It's been over thirty years ago, but I can remember it just like it was yesterday. It was a day for a "first", the first time I went fishing with my Grandpa. By this time, even though I wasn't quite seven years old, I considered myself an experienced fisherman, able to take up the serious business of fishing for the fish fry my family put on every Wednesday, and during special occasions, like labor day. Tingling with excitement, we pulled up to Clark's Landing on Cocodrie Lake, and I asked my Grandpa a question:
"What's the biggest fish in here?"
In a thick accent caused by a full life in Central Louisiana, he answered
"Dars an ol' gar in der bigger'en you are!"
With wide eyes, my imagination took hold and I began to see the ol' gar down below waiting to snatch a finger. The overcast sky, and cooler temperature added to my anxiety. I kept watch on the water. After fishing for a couple of hours, we decided to call it a day. Normally, Grandpa caught "two or tree" dozen tasty white perch, but today only two fish hit the pot gut minnows he used for bait. I road along on the back seat of the boat, taking in the surroundings. Tupelo trees in the water formed a barrier, and the passageway through the water grew narrow. I began thinking about the gar again, and heard a noise behind me of something slipping. Turning, I gazed in horror as my fishing pole slipped off the side of the boat into the water.
"Grandpa!" I exclaimed "The gar got my pole, he pulled it into the water!"
Chuckling, he replied "Well padnah, sometime, you gotta watch yo pole."
I started learning an important lesson that day. It's hard to fish without the right equipment, but I let my worry distract me and I lost my pole as a result. Jesus called the first disciples to be "fishers of men", and it's equally important, if we're going to follow their example, for us to watch and make sure our equipment isn't lost. The most important equipment we have for fishing for men is the testimony of our faith acting in our life. If we allow the world to distract us, and if we take our eyes off the prize, it becomes easy for others to judge that we hold our faith cheap. If we want to save others, we have to listen to Paul's instruction to Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:16: "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."
We come to this table recognizing that we're at the tackle shop. It's time for us to get new tackle, to renew the covenant that cleanses us for sin, and to also equip our minds to deal with the stress of life. We go to church, fellowship at this meal, and in honesty and humility, admit to God and to each other that we lost our pole, or at least our bait. Once we're equipped, we're ready to fish again, and tell happier fishing stories next week.