew to readily obey the call of Jesus Christ. Christian ministry is pure grace, it is an art and it is never easy. Yet it is joy, for it is the self-emptying way of the cross bringing hope to all.