First Congregational Church
January 26, 2014
Third Sunday after Epiphany, Annual Meeting Sunday
"Move Over, Peter, Andrew, James and John"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
To get your brain ready for this morning's message, what do you get when you cross a fishing lure withe a gym sock? A hook, line and stinker. What fish can perform operations? A Sturgeon. What swims in the sea, carries a machine gun, and makes you an offer you can't refuse? The Codfather.
Our scripture passage this week begins by saying that Jesus "withdrew from Nazareth" to Capernaum in Galilee. I don't know about any of you, but when I hear such a thing, I don't really think much about it. But that's an 80 mile trip - at least a good week of walking. It wasn't so much a retreat as a journey. Capernaum had about 1,000 people - definitely more people that in Frankfort at this moment. The area had historically belonged to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, known as the Galilee of the Gentiles, back in the day of Isaiah, some 700 years before Jesus.
Matthew 4:12-23 (NIV)
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Thank you, John. Maybe Jesus left Nazareth to get away from the heat of John the Baptist's imprisonment. Maybe he went to Capernaum because it fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy. Either way or both ways, Jesus put on a lot of miles to get to a place that didn't seem like a logical place to begin the Messiah's ministry.
Calling those first four disciples to follow Jesus didn't seem to logical, either. Brothers Peter and Andrew didn't fish on their day off, when the weather was fair and the wind light. They fished to survive, earning their livelihood, like their father and grandfathers. As far back as there was family memory, the men fished. And then, all of a sudden, some passerby, who doesn't even introduce himself waltzes up and "nets" them. Says, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people." And crazier yet, the brothers - in mid-throw of the nets, drop them and go with Jesus.
The three walk down the beach a way, and come on a second set of brothers, James and John, and it's deja vu. These two aren't actually fishing, but mending their nets, and the same thing happens. Jesus says come, and they go. Just like that.
In both cases, the gospel writer Matthew uses "immediately" to describe the response of the brothers. They turn their backs on everything they have held sacred; all commitments dropped like a hot potato.
It would be like a daughter coming home after her first high school dance and announcing to the family that she's getting married to this wonderful guy. I know that in the past, especially during the war years, people would get married after three days - or some insanely short amount of time. But they at least knew each other's names.
Or it would be like a spouse coming home and announcing, "I decided today to retire early." "Oh? But you're only 35 years old." "I know, but I've been thinking about it for awhile." "And when did you come to this decision?" "During lunch." One has to wonder if these four guys were foolish, fickle, irresponsible, or even something else in-ain.
Maybe they had heard about Jesus before the moment he stood before them. As we all know, when someone new comes to town, it doesn't take too long before that news spreads. It is interesting, however, that Jesus choses two sets of brothers to be his first followers. Perhaps the choice of "brothers" is an indicator of how Jesus' posse was to consider themselves - how we are to consider ourselves - as family.
It's "ironic" that Jesus goes to a little, out-of-the-way, "unimportant" place to begin his ministry. He could have collected a huge group of disciples if he'd started in Jerusalem. Maybe it was Jesus' way of saying that the Kingdom of God is not tied down to a single location.
Likewise, Jesus could have chosen movers and shakers in Jerusalem, done some "really big things" with their connections. But he chose down-to-earth - or lake - real guys to teach and mentor. He didn't choose highly educated, slick people to form the basis of his world changing mission. He chose humble fishermen going about their daily work.
We don’t need more Supermen or Spidermen or Wonder Women or Xena: Warrior Princesses. The world just needs you and me living our lives… doing our most humble tasks… sharing our love and our faith with our brothers and sisters as we meet them every day along our journey.
That's been the "need" since Peter, Andrew, James and John. That's been the "need" since the dedicated souls that gathered together 53,691 days ago and covenanted with one another to follow Christ. And that's the "need" today: for us, this family, to do what Christ showed us and told us, using the gifts and talents that we have been given. So move over, Peter, Andrew, James and John. We aren't replacing you. We're joining you once again, remembering our connection to you and those who have gone before us as we prepare for our future in prayer.
God of all relationships, we are grateful for those who have taken risks to follow you - even when those choices didn't make sense. Help us to remember that we already know how to weave nets of healing and belonging, nets whose strands have meaning in each other. Help us to hear your call to let go and go, to be led and to be lured, not necessarily farther, but deeper, closer to you and your kingdom. And thank you for your Son, who didn't call just one or once, but calls all - all the time. For the sheer blessing of being your people, we all say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.