26 January 2020

"Who wants to go Fishing?" (sermon)

Two Rivers Pastoral Charge
Sunday January 26, 2019
Scripture:  Matthew 4:12-23

So I have a confession to make… I don’t really like fishing.  I know, I know… I know that living here near the shores of two rivers, that there are many of you who enjoy recreational fishing.  I know that living so close to the ocean here, there are many people who depend on fishing for a living, just as those first disciples of Jesus depended on fishing.  But as a hobby, fishing just doesn’t float my boat, if you’ll pardon the expression.

The idea of getting up before the crack of dawn and sitting watching a little floater while being eaten by mosquitoes – it’s just not my idea of fun.  And while I am able to clean and fillet a fish, I much prefer to acquire my fish with the head and guts already removed.

All of that being said, if Jesus had come up to me and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” well, I don’t think that I would be tempted to accept that invitation.  That doesn’t sound like an attractive prospect at all, to me!

But to Simon Peter, and to Andrew, and to James, and to John – this invitation made sense to them.  They fished for a living.  They fished to feed their families, and even though the economic system was corrupt, they also fished to sell their catch to the Roman buyers to earn a small salary.  This was their way of life – they knew the ins and outs of fishing; they knew the nuances of a fishing life that I could never hope to understand, and so when Jesus invites them to follow and fish for people, this invitation makes sense to them.

I can’t help but wonder… If these first disciples of Jesus had been farmers, what would that invitation have sounded like?  Instead of saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”; maybe Jesus would have said instead, “Follow me, and you will plant seeds of God’s kingdom and harvest God’s love.”

The thing is, God calls all of us to follow the way of Jesus, and God meets each one of us where we are.  Each one of us is unique – we have our own background, our own story, and our own calling.  Jesus calls fishermen and farmers.  Jesus calls nurses and teachers and mill workers and engineers and students.  Jesus meets us where we are, and Jesus calls us to follow, to listen, to learn, to imitate, and to become members of the Body of Christ, this living network of people that crosses denominations and countries and languages, and that stretches across every generation.

This reading comes close to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  In Matthew’s gospel, this story is close to the beginning.  Jesus has been baptized, as we read a couple of weeks ago, and he saw the Holy Spirit descending and he heard the voice of God calling him “Beloved.”  Right after his baptism, he is led by that Holy Spirit in to the wilderness where he fasts and faces temptations for 40 days and 40 nights – the Lectionary, our cycle of Sunday morning readings skipped over that story, but if you really like this story don’t worry – we’re going to be backtracking and reading it in March on the first Sunday of Lent!

Today’s reading picks up right after Jesus leaves the wilderness and receives the news that John the Baptist, the one who had baptized Jesus in the Jordan River just 40 days ago, has been arrested.  Jesus knows that the stakes are high.  He knows that he is living under an empire that doesn’t tolerate dissidents or people who challenge authority.  And yet he begins his ministry anyways.  He knows that the Holy Spirit is with him; he knows that God has called him; he knows that he has work to do.

We were talking in bible study just a couple of weeks ago about how amazing it is that these disciples of Jesus just drop what they are doing and follow him.  We were speculating about just what it was about this person that made Peter and Andrew and James and John walk away from their livelihood, walk away from their families, and join Jesus on his mission of spreading God’s love and challenging the status quo, despite all of the dangers.  We speculated that there must have been something special about Jesus, there must have been something powerfully attractive about him, that people would drop their nets and follow him to become fishers of people.

I think that it must have been the Holy Spirit – that the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of the people so that they could see that he could not only teach people something special, but that he was something special.

Jesus always contained God – the eternal Christ was present in him from before his birth – but at his baptism, his mission and his ministry began when the Holy Spirit rested on him.  Those disciples too, their mission and ministry began in that moment when God-in-Jesus called them saying, “Follow me!” and God-in-the Holy Spirit opened their ears and their hearts so that they could follow.

I think that each one of us has a call story – a time when God called us to follow.  This might look like a dramatic 180 – like those first disciples dropping their fishing nets to go where Jesus led them; or it might look more like a shifting in your purpose and intention as you allow God to use you in the place where you find yourself.  It might involve an external event shaking you out of your comfort zone, like Jesus hearing about the arrest of John the Baptist; or it might involve a loving arm reaching out to comfort you in a moment when you needed it.

And I don’t think that we are called once and that is it – I think that God continues to call us all through our lives.  God’s call will look different when you are 15 than it does when you are 50, and it will look different yet again when you are 85.  But no matter what your call story looks like, the one thing that they all have in common is love.  God is love, so when God is calling us, there will be a deepening of love towards God and love towards our neighbours.

In a few minutes, we are going to be gathering around the table and celebrating communion.  God is always calling us, and God is always sustaining us for the journey as we follow Jesus.  God loves us, even when we don’t yet know it; God loves us through all of the different callings that we live in to throughout our lives; God loves us when we can sense God’s presence, and God loves us when we can’t sense God’s presence.

And so as we share the bread and the cup, I invite you to remember that God loves you – that God loves you not for anything that you have done or for anything that you haven’t done, but just because you are you.  God loves you, and God is calling you to live in that love, today and every day.

Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Everyone is called to the table
to be sustained for the journey