Reverend Stephen Caine
4:12 “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so 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 16 the 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.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 18 As 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. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As 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. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 Jesus 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.” (Matthew 4:12-23, NRSV)
Let us pray: O God, you spoke your word and revealed your good news in Jesus, the Christ. Fill all creation with that word again, so that by proclaiming your joyful promises to all nations and singing of your glorious hope to all peoples, we may become one living body, your incarnate presence on the earth. Amen.
Jesus makes it look so easy. He walks by two fishermen, calls them, and they follow. He walks by two more, he calls them and they follow. Just like that! Jesus walks by, calls, and four fisherman become his disciples. Wow!
Jesus begins his ministry by offering this simple invitation, “Come, follow me.” This simple invitation is the beginning of God’s connection with the world through his Son. It is an invitation to a relationship with the living God.
Well, that was then, this is now. Because, nobody simply walks by someone and says, “Come and follow me,” and it works, anymore. We have become too jaded, too cynical, too doubting to simply drop everything and follow someone. And when it comes to church most of us can’t imagine inviting someone to come to church with us. It is just not part of our comfort zone. Not only is it hard to talk about our faith, it is even harder to talk about our faith with other people, and it is next to impossible to invite someone to come to church with us. Besides, we are not the kind of people who do that sort of thing, “evangelize.”
We have put our own spin on what the word evangelize means but it comes from the Greek word “euagelion” which transliterated means “evangel” or “good news,” and that is where we get our word evangelism. This “good news,” is news is from God that comes to us and it is not ginned up by us. It is good news because it is something that God does. The Gospel comes to us rather than from within us. The Apostle Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes from the (preaching) work of Christ” (Romans10:17).
The Good News that Jesus offered those fishermen was a relationship with him, connection with a community of people in relationship with him and the opportunity to be part of something that is bigger than themselves. Jesus good news was to a better life, a more meaningful life…a connected life. This is good news that only God can bring. Faith comes from the outside, by hearing something we would not have known if the church had not told us.
This is difficult for us. Presbyterians and Episcopalians, us mainline folks because we are so respectful of other cultures and faith traditions that we don’t want to offend anyone, and rightly so. But the very nature of the Good News will come in conflict with every culture, even our own. We know what this message got Jesus — a cross!
We also think of our faith as something we do. We go to church to get our assignment for the week – work on your kindness, love God better this next week, read the bible more often, say your prayers each night, serve those in need. We often boil down church to a dose of moralism and a spiritual assignment for our lives. But if we think about it and we are honest where is the good news in that?
On the other hand, there is Good News in Jesus invitation to follow him, to be in relationship with him.
One of the challenges in this passage is how difficult it is for most of us to imagine getting up and leaving everyone and everything to follow Jesus. And just like we are uncomfortable inviting people to church we are even more threatened by the idea that God might use us to tell others about a relationship with Him. So we put the disciples on a pedestal and think of them as extraordinary, super heroes of the faith to admire but not to identify with. God can’t use me, well this story tells us that Jesus called ordinary people right in the middle of their ordinary lives to do extraordinary things … and he still does.
I recently read a survey of a cross section of American adults who were asked where they found their greatest sense of fulfillment, meaning, and purpose in life. The number one response was: Relationships. Even for those adults who claimed that their work was the number one source of meaning and fulfillment in their lives; it was their relationships at work that they were most happy about.
The connection of this survey to Jesus invitation is that it is still all about relationships; “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Jesus is calling these first disciples not into work but into relationship.
Jesus called these first disciples into relationship – with himself, with each other, and with all the various people they will meet over the next few years and for the rest of their lives.
Jesus invites us to the same – to be in genuine and real relationships with the people around us, and to be in those relationships the way Jesus was and is in relationship with his disciples and with us: bearing each other’s burdens, caring for each other and especially the vulnerable, holding onto each other through thick and thin, always with the hope and promise of God’s abundant grace. It will always involves people – not simply a mission or a ministry or a movement, but actual, flesh-and-blood people. Think back to your own faith, and why you still come to church, I imagine it was because someone you had a relationship with invited you or taught you or lived out their faith in such a way that you wanted to come and see for yourself.
When I think about the people I have known who embody faith, who I consider are the most faithful, it is not the ones who know the most Bible, or quote the most verses or talk the talk. It is the people who live their faith in how they relate and treat others. Their faith affects their relationships—all of them, their spouse, their child, their parents but even more so the clerk at the DMV or the checkout girl at Kroger, of the guy who is clearing the snow from your street.
Jesus called ordinary people right in the middle of their ordinary lives to be in relationship with the ordinary people all around them and through that did extraordinary things … and he still does.
Ok, so let’s try something a little different for us Presbyterians and Episcopalians. An exercise: Think of one person you have a relationship with. It might be someone you are close to like a spouse or a friend. Or it could be someone you hardly even know. Just think of that person for a moment. And now take another moment and in silence offer a prayer for her or him to hear God’s invitation. Also pray how you may help him or her to hear the Good News of God’s love.
You see, Jesus did not just call disciples way back when – he is calling you and me today – and in fact using you – to care for those God loves so much that he gave us his son.