Most of us know the words. We can recite them without thinking and often have.  You know it as the Lord’s prayer and it was read for us earlier.  When the passage was read earlier it was read from the New Living Translation, but that isn’t how we know the Lord’s prayer.   There are several different wordings out there, the words I grew up with were:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


But have you ever stopped to think about the what you are praying?  In particular, have you thought about the first thing you are asking the Almighty to do?  What did Jesus mean when he taught his followers to pray for God’s kingdom to come?

As the Jesus story progressed it became apparent that what his followers were thinking when they thought of God’s kingdom, was a little different from what Jesus meant when he spoke of God’s kingdom.

We are presently in a series called “The Kingdom is . . .” and we are looking at how Jesus turned people’s perception of what the kingdom would look like, upside down.  And he did this using parables.

A parable of course is a brief, succinct story that delivers a moral lesson. 

In their broadest form parables have been called extended metaphors, which is completely different from a mixed metaphor.  A mixed metaphor is where you start with one premise and end with an unrelated premise. 

A couple of examples of a mixed metaphor would be: not the sharpest cookie in the jar or a watched clock never boils.  We once had a guest speaker at Cornerstone who exhorted us to grab life by the teeth.  And that really didn’t have much to do with the message, but it was fun.

It seems strange to mix the sacred with the every day, to describe the eternal with the ordinary, the infinite with the finite.  And yet that is exactly what Jesus did when he was looking for a way to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven.  He said the Kingdom is like a merchant looking for a beautiful pearl, or like workers picking grapes in a vineyard, and now he looks across the beach as the fishermen who called Galilee their home cast their nets artfully across the water.

“Look” he says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a fisherman.”  

At least that’s what I thought it said.   

I had to take a second look, I have read this parable time and time again.  And I could have sworn that the Kingdom of Heaven was like a fisherman.  Funny that, probably because I had been a fisherman, it made perfect sense to me.  But Jesus didn’t say “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fisherman” instead what he said was Matthew 13:47  Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind.

And if we combined the different instances where Christ began a statement with the words the Kingdom of Heaven is like . . . and tried to make sense of; a treasure being like a mustard seed or a pearl being like a fishing net, we might think Christ is mixing his metaphors but instead he is drawing a much larger picture using parables that are not only metaphors but also similes.  You remember what a simile is right?  A comparison using “like” or “as”.

And so Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:47–51 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do you understand all these things?”

“Yes,” they said, “we do.”

Jesus was telling those who heard him that day: look at how your everyday life points to the Kingdom of heaven.  So, what do we learn from the lesson of the net? 

Let’s start with Matthew 13:47  Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. The first thing we discover about the net is that It Was A Net with a Purpose

It had a specific purpose, it wasn’t just any old net, it was a fishing net.  You ever wander down on a wharf and see piles of nets that are no longer used?  Nets with no purpose. Maybe someone will come and get them and use them to hold the peas up in the garden or as a back drop to practice golfing, but at that particular point in time they have no purpose, they are just occupying space. 

The kingdom of heaven is not simply like a net. It is like a fishing net.  A net with a purpose, and its purpose was to catch fish.  There was no ambiguity about that, no doubt about what it was to do.  It was designed for that purpose, and it was used for that purpose.  The shape of the net, the size of the mesh, the weights around the edge, the tether that held it to the fisherman were all there for a purpose, so it could catch fish. 

In a pinch perhaps, you could use just a plain ordinary net to try to catch fish, but it would never be as effective and perhaps you could use the fishing net for other purpose, perhaps catching cats, but it would never be as effective at anything else as it was at catching fish. 

And that is the reality of life, you will never accomplish everything you are intended to accomplish without a purpose to your life.  Thomas Carlyle wrote “The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder — a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.”

And so, we need to ask ourselves, “What is our purpose?  Why are we here?  What do we want to accomplish in life?”  You do have a purpose, don’t you?  A goal, as a parent, as a Christian, as a human being? 

