Sermon :: January 22, 2016

Matthew 4:12-23

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

—–

I will make you fishers of men

Fishers of men, fishers of men

I will make you fishers of men

If you follow me

I know. I really couldn’t help it. I was going to sing it in my head all day if I didn’t do it now.

I know the next few paragraphs may seem a little overly dramatic. We all tend to do that, I think, especially when telling our own stories. I want to take you back a little ways to a moment in my life. One moment that changed all other moments. One moment that broke down my worldview into small pieces and left me to reassemble them. In a way, I’ll keep reassembling them the rest of my life because, as some of you know, it takes far less time to break someone’s perspective and worldview than it takes to rebuild them. Rebuilding is often done in bits and pieces, fits and spurts, and we often don’t have a blueprint.

I was sitting at a kitchen table, drinking coffee with my father-in-law. It was around New Years and it was one of the many family holiday celebrations we were attending that year. Bill and I are the early birds, so we often spend the mornings on holidays speaking in one room while the rest of the family sleeps in the others. I don’t particularly know what we were talking about beforehand, but at one point we came to a lull. We idly finished up our coffee, refilled the mugs, and he looked at me and said, “I think I’m supposed to tell you that you should be leading a church.” I said, “I am,” which was true in a sense. I was involved in a few churches playing in worship bands and involved in different ministries. In my mind, being part of a church was a big part of who I was, but in the same way that a hobby you love might take a lot of your time. He shook his head, looked me in the eye, and said, “Not that way. You’re supposed to be a pastor.” I don’t remember what my response was, exactly, but I’m pretty sure it involved a nervous chuckle and a half-hearted attempt to change the subject.

From that point on, my worldview changed. The facts of my life did not change, my skills and my personality, my flaws certainly did not change, but the way I saw it all shifted and has remained that way since. I began to look at points in my life and saw that maybe, just maybe, as much as I didn’t necessarily want to believe it, Bill was right. My wife and I talked about it, prayed about it, and a few months later I was filling out applications. My call to what I’m studying to do now came in the form of an ordinary conversation, over what I can best describe as a mediocre cup of coffee, but it has changed the way I see the world.

This sort of transition is scattered all over our readings this week. In Isaiah (9.1-4), we see the shift from people in darkness being people who walk in light. In the Psalm (27), we seem to have the opposite reaction, moving from the certainty of a comfortable life to questions of whether or not God cares anymore. In 1 Corinthians (1.10-18), Paul encourages the congregation in Corinth to reprioritize and move from pockets of division to the unity found in Christ. In Matthew (4.12-23), we find fishermen leaving everything, their whole lives, to follow this Jesus guy. I’m not sure why, exactly. Was it because he was the hip new guy in town? Was it because he used a really clever fishing analogy? In the end, I suppose, it doesn’t matter why they did it, but that they did it.

A pastor and friend of mine told me once that all ministry is in transition. I would take it a step further and say that all of life is in transition. We are continually moving in one direction or the other, a fluid motion of life. I believe that part of this reality is due to the fact that we are called, whether we believe and understand or not, to Christ’s calling to lay down our nets, to set aside our divisions, and to follow in the light of love and grace.

But I believe it’s important to understand and notice something here, especially if you feel like you’re being called to something. When Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James, and John from their boats, Jesus is the active one. “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Not, “Follow me to catch people for me. Not “I’ll love you and reward you when you catch people for me.” Notice the difference? When Jesus calls, he doesn’t call us to pretend to be someone we aren’t but, instead, to bring all of ourselves to him. He call us and makes us more than we could ever be and he does this all because of love, not to earn love. That is key – Christ’s love for you is not based upon what you’ve done, not even based on who you will be, but is based on who you are. Right now.

This kind of love constantly forces us to reassess and shift our view of the world. Because if God can love me, in all of my imperfections, then God loves you, and if God loves you, then God loves the whole world – even those who don’t look, sound, think, or dress like you. And in the presence of such deep, unwavering love, we find that we are made to be fishers of people, disciples who long and love to share the call we’ve received. Based on your call and your love, Christ continues to call others. What starts as an individual call quickly becomes a call for congregations and communities.

That call can look different for different people and different communities. God doesn’t call you to stop being yourself. God loves you as you are. Instead, the call to follow begins a transition that rarely stops. Disciples of Christ often continue to do what they’ve been doing, but they realize that what they are doing serves a larger purpose. Farmers keep farming, but they understand that by farming, they are God’s hands reaching out to feed the hungry. Teachers keep teaching, but they understand that they are God’s voice, molding the minds of the upcoming generation of God’s hands and feet. Nurses and doctors keep healing, but they realize that they are the tools God uses to give aid to the sick. And sometimes worshipers become worship leaders.

I hope you know that this call that Jesus gave us the last two weeks are for you, whether you’ve been a follower of Christ all your life or you’re just beginning this walk of faith. Like last week’s refrain of “Come and see,” this week’s “follow me” is not a call to be someone you’re not, but to understand that you are loved and that you belong in the family of God. You are already enough for God’s love and now God’s love is being shown through you. Receiving the grace of God, follow the call of Christ. Amen.

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