A sermon for the people of God at Bethesda United Church of Christ
Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:22
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) each have a version of this story – of fishermen leaving behind their nets to follow this itinerant rabbi who invites them along on an adventure. An adventure! Who wants an adventure?
Maybe we were all a little more enthusiastic about wild and crazy ideas when we were in our teens and twenties…. Moreso than now. For instance… I might have thought…
Let’s hike the Appalachian Trail and carry everything on our backs!
Let’s take the kids and go tent camping!
Let’s go camping… at the Holiday Inn!
Let’s… take a cruise…
Let’s NOT – and say that we did!
We lose our sense of adventure. What time and experience, successes and failures teach us can bring maturity and wisdom… but it can also stop us from thinking, “WHAT IF…??”
If we read this story with our “adult glasses” on…
Do we see Peter, Andrew, James and John as impulsive?
Caught up in the moment?
Are they inspired and rise to the challenge and follow Christ?
Our text this morning occurs after 3 significant events in the start of Jesus’ ministry:
- After his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River
- After 40 days of temptation in the desert
- After hearing that John the Baptist was in Herod’s custody
A new sense of purpose, of motivation, of the Holy Spirit’s NUDGE moved Christ from the familiar to the unfamiliar.
Perhaps it felt like the time was short. If his cousin, John the Baptist, was imprisoned, Jesus knew it was time. Time to be preaching and teaching! Our text tells us that Jesus traveled from the hill country of Nazareth to the seaside town of Capernaum.
If one can trust Google maps, that’s about a one day’s hike. 8 hours, give or take.
THE TWO-PART INVITATION
Jesus finds these working fishermen, throwing their nets in the water, pulling them in, over and over. They had a vocation. They had jobs and families. They owned “STUFF” – fishing boats and homes and possessions. They had everything that they thought they needed.
And yet… the invitation by Jesus was unmistakable! Irresistible!
Come follow me! I will make you fish for people.
This two-part invitation had a command and an opportunity:
The Command – come and follow!
Leave your nets and your father.
The Opportunity – let’s fish for people!
Come be part of the light! Invite others to come and see!
With every invitation from God, there is a choice:
Do we leave what is known to walk with faith into the unknown?
Do we hold on to the tangible or bring the intangible into reality?
Do we hang onto the “stuff” of life for our own security, or take a risk for God and with God?
Are these choices clear-cut? Are they easy? Oh… no.
How can it be easy to drop everything and start fresh? Every entrepreneur knows this feeling.
Even with spreadsheets and calculated risk-vs-benefits.
Even with research and cost analysis and projected profit margins.
Even with secured bank loans and investors.
That first step… it’s a doozie. To step out of a settled path. To leave unnecessary things behind. To admit that maybe, just maybe, you COULD try this new adventure with God.
Taking a new path takes imagination. And courage.
Envisioning new possibilities invites us to jettison the comfortable, the well-worn, the predictable.
Leaving things behind requires us to loosen a death grip on what we love to have around us.
Belief in the intangible and eternal asks us to dare to dream, to let the Holy Spirit engage us. And it invites us to remember those Spiritual seeds God has sown in the past, and ponder – is it time to harvest them and replant with new?
Everything in us wants the familiar.
Everything in us hangs on to what we have.
Everything in us wants to have it “all.”
But that is not the economy of Abundant Life in the Kin-dom of God!
Like the fish in Rupert Brooke’s poem, Heaven, we wait for that “wetter water, slimier slime”[i] – beyond a reality that our very tangible, physical, sensory-laden world knows.
OFF AN ADVENTURE!
The Church is off on an adventure in today’s world.
A world that questions the unseen reality of Eternity.
A world that lauds the proud and well-connected.
A world that leeches everything it can get from its soil and its people.
A world that craves power and notoriety.
The Church stands in a gap between the now and the “not-yet” – longing for what will be, confident of what we are in Christ.
As Anthony Hoekema wrote in The Bible and the Future:
We may say that in the possession of the Spirit we who are in Christ have a foretaste of the blessings of the age to come, and a pledge and guarantee of the resurrection of the body. Yet we have only the firstfruits. We look forward to the final consummation of the kingdom of God, when we shall enjoy these blessings to the full. (p. 67)[ii]
There is a sense of “in-between-ness” for us. If you’ve ever been in a place of financial uncertainty, you know it’s a scary thing to “just do it.”
But for Christians, this is more than a business venture or a franchise opportunity.
It is a choice to walk into a new place of service.
To see God do new things you never imagined.
And despite our faith, to take a risk…
How does one become a true follower of Jesus?
You must want to follow Christ so closely that you are willing to give up what you have always been…
What is it that you could give up? What could you set aside?
How can God wash over your doubts and fears, and move you forward in faith?
What personal change can you make that would advance the work of the Church?
And, Church, what is it that you will vote on, talk about and come to consensus on in your Annual Meeting today that is a new adventure?
Will you stick with the safe, the tried-and-true?
Will you listen to committee reports and dream bold dreams?
Will you leave your nets?
AMEN. THANKS BE TO GOD.
[ii] Hoekema, Anthony A. The Bible and the Future. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1994. p.67.