During the last two days of my spring break I got to enjoy some fly fishing with my older brother. Every time I would cast my line up stream I was hoping to attract a fish with the nymph flies I had selected. I wanted to make sure I had the right flow, the right flies, and the right fish. You know, the fish that would be willing to be caught by my flashy trickery. While fishing I was reflecting on the passage where Christ approaches "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" (Matthew 4:18-19). The image of two disciples throwing a net into the sea in order to catch fish and likening that image with being fishers of men seems to take on a different idea if, say, the disciples were holding St. Croix fly rods in their hands.
What I mean is this, fly rods and fly tackle are designed to attract fish so that they can be caught whereas a net being cast into the sea is designed, not to attract fish, but to forcibly snatch them up and pull them into the boat. You might even say that the fish are being caught totally against their will. Is it important to look into the imagery this closely? When contemplating the action of the will in our 21st century Christian world I think so. With so many denominations focusing on the correct action of our will in "accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and saviour" it is important to note this subtle yet profound image of how God calls people out of the darkness of sin.
It does not seem coincidental that we have this particular scene recorded for us. In fact the disciples casting their net into the dark sea, forcibly bringing fish out of the water and placing them into the boat is a perfect image of how the Word of God calls people from the darkness of their sin and brings them to repentance and faith in Christ, placing them in the ark of the Church. This action of the preached Word does not involve our will in any way, rather we are passively receiving God's grace. And just like a fish desires to remain in the dark depths of the sea and not be put to death so our sinful flesh desires to stay in the dark depths of sin and wars against the idea of being crucified.
When we consider the richness of this scene (the fact that Christ is paralleling God's work of saving people to the lowly image of fisherman tossing a net into the sea to catch unwilling fish) we can rightly ask the question "Does more need to be added to God's Word in order that the unwilling person be turned to repentance and faith? Should the net of God's Word and Sacraments be cast out to pull people from the darkness of their sin, or should we attempt to utilize flashy lures to catch fish? What are we suggesting when we attempt to make God's word more relevant to the age we live in? If we put bells and whistles on it will more people join the fold? Is our attempt to attach attractants to the Word and Sacraments a silent commentary on what we believe about the will?"