Several weeks ago, during Lent, I preached on a text that described Peter's call to ministry. It's that well-known passage where Jesus tells Peter and the other guys to drop their nets out in the deep water, even though they had fished all night and come up empty-handed. Peter has his doubts, but does it anyway. Of course, they bring in a huge catch of fish and Peter prostrates himself before Jesus, declaring himself a sinner. Jesus tells him to "Get up! Stop being so afraid. Come help me catch other people." In the sermon, I suggested that in that moment of grace and understanding from Jesus, and in that moment of experiencing the abundance of the Kingdom (symbolized by the catch of fish), Peter is "caught" by Christ. I then challenged the congregation to consider when in their lives they had been "caught," realizing that this is not a singular event but rather an existential experience, happening moment to moment as we open ourselves up to recognizing and embodying the love and grace of God through Christ.
I even invited the congregation to write their experiences of being "caught" on small paper fish, which they then brought forward and placed on the communion table. Some wrote about being "caught" at church camp, or by a loved one, during worship, in the act of communion, even a walk in the woods. Those who felt they had not yet been "caught" were invited to write a prayer asking God to help open them to the possibility. It was quite a sight to see these multi-colored fish all over and around the table of communion.
Well, last Friday our elementary-age children had a lock-in on Good Friday. Part of the evening was devoted to talking about the children who are going to be baptized on Pentecost and sharing what that meant to them. One boy shared that he finally made the decision to be baptized during my "fishy" sermon about being "caught" by Christ. He had decided that he had indeed been caught and it was time to respond to that experience.
The story of this young boy reminded me that this is primarily what ministry with youth is about. It's not about making them into Christians or indoctrinating them with our theology, or adding to the church membership roles. It's about helping to provide spaces and places and times in their lives when they can experience God's love and grace so palpably that they too can say, "I've been caught. Now show me how to help others get caught, too."