Monday, February 09, 2009

A fish tale parable

When Bob and Tom (yes, those are their real names) went ice fishing the other day they probably had no idea they would ignite a controversy within South Lansing Christian Church. The day began innocently enough. Inspired by South's Seek, Study, Serve vision the pair sought fish, studied fish, and even served fresh minnows in the hopes that they might become fishers of, well, fish.

Spiritual as they are, Bob and Tom followed the early church's example of "having all things in common," That is to say, the pair pooled their resources - no doubt a sensible, stewardship-based approach to angling. Bob provided the equipment. The ice shanty, tip-up (fisherman speak for ice fishing pole) - all Bob's. For his part, Tom supplied the lake. A private body of water, Tom has long had permission to fish this secret honey-hole (a point he was careful to bring up in the ensuing controversy). Bob drove the pair to the lake, but Tom bought the bait and selected the location for the hole, even drilling it through the thick February ice.

Tom baited the hook and dropped the line into the frozen abyss and the two settled back to tell the lies that fishermen tell while waiting for the bait to be taken. Which it was. By a monster pike. Bob was the first to see the tip-up flag, or so he claims.

For those of you that live in places where water is actually a liquid more than four months out of the year, when the bait is taken on an ice fishing pole, a spring loaded flag is tripped, alerting the fisherman that a fish is on the line. This serves a couple of purposes. First, it enables the fisherman to warm his hands by keeping them away from the pole, except when absolutely necessary. Gloves are preferable, but pockets will do. As will armpits. Your own, usually, although I have heard of husband/wife fishing partners that started out innocently trying to stay warm and ended up receiving frostbite treatment. But that is a story for another blog. Probably one that is blocked by your Internet filter.

The second purpose of the tip-up is to enable the fisherman to drill multiple holes in the ice and drop lines in each. This increases the possibility that a fish moving beneath the ice might swim onto food strangely and mysteriously hanging from the sky waiting to be devoured as though it were a gift from Poseidon himself. Of course, there is always the danger that one's tip-ups will flag simultaneously, leading to the sportsman's version of the circus plate-spinner. One unfortunate angler, Dwight Snerdherder, upon seeing multiple flags surrounding his shanty, began scurrying from hole to hole until he became dizzy and passed out. They found him there hours later, alive, surrounded by fish, his Carharts frozen to the ice.

Tom reached for the pole, set the hook (another distinction he was careful to make later) and began reeling in the line. Judging by the tug on the line, Tom knew that he had either hooked a "big 'un" as they say here in Michigan, or else the minnow that he was using for bait was sucked into the pond's open loop geo-thermal system. Turns out it was indeed a hoss.

As he was winding line, Tom peered into the hole and, seeing the monster swim past exclaimed, "Its a hog, Bob!" Springing into action, Bob laid hold of the pole and began to assist Tom in landing the whopper. Was it an innocent desire to help his friend or something more sinister? Perhaps Bob wanted to lay claim to a portion of this 35 1/2 inch wallhanger?

Long story short, they landed the lunker. Before the body was cold . . . er, um . . . I mean warm, the arguing began.

"It was my pole!"

"I bought the bait!"

"My shanty!"

"My hole!"

"I spotted the flag first!"

"Did not!"

"Did so!"



Unfortunately the controversy spilled over into Sunday morning. Within minutes of completing my sermon on grace and mercy and other minor doctrinal issues of faith, Bob approached me. "Hypothetical," he began. "Let's say you're fishing with a friend, and you own the one pole that you're sharing, and you catch a fish together. Who does the fish belong to?" For his part, Tom kept quiet, though not for long.

Raising the I'll-take-my-lake-and-go-home defense, Tom later explained, "I invited Bob to go fishing on this private lake that only I have permission to fish on. If it wasn't for me, we wouldn't even have had the chance to fish there." When I asked him about Bob's proprietary tackle assertion, he dismissed it handily. "If I lend you my golf club and you hit a hole in one with my club, then is it my hole in one? No, its yours. Point. Set. Game. Match." (Mixed metaphor notwithstanding.)

Truth be told, we may never know to whom the fish belongs. The only ones that really know are Bob and Tom. And the fish. And he's not talking.

