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January 26, 2014–Are We Running Out of Fish?

Contributed by John Wertz, Blacksburg, VA


Warm-up Question

A few weeks ago, a researcher posted a video which proves that fish, don’t simply get caught, sometimes they do the catching.  Take a look at this video of  a fish catching a flying bird.  Do you think it is real or a fake?

Are We Running Out of Fish?

shutterstock_130183616editAccording to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over 33 million adults in the United  States go fishing during the course of a year.  For many of those individuals, fishing is a source of relaxation and entertainment, but fishing is also a vital source of food for families around the world.   A study produced by the U.N Food and Agriculture  Organization revealed that the worldwide fish harvest in 2012 amounted to nearly 90 million tons of fish.

Given the amount of fish being caught in the oceans and harvested from fish farms on a yearly basis, there is genuine concern in some areas that over the next 50 years, the world’s fish population will diminish to dangerous levels.   Some groups like the World Wildlife Federation are working to raise awareness of the dangers of  poor management of fishers, overfishing and destructive fishing techniques which they claim have put over 53% of the world’s fisheries at risk (  Other groups, like Marine Stewardship Council  are working with fishers, retailers, processors, and consumers to encourage practices which safeguard the world’s oceans and create sustainable supplies of fish and seafood.   Hopefully by raising awareness and encouraging good stewardship of the world’s fish stocks, oceans, lakes and rivers,  there will be an abundant supply of fish to meet the dietary and economic needs of our ever growing world.

Discussion Questions

  •  If you were going on a fishing trip, where would you like to go and why?
  • How might your choices affect rivers, lakes, oceans and fish?  What could you do to be a better steward of these gifts.
  • Share examples of ways that people work together to care for creation.

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, January 26, 2014 (Third Sunday After Epiphany)


Isaiah 9:1-4

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Matthew 4:12-23

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

When most of us think of fishing, we probably think of a person either sitting in a boat holding a rod with a single line in the water or we think of a person standing in the edge of a stream, casting a bait covered hook into the water.  Unless you happen to be a part of a commercial fishing operation, very few people today would describe fishing as something you do with a net, but in Jesus’ time things were a little different.  For Peter, Andrew and the other fisherman around the Sea of Galilee, fishing meant casting a wide, broad net and pulling in whatever the net touched.  Fishing wasn’t about gathering one fish at a time.  Fishing was about  gathering as many fish as possible with the cast of a net.  When Jesus says to Peter and Andrew “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” he is inviting them to join him in a ministry that will cast out a broad net and potentially touch the lives of countless people.

When Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” he is inviting Peter, Andrew and all of God’s people to join him in proclaiming the good news of God’s love for the world.  When Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” he is inviting Peter, Andrew and all of God’s people to join him in gathering people in from a sinful and broken way of life so that they can experience the healing of a life in Christ.  When Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” he is inviting Peter, Andrew and all of God’s people to join him in spreading a message of hope and salvation to a world that is searching for a future.   The fishing Jesus invites us to do is not about finding the right bait to trick someone into getting close to faith, so that the church can get its hooks into them.  The fishing that Jesus invites us to do is about gathering together God’s people from far and wide so they can be touched by the unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness of God.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Jesus invited Peter and Andrew to join him proclaiming God’s love to the world?
  • How many people do you think are touched by your ministry in the world during a week?  How many people do you think are touched by the ministry of the people in your congregation during a week or a year?
  • Jesus uses images from everyday life to help people understand God and God’s mission to love and bless the world.  When he invited Peter and Andrew to follow him, Jesus talked about fishing because they were fisherman.  If Jesus was inviting you to follow him, what example would he use to help you understand what he was inviting you to do?

Activity Suggestions

  • Lay a bed sheet on the floor and place a ball in the middle of the sheet.  Invite the group to grab hold of the corners of the sheet and throw the ball into the air as high as possible using the sheet.   Now invite one person to try and match that result by themselves.  Talk about the ways that we can accomplish more when we work together.
  • Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to help cast God’s story into the world.  Think of one way that you can share the story of God’s love with the world this week.

Closing Prayer

Loving God, you call us to follow you and fish for people.  Inspire us to be your hearts and hands and voices in the world and help us to use the gifts you have given us to make your love known to the world.  Amen.