I am a contributor to, an online service that provides sermons to pastors as a resource.  It is a place that depending on your scruples you can use it to research messages or to plagiarize messages.  I use it for research, my commitment to you is that other people may preach my messages but I don’t preach other people’s messages. 

As I told one colleague, some of us have to keep writing them if the rest of you are going to keep stealing them, but I digress.   When you are doing your contributor profile on sermon central one of the questions they ask is “What would you like written on your tombstone?”  Good question, perhaps one we each need to ask ourselves. 

It was Dwight L. Moody who said, “Give me a man who says, “This one thing I do,” and not, ‘These fifty things, I dabble in.’“

We need to have a purpose in life if we are going to have a direction in life.  It was Lewis Carroll who wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”  Or as Yogi Berra so elegantly put it,  “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Life is changed by people with a purpose, and the Kingdom of Heaven has a purpose: To introduce people to Jesus.  What is the purpose of Cornerstone?  To help depopulate hell. 

Do you know what your purpose is?  Have you ever sat down to decide your purpose in life?  Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica 1 Thessalonians 2:4 For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

And if you asked others, could they tell you what your purpose is?  When Paul was writing to Timothy, he makes this comment 2 Timothy 3:10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.

And people will know our purpose not by what we say but by what we do.  Author Leo Buscaglia wrote  “Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.”  In other words, it’s not what we say we will do that makes a difference, it’s what we actually do that will make the difference.

Let’s keep reading, Matthew 13:47  Again. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind.

 Not only was it a net with a purpose, It Was a Net Used for Its Purpose 

Not only was it a fishing net, it was a fishing net that was thrown into the water.  Not only did the net have a purpose, it was used to achieve that purpose. 

There are all kinds of people and institutions out there who, if you asked them what their purpose was, they could tell you. 

My purpose is to make the world a better place. Our church’s purpose is to reach people for Christ. Our company’s purpose is to build a better widget. But they don’t actually do anything to accomplish the purpose.  

Washington Irving wrote “Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.”  The difference I guess is whether you take the next step and actually do something to achieve your purpose.

I’ve talked to pastors about where they want to see their church in five years, and they draw a great picture of what they would like to see their church accomplish. They tell me about the lives that will be touched and a community that will be impacted.  And then I ask what they are doing to accomplish the purpose and they get that deer in the headlight look. 

I know a man that talks passionately about the environment but the moment I ask him what he is doing to improve things the conversation stops.  He has a purpose, but he’s not all that useful. 

Some people have no idea how to achieve their purpose.  They have never connected the next dot, they are just content to talk about what should be without moving to the next step of what could be. 

It was George Bernard Shaw who said, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”

But it’s not enough to dream unless you are willing to take the next steps.  A purpose in life is wonderful but if you aren’t willing to do something to achieve that purpose you will just be frustrated.  Again to quote the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, “The purpose of man is in action not thought.”

And we don’t know how the net was thrown. The story doesn’t tell us what technique the fisherman used.  Was the net thrown underhand or overhand, was it drawn up quickly or slowly?

We are told that this would have been a familiar scene along the shores of Galilee, where fishermen cast their nets from the shores into the shallow water or from their small vessels into the deeper waters but the goal was the same in both instances, to catch fish. 

Sometimes in the church we get so caught up in how things are done we miss out on why things are done.  We stand back and say, “Well we’ve never cast the net from a boat before, we’ve always done it from the shore, if we start using boats it’s a hard to say where it will end up, it’s a slippery slope” Or “I don’t think it is proper to throw the net underhand, it should always be thrown overhand.” 

But to quote Chinese revolutionary Deng Xiaoping said, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.”  Let’s never get so caught up in technique at Cornerstone that we miss out on what we are supposed to be doing.  And that is casting our net and being fishers of men.

Let’s make sure we not only have a purpose but that we actually do something, anything to achieve that purpose.       

Matthew 13:47  Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind.

