My Bishop, who has been my pastor/priest since 1987, can get a sermon illustration out of anything and everything. I must be careful here –me and the 10-foot snake in the church office years ago when I worked for him could be this Sunday’s example. Of what, I’m not sure. But I am positive he could produce an illustration from that afternoon’s adventures.
Over the years he has preached hundreds of sermons each with its own individual illustration. Many of these illustrations were so good, they remain with me today. “My dog’s not in this fight,” “Will this really matter in five years?” and my all-time favorite “Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot.” To this day, I remind myself frequently—step out with the right foot, then the left foot, right foot, then left foot.” In other words, don’t step ahead of God. Don’t look too far in the future. Just take one step at a time, trusting God to guide your steps.
A few weeks ago his sermon’s illustration ranks as one of the most unusual. It seems that the Bishop watched a documentary on noodling. For those of you who are unfamiliar with noodling—simply put—it is a way to catch catfish. ( For a more in-depth explanation, Google noodling.) Bishop gave a detailed explanation but the point of the example was this: The fishermen had to go where the fish were. Simple, profound. He likened that statement to the one found in Matthew 4:19 “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out ofyou. I’ll show you how to catch menand women instead of perch and bass. They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.” (The Message)
If we are to “catch men and women” for God—if we are to win people to God—we have to go to where the people are.
Almost immediately upon hearing this verse, I thought of an organization I’ve become somewhat familiar with over the last year. “Victoria’s Friends is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to provide spiritual support, physical restoration, and training to women working in the sex industry.” Dancers—in strip clubs—in downtown Atlanta. Victoria Teague is the founder of Victoria’s Friends. She knows what these girls and women face every night. The dangers. Drugs. Alcohol. For over four years, she was one of them. But God…(there’s that beautiful phrase) but God had other plans for Victoria. He came into her life with the gift of salvation and all that comes with that – healing, peace, unconditional love. He blessed her with a beautiful family and a ministry in the very places she left—the strip clubs. Victoria and her team of volunteers take Baskets of Love into the strip clubs of downtown Atlanta with permission from the club’s management. They minister the unconditional love of God to the women. They show them that there is a better way—a better life. Women who want to leave that industry are given assistance in getting out. They’re given clothes and training for a new job. To date, over 300 women have been helped out of that lifestyle and into a lifestyle with Jesus. (For more information about Victoria’s Friends and to hear Victoria’s testimony in her own words, go to http://www.victoriasfriends.com/ ).
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells us, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” These words of Jesus were not just for Biblical times. He is instructing us to go “fishing” for men and women. Where is your pond? Victoria’s is in the strip clubs of downtown Atlanta. Perhaps your pond is where you work, or your neighborhood. Maybe it’s the local soup kitchen. Or the local country club. Maybe God’s pond for you is even bigger – Uganda, Haiti, foreign waters. The point is each of us has a pond and it’s time to go fishing. Selah.
© 2012 Edwina E. Cowgill