Oh . . . the spiritual part. Paul wrote about the perils of man-fishing in 1 Corinthians 1:
I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. My brothers and sisters, some people from Chloe's family have told me quite plainly that there are quarrels among you. This is what I mean: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another says, "I follow Apollos"; another says, "I follow Peter"; and another says, "I follow Christ." Christ has been divided up into different groups! Did Paul die on the cross for you? No! Were you baptized in the name of Paul? No!
You get it. And, in case you're wondering, my good-natured friends Bob and Tom get it too.


Benjamin J Hobbs said...

Imagine if the fish could talk... wait, wait, wait... sing!

Debbi Rountree said...

Oh yeah, we heard all about it ALL during Bible Study yesterday. One of the "fishermen" (I won't mention which one, but he's the Fowlerville Police Chief) kept whining all during Bible Study about how it was HIS fish. You should be in the boat when there are 6 of them arguing about who caught the most/largest/prettiest/ugliest.... and on and on it goes.

Anonymous said...

Trying this again...I got tongue-tied with my fingers before...


I'm shocked. Being the resolute and well-known Bible scholar you are, I'm surprised you didn't offer to "cut the fish in half."

Rod Bisher said...

So, let's see, what if, hypothetically, all of the gear was donated not just by Bob or Tom, but by other people. The pole by Bill, the auger by Mike, the shanty by James, etc. Also, the lake wasn't Tom's but is owned by someone else, but granted, Tom had the knowledge of and permission to fish there.
So now who's fish would it be? The person who owns the lake? The owner could ask Tom & Bob to pay them for the fish. The people who hypothetically, in our example, could claim a portion as well. Hmmm? Why the deliberation? Is it that the fish will be resurrected as a trophy on the wall and someone will want to lay claim to it? Who's fish is it?
Let's take another approach. One that Jesus took when asked about
marriage at the Resurrection, in Matthew 22:23-33 (NIV):
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.
24 "Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him.
25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother.
26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh.
27 Finally, the woman died.
28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"
29 Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,
32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead but of the living."
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
The experience together of Bob & Tom is the living memory. The fact that the fish is caught and will be "resurrected" as a terrific mount for all to view and share in the story is what is important. Not whose fish it is.
Bob & Tom are living and have eternal souls of a much higher value, and their value is in that Jesus will resurrect them on the last day which is much more valuable than the claiming of who caught a fish, that has no soul. God is their God. The fish is dead and God is the God of the living not the dead.
So are we astonished yet.
Jesus is amazing!

Pam said...

Hmmm...When I was urgently summoned, to see the monster, and by the way-- bring camera and measuring tape, and some more pop too, the same question was posed to me. Not wanting to diminish any of their excitement over the behemoth lying there oozing slime all over the ice....I suggested they cut the fish in half because I surely couldn't figure out that one. It did eventually end up in our freezer- and Bob went home with a respectable bucket of pan fish. At this point, it is my humble opinion that the whole controversy was a ruse - a great opener to share yet another fantastic fishing story!!! Am I right wives? I have learned over the years that it doesn't even matter if they actually CATCH a fish- its the shared experience that counts. As with our wonderful Christian family- it doesn't matter who the boat/fish pole/camper or fart machine belongs to. It is the experience of fellowshipping together- and if it results in an excellent fish/venison/turkey dinner- well more's the better and praise God! Robin- I'll check the internet for Pike recipes and get with you to set a dinner date!

Robin Sleight said...

Well, the way I see is is this.....our husbands, the wonderful men they are gave up an entire Saturday afternoon and evening to "provide for their family". It was a hard decision for each of them to make, to go fishing, all day, just fishing, nothing else, just to "provide for their family". My appoligies to the poor fish for giving up his life so that Bob and Tom could do some male bonding. Who is the rightful owner of the fish in question? Perhap that question will never be truthfully answered, but I do know one thing. Spending time with friends, no matter what you are doing is so awesome.
"But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased". Hebrews 13:16
I know that one day soon, we will be sitting down to a delicious fish dinner with some wonderful friends, laughing and debating over the ownership of this fish.
God is Good!!!! all of the time!

Anonymous said...

I have pondered this dilema and have come up with an answer as to whom the fish belongs........what about the pond owner? LOL!!!!

Don't forget to share with them too!

Anonymous said...


Are they required to tithe their gain to the storehouse of the assembled members of the Church as their act of seek-study-SERVE?
Bring a covered fish/dish to pass!