For those of you who don’t know, I’ve not always been an American. I grew up in western Canada and came to the USA when I went to seminary at Moravian Seminary in 1995. So I lived the first 22 years of my life in Canada and have lived the second 22 years of my life in the USA. I only became an American citizen about 4 years ago.
When I was in high school in Canada, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in a cross cultural exchange program. No, I didn’t go off to some place over in Europe and study abroad for a bit but rather I participated in a program that the Canadian Government sponsored that had students from different parts of Canada interacting with one another. So several of my classmates were paired with a school in rural Newfoundland. And let me assure you that was indeed a cross cultural experience.
Twelve Students from rural Alberta paired with 12 students from rural Newfoundland – we might as well have been from different countries and in some ways we even spoke a different language. However, when we went to stay with them we had the opportunity to experience their life and one that certainly changed my life. As a result I learned a lot about fishing that week and I had my first opportunity to fish – and let me tell you I was proud as can be when I got a tug on my line.
One of my friends got their camera ready and when I pulled up “my fish” she snapped a picture. So I had proof that I caught a fish – but what we also caught was a big round of laughter as my fish wasn’t anything to get excited about and it surely wouldn’t have fed anyone – much less a house full of hungry folks. I decided that as I threw that fish back overboard that I perhaps should also give up any new found dreams of being a fisher.
Each time I read the stores of the calling of the first disciples I can’t help but think of my fish story and the great joy I get in remembering that day. As I contemplate Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John I hardly doubt that they were willing to cast aside their nets and leave all they had behind because they were not failures at what they were doing. In all likelihood these guys were very capable fishermen and had lots of respect within their communities. The fishing business in that day was handed down from generation to generation and the fishermen had enormous skill. So I often find myself wondering –“Why in the world would they just drop everything they had ever hoped for in their future – to follow this man?”
Yet the Gospel of Mark doesn’t give us much information about what these men were thinking – we don’t know if they all knew each other or if they knew Jesus. Had they been privileged to be in this Rabbi’s presence and hear him teach? Had they been the recipient of his healing grace? We simply do not know but we do know that they are about to be on the ride of their lives. That they will indeed become recipients of his healing grace.
Jesus calls out to these men and it’s interesting to note that he doesn’t call out to them with a question but more of a command or a directive. He calls “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men. Or Fishers of People. Or Fish for people.” And, what do the soon to be disciples do? They immediately put down their nets and go and follow this son of a carpenter that was causing eyes to turn throughout the region.
Wow, how many of us would be willing to do the same? Imagine yourselves going about your day, tending to something in your yard, and having this man came by and say to you “Come follow me and I will make your fishers of men. Or Fishers of People. Fish for People.” We might eventually get around to responding but first I would bet that most of us would have to weigh the pros and the cons, figure out who this person was, we would have to be sure some important business was taken care of, at the very least we would want to be sure our doors were locked and we had our cell phones.
But Peter, Andrew, James and John simply dropped what they were doing and followed this man. I sometimes wonder what those around them were saying when they saw and heard about their acts. Remember these soon to be disciples weren’t just dropping their nets for the day – they were making life changing, life altering decisions based upon Jesus’ words “Come, follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
What would it take for you to drop everything…. Would it be a job proposal with the promise of a bigger salary? A marriage proposal? An opportunity to change the world? The answer to that question is deeply personal – and different for each of us. But I can’t help but think that each of us has at least one thing if not several things rooted deep inside of us, masked as fear and uncertainty that ultimately prevent us from responding to the ever present call of Christ. The very same Christ whom abides in us and us in him.
There are lots of unanswered questions still alive within the gospel account of the calling of the first disciples and most of them will remain unanswered. But what we do know is that there was something compelling enough about Jesus and his message that prompted these four — and later many others — to follow him, to become his disciples, students of this teacher and servants of his mission.
The other part of the calling of the first disciples is that one of the very first things that Jesus did following his baptism is call other people to join him. This reminds us that we are not in this world or about this ministry alone. We are not meant to be lone rangers in this world – solving all the problems. But when we together work as the body of Christ great things can and do happen.
Church’s (and individuals for that matter) need to regularly go through periods of discernment and evaluation. What is God calling us corporately to do? How does God intend to lead us in the way that we are called to go? How are we today being called to fish for people? This can be a challenging time but I believe that once the discernment process is worked through the results will always be a deepening of your commitment to one another and to your Lord and Savior. Christ continues to call to us corporately and individually.
As members of this church, or any of Christ’s churches, we need to recommit ourselves to our mission – asking ourselves, what is it we feel most called to do? As members of the church we need to consider our areas of ministry –take a few moments and think about the many ways that this congregation is involved in ministry, and think about the ways that you yourself are involved in ministry. And in considering these asking ourselves how do we share the love and message of Christ through each of them? How do we draw others and ourselves deeper into relationship with an Awesome God through them? As a church we are called to embrace our ministry with new eyes and a renewed joyful spirit.
We constantly need to be aware that Christ is calling to us – calling us to be his hands and feet on earth. Reminding us that as Christians we have already promised to be his disciples and we are therefore called to live out our lives as one who loves and serves him. We all need to remember that Christ continually calls to each us – do you hear his voice? How are you responding?
Remember the joy I shared that I had when I caught that tiny, tiny little fish. I can hardly imagine how much joy would fill Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Jesus himself as they see how full their nets are with the people who have chosen to follow Christ because of their first efforts! They don’t have to tell an exaggerated or overly embellished fish story for the lives of people are being changed every day by the efforts of folks to share the message and love of Christ. Let us continue to listen to and respond to the call!
Preached by The Rev. Kelly Moore at Saint Michael Lutheran on January 21, 2018