January 22, 2012–Rescue the Perishing

Contributed by Sylvia Alloway, Granada Hills, CA

Warm-up Question

Imagine that you have an enemy – one who taunts you, puts you down, who may even be plotting to kill you. Then you get a phone call. This person is in terrible, life-threatening trouble and you are the only one who can help. Would you go to the rescue?

Rescue the Perishing

That scenario is close to what really happened in the waters of the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran. A group of Iranian fishermen had been taken hostage by Somali pirates. The kidnappers were using the fishermen’s boat as a floating headquarters for their illegal activities. After forty days, the Iranian captain managed to get to the pirates’ radio. He pleaded for help in Urdu, a Pakistani language his captors did not know.

The call was picked up by an American Navy destroyer, the USS Kidd, which had recently been reprimanded for its presence in Iranian waters. In spite of the language barrier they figured out that someone needed help and they didn’t stop to ask who. In an action worthy of an old war movie, a helicopter launched from the Navy ship rescued the 13 Iranians and took 15 pirates into custody.

U.S Naval officers on board fed the former hostages, made sure they were in good health and released them – wearing USS Kidd baseball caps.

It is doubtful that this heroic act will do much to improve U.S./Iran relations. While one Iranian spokesperson expressed gratitude for the “humanitarian gesture,” another dismissed it as a “publicity stunt.”

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think the crew of the USS Kidd was willing to help members of a group that is technically “the enemy”?
  • What would you have done if you were the captain of the ship when the distress call came in?
  • Should Christians always help anyone in need, no matter what? Why or why not?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, January 22, 2012 (Third Sunday after Epiphany)

Jonah 3:1-5, 10

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Mark 1:14-20
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

So there were Peter, Andrew, and the Zebedee brothers, on the job mending their fishing nets, as usual. Along comes a stranger. They have probably seen him before. Other encounters are recorded in other gospels. But this time is different. He does not say hello or ask how they are doing.

He says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

What? We’re supposed to leave behind our father’s prosperous business (notice they have hired workers), and follow this – whoever-he-is to wherever it is he’s going?

Well, yes.

It was not unusual in that day for a Jewish person to follow a rabbi. It was a little like going to college. You “sat at the feet” of a wise teacher (often literally) and learned the wisdom of the Scriptures. That is, you did if you were the son of a Pharisee or a priest, the upper class of the day. But ordinary fishermen follow a rabbi? Why? How would that help them to catch more fish? It would be like Jesus walking into a car repair shop and telling the mechanics, “Follow me and I will make you fix people.” The first question would be “Why?” and then “Why me?” And then maybe “What’s in it for me?”

But Jesus is saying, “I have a job for you, one much more important than the one you have now. I want you to come and learn from me and prepare. Now you will work for MY Father. Follow me.”

And they did. These were men of action. They jumped up, left behind the nets and the boats and their coworkers and off they went with Jesus. He called them and they answered. How odd this sounds to us!

We have to look at the verses that come before this passage to find out why. In verse 15 Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near.” The reason is simply that it’s time. Jesus’ mission has begun. You are to share in it. Come.

When the crew of the USS Kidd was called, they came. There was an important job to do.  Because they did it, lives were saved.

Jesus has a job for us to do as well. We are to share in his mission, spread his Gospel, let others know that he is The One who saves us from sin and death. If we do, lives will be saved. It’s time. Come.


Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever had to drop what you were doing to help or rescue someone? What happened? How did you feel about it?
  • Have you ever seen a person you knew God wanted you to help or a job he wanted you to do and not done it? (Don’t worry, everyone has.) How did you feel about it?
  • Jesus calls all of us to spread his Gospel, whether it’s convenient or not. How can the young people in your class answer that call as a group? Individually? What might you have to give up in order to do this? Remember that you show Christ to the world – your world – in both actions and words.

Activity Suggestions

Go back to the last question. Write “This week I will show Christ to my world by___” on the board or chart paper. Write down students’ suggestions. Have each person take a slip of paper and write down one of the suggestions or one of his/her own. Have a time of silent prayer for the courage and power to take the action listed. Close with a spoken prayer. Remind the class to pray for each other during the week.

Suggested songs: “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” ” Be Thou My Vision,”  “Rescue the Perishing”

Closing Prayer

God of our salvation, Prepare our hearts, minds and spirits for the time of action. Inspire us to do the work you have for us with courage and love. May we follow you willingly, loyally, and eternally. In Our Savior’s Holy Name,  we pray.  Amen.