It was a net that accomplished something.  It Was a Net That was Productive.  We have the net, it is a fishing net, then the fishing net is thrown into the water and now we see it doing what it was designed to do, it’s catching fish.  We could have the first two but without the conclusion of the verse it is all in vain, it was merely an exercise in futility. 

If a net isn’t productive, if it doesn’t achieve its purpose, then you need to find out why not?  Are there holes in the net?  Are the weights in the wrong place? Is the mesh too large, or perhaps too small?   Perhaps it isn’t the net’s fault, but the fisherman’s fault.  

Maybe they don’t know how to throw it or once they have thrown it don’t know how to pull it back.  You’ve all heard the definition of insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Or the great statement “If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got.”

The year I graduated from high school I went fishing with my Dad and his twin brother and seven other guys on the Rali 2 out of Paspébiac Quebec.  We started off mid water trawling, but soon the boat went into dry dock and was converted into the largest herring seiner on the east coast.  We had a purpose, to catch lots of fish and make lots of money. 

It might not have been a high and noble purpose, but it was what it was.  

And we had the tools and equipment to do it, and we were diligent in doing what we had to do.  Night after night we would be out with the fleet, we would find the school of fish on the fish finder, we would set our net and we would pull them back full of . . . nothing.  What we called water sets. 

It was a little frustrating; actually, it was a lot frustrating.  And we started analyzing what was happening. Why weren’t we achieving our purpose?  And we discovered that when the sonar, the fish finder, had been installed the sensor had been put in backwards.  Seriously, I kid you not, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment pointing the wrong way. 

And so, when we were getting ready to set our nets on the fish that we thought were in front of us, they were actually behind us. Now we could have left it as it was and continued to set our net in the wrong spot and grumbled about not catching any fish, instead we fixed it, it was that simple and we started to achieve our purpose. 

Here is an aside. There was another more experienced skipper in the fleet who figured out what our problem was before we did, and he never told us.  I guess he was afraid that we’d catch his fish, he obviously had never heard the old expression, “there are plenty of fish in the sea.”  The sad part was he was a man that both my uncle and father considered to be a friend.  I have vowed not to be like that skipper when it comes to helping other churches and other pastors.

If we faithfully do our part, then the Kingdom of Heaven will be productive, it will produce results and those results are better people who will in turn change the world.  

Ultimately if the church is not productive, if the church, not just Cornerstone, not just the Wesleyan Church, but the Church with a capital “C” is not productive, it will cease to exist.  And if local churches aren’t productive, no matter how they justify it and rationalize their lack of growth, they will cease to exist.

A couple of quick thoughts to finish

The Net Had no Control Over the Fish That Entered the Net

We are not charged with determining who should or should not be reached for God, and really not all that sure we would be qualified to make that decision.  And I’m not sure I would have been seen as a great catch.  As a matter of fact, I showed up at the Bible College the day after I became a Christ follower and they weren’t sure what to do with me.  There I was, right off the boat, literally right off the boat.  Less than a week before I was fishing herring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence had only been in a Wesleyan Church twice as an adult and now here I was with hair down to my shoulders wanting to enrol in Bible College. 

I sure am glad that President Mitchell at Bethany didn’t think he was in charge of deciding what fish should be kept and which should be tossed away. 

And finally, By Itself the Net Was Useless, It Needed the Fisherman.  Each of us needs others to accomplish our goals and our purposes. Unless your purpose is to be a hermit.  And if Cornerstone is to accomplish its purpose, it will only be as we all work together to accomplish that purpose. 

There is something that you can do to help us fulfil the purpose that God has set before us.  The question that each of you has to answer is: Are you willing to do it?   Will you be a part of the team or just one of the spectators?  

So, let me finish this morning with Paul’s request for the church at Philippi and my request for the church at Cornerstone:

Philippians 2:2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

As we close in prayer, let’s see how many of us can remember the Lord’s prayer.  Let us pray as he taught us to pray.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


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