May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart by acceptable to you, my Lord and my Redeemer.
Last week we heard John’s version of Jesus calling Andrew and Simon as disciples. Today, we heard the very familiar scripture calling them to be ‘fishers of men’. Last week Jesus asked Andrew and Simon to ‘come and see’; this week his calling is for more active participation by both these men.
There are many stories within the Bible that are known as ‘call stories’. A call story related how someone is invited by God to become something new and unexpected. God calls this person to begin, and not only begin, but persist so that this new thing can take place.
One day Andrew, Simon, James and John got up before the sun came up, walked down to the sea and hurled nets into the water, anticipating a catch of fish. It was a day just like every other day – it was dark and probably cool and the nets were smelly and heavy. They were doing what they did every day. There were, after all, fishermen.
Jesus comes down to the seaside, amid the water and nets and fresh fish, roughly hewn boats of wood, the rhythm of the waves. He stands on the bank watching these men throw out the nets and then haul them back in, loaded with fish. He looks at these men, and in a very commanding voice, announces:
Follow me and I will make you fish for people.
I imagine they looked at this man on shore as if you he was a little crazy. Obviously, he knew nothing about fishing – the very idea that they could fish for humans!
Who is the crazy man, this itinerant preacher who calls them to ‘fish for people’? And where did he come from?
They were fishing near Bethsaida, an outpost of Palestine. This area was far removed from the country of Judea, part of Israel.
What was this man doing there? And why had he come all this way from his home in Nazareth?
Jesus had come to the area around Capernaum, which is close to the Gran Trunk Road which led from Damascus to India, Afghanistan and China. Along the coast beside the Mediterranean Sea was the Via Mares, connecting Cairo to Asia Minor. This was the trade crossroads of the existing world. What better place for Jesus to escape to after the arrest of John the Baptist; here he could preach and teach to all sort of people traveling through Galilee.
And why did he chose these men?
We know that Jesus did not read resumes before he called people to be his disciples. He didn’t care what their history was. And as we now know, sometimes he didn’t always make the best decision on who he calls.
Simon, who became known as Peter, denies Jesus three times during his trials.
- James and John, often called the Sons of Thunder, think this calling is going to enthrone them in glory – quite the opposite of what Jesus taught.
But Jesus called them, and in spite of their own personal deficiencies, he still made them his partners. And they left their old life, its security, and even their families – they may have been afraid, but not so afraid that their faith in Jesus does not lead them forward.
And why did they follow Jesus?
When they were called by Jesus, they must have felt the joy of the new world that Jesus was preaching. They were about to see miracles performed and illnesses cured. Jesus was going to show them a wonderful new world, touch everyone who heard him and then make the ultimate sacrifice to bring about the new world.
If Jesus called this group of imperfect humans to be His ‘fishers of men’, then why wouldn’t He call each of us to follow Him? Our discipleship means the same kind of new beginning; each of us are called to go to that edge of safety so we can bring people to Christ. Jesus comes to us and chooses us, and sends us out to do something new.
We Christians are called to be evangelists. . . to look for and bring people to Christ. We are called to say to others ‘Come and See’. But we can’t be fishers of people until we have been ‘caught’ by Jesus. We need to fish for others using our own personal experience as bait.
I remember giving a testimony at a church as part of the stewardship campaign about how the church and God had gotten me through a very rough time when my partner of 27 years was dying of cancer. After the service, a young man came up to me and thanked me for my testimony. It seems that he was so depressed and sure that God hated him that he had been planning to go home and commit suicide.
Imagine how I felt at that moment. I certainly had not given the testimony with the intent of ‘fishing for people’. But with God’s help and direction, my little testimony was the bait that brought a young man back to God and salvation.
We are called to bring others to the kingdom of Christ. . .
- where we are all one in His love.
This is the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – a time when Christians around the world pray unceasingly all week to bring about unity. A hundred years ago an American minister, Paul Wattson, began the tradition of praying for Christian unity over the course of eight days, from 18 to 25 January. So as we pray this year, we can find strength not only in the prayers of brothers and sisters across the world who pray with us at this time, but also in the prayers of Christians of all denominations over the past century. With them, we root our yearning in the prayers of Jesus Christ, the source of our unity – Jesus Christ, who, died and prayed among us ‘so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him’ This unity is the oneness in Christ that Jesus preached and taught – the thing that he is calling us to.
How do we become a member of the oneness of Christ?
What can we do to facilitate Christian unity?
Within our church?
Within the Christian community?
Within the world?
By praying unceasingly!
Let us pray:
Open our hearts, God, to your vision of peace, where our jealousies vanish because we are whole, and our pride falls away because we are healed. Open our hearts, God, to your vision of peace, and inspire our work as we make it real. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Deep desiring God, in the secret of our hearts you teach us wisdom. Teach us to encourage each other along the road to unity. Show us the changes needed for reconciliation. Amen.
Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, who was crucified in weakness but lives by the power of God, help us to know our own weaknesses as well as those of others, that together with them we might experience your risen power. Amen.
We are lazy sometimes, God. Sitting comfortably here, it’s easy to ignore the suffering of others, easy to forget the challenge to see your image in friend and stranger, easy to expect others to work for justice. We are lazy sometimes, God, and that diminishes me. Make us uncomfortable, make us alert, make us responsive. Above all, make us love, in your name. Amen.
God, perfect unity, keep our hearts so burning with the desire and hope for unity that we will never stop working for the sake of your gospel. We ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Trinity in unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, grant us the grace to pray without ceasing for the unity of your Church. May we reflect in your Church the unity in diversity that is yours. Amen.
Delivered at The Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, OH on 27 January 2008