“What on earth is that guy doing?” Linda asked.
“Whaaa!” I said as I awoke with a loud choke and a snort.
It was midday nap time and Linda was kneeling on the trailer bed and looking out the window. Just outside was another camper mounted on a Ford 4×4 diesel pickup truck, roaring its engine and trying to wallow through the mud and wedge itself between our trailer and a pine tree. I stabbed my fists in my eyes, rolled over and got on my knees to join Linda who was administering dark menacing looks out our trailer window.
“Why on earth would anyone try to park so close to us in a remote campsite like this?” said Linda. “Don’t they get it? We braved the Chilcotin mud and rain to get here precisely to be away from people.”
I didn’t say much but watched as the young couple, both in their early 50s, negotiated with one another as they attempted to negotiate the camper past our travel trailer towards a muddy bit of ground about six metres from us. Eventually they somehow managed it and proceeded to set up camp on our doorstep. We proceeded to enthusiastically ignore them. They proceeded to get all their fly-fishing gear out and fish the pants off of us for the entire week that we shared the site and the lake with them.
The next day I spied on them from our canoe and I could see the fella catch fish after fish, all of them large. We were lucky to catch a couple of small ones. The next day it was a repeat performance. By day three I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I waddled over the few feet between our digs and nonchalantly asked him how they were making out.
“Oh, today I caught 10 Rainbow and two Brookies, five of ‘em over 19 inches. The wife caught about the same. It’s been like that every day,” he said. “How did you do?”
I didn’t answer his nosey question. “Can I see ‘em?” I said, trying hard not to disguise the disdain in my voice.
“Oh no, we do nothing but catch and release,” he said. “Do you keep everything you catch?”
Again I didn’t answer his nosey question. “What are you using?” I asked, trying to sound as uninterested as I could.
“Oh just this one fly,” he said. “Both me and the wife, we’re just using this one fly. But you have to present it to the fish in just the right way, real deep and dead slow on the troll. What are you using?”
“Grummmphhh!” I said, as I stomped back to the trailer. I didn’t want to have to tell the guy that Linda and I had been using just about every fly in a box full of flies that I had artfully hand tied. In fact, my fingers were sore and raw from changing flies so many times. And we had tried just about every kind of presentation of each fly we could come up with. I was disgusted. Linda and I were lucky to catch a couple of small fish a day between us, using every fly in my arsenal, fished every way possible. This guy and his wife were daily catching a couple of dozen really big fish between them, using only one fly, fished in one “right way.” And they were throwing them all back? But I had his number; I saw his fly. In fact I even photographed it and through good fly-fisherman intelligence (oops, I oxymoroned) I know the one “right way” to present it.
It is winter as I write this. I have tied a box full of my nemesis’ “one fly” and even now I am plotting my return to Raven Lake to redeem my fly-fishing reputation. I will present it just the way he told me to. But in the process, the whole experience has been dragged through the scriptures and it has set me to pondering. One scripture in particular has kept rising to the surface; Paul says to the Corinthians: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Paul had been evangelizing the Corinthians but it had gotten really competitive and confusing. Several others had come in after him with all kinds of glitz and glitter, with all kinds of boasts and credentials, adding all kinds of attractive claims. The temptation must have been intense; the temptation to add the glitz and glitter, to make all kinds of boasts and claims, too. But Paul decides to stick with one fly, with one attractant, with Jesus Christ and him crucified presented in just the right way. The right way, according to Paul, was in a very fleshy, unostentatious, imperfect, perhaps even weak but very authentically human way. It’s something Paul learned from the Master.
When I read 1 Corinthians 2:2 and think about my own attempts to attract people to the church—and the church’s attempts to attract people to itself—and when I examine it all through the lens of my summer’s fly fishing experience, I have to confess to feeling a tad embarrassed. It seems like I have been going about the whole evangelization thing the way I fly fish, frantically casting about with everything in my box of church tricks, whipping the waters into a froth and catching very little. Where is the one thing? Where is Jesus Christ crucified, authentically and humanly presented?
Will I never learn? Evangelization is about the one thing, Jesus Christ and him crucified. He is both the media and the message. It is Christ in me, communicating through me—as human and imperfect as I am—the gospel truth that there is a living God who loves the world and everyone in the world so unconditionally that He has sent his own Son to become flesh, to teach the world, to take on the sin of the world, to pay sin’s price by his death on a cross and through his resurrection to offer new life to all who receive him. That is the message of the one thing. And this one thing needs be presented in just the right way, flesh to flesh, mano a mano, authentically humanly proclaimed. We can fuss over all kinds of other attractants but it is the saving grace of God through the message of Jesus Christ crucified (and risen) that catches and saves women and men. The other attractants amount to style not substance. We can fuss with changing church services to be more “seeker friendly,” we can mess with the music to make it more professional or perhaps even more upbeat, we can build a new more attractive building with padded pews, or we can do the very Presbyterian thing and mount another General Assembly survival initiative; we can fuss with all that stuff and it won’t make us more effective fishers of women and men. The Master “fisher of men,” the best the world ever knew, calls and teaches his disciples that its “one thing” presented the right way.