By the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Episcopal Church
I spent a lot of weekday afternoons in college trying to organize games at an inner city park in Greenville, S.C. “Park” gives the wrong impression. It was more of a vacant lot, mostly dirt and lots of trash. There was an asphalt basketball court complete with rims without nets. There was no equipment except what we brought with us from school. But the park did have an abundance of kids with nothing to do.
One day I was there when it had just rained. The worms had been brought to the surface. As long as there’s a God in heaven, kids will be fascinated by worms. So were these inner city kids, but they did not actually use the word “worm” at all. To these little boys playing among the trash, worms were known as “baits.” Baits were for catching fish.
I have never looked at a worm again without remembering that worms are baits, and I have wondered how this applies to what Jesus said about fishing. I think the point might have something to do with the importance of what things are used for.
Nothing has much value if it isn’t used for its intended purpose. Worms don’t have much value to an inner city kid if they aren’t used to catch fish. Not much else has value if it isn’t used as God intended. Nor do we. And our intended purpose is to be God’s agents in restoring “all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” It is what we do. It is who we are as baptized people.
And, it seems to me, if we aren’t using all our resources for that intended purpose, they aren’t of much value either. Trust funds and endowments and investments and diocesan commitments and pledges and real estate and parish halls and office buildings and whatever else we have, after all, are only baits. No matter what fiduciary duties we attach to them, they are only baits. In fact, our duty is neglected when what we have been entrusted with is not used for its intended purpose – sharing.
Jesus said he intended us to be fishers (Mark 1:17). I don’t think he meant holding the pole or casting the net, either. I think he meant us to be baits. We are, after all, known by what we’re useful for. And to be useful for their intended purpose, which is to be baits, those first disciples had to leave the nets behind.
I doubt that felt safe or comfortable. I suspect it felt like no small adventure. At least I hope it did. And I’m pretty sure that’s just the way it is with being a disciple, which is what we’re here to be – baits for the reign of God, for God’s reconciling love, for nothing less than the salvation of the world in exactly the same way those kids at the park hooked me.