Living in Michigan, we quickly become aware of the number of lakes that we have and the beauty and sport that they offer. It is nearly impossible to live by large bodies of water or be surrounded by many lakes and not be a fisher or know someone that is.
As a young child, fishing was one of the activities that I remember doing with my father. Since my father worked the midnight shift, we would find ourselves in the morning out in the fishing boat on one of the local lakes during the summer or out on the ice in the shanty and trying to stay warm in the winter. I was taught at a young age that patience was very important while fishing and you could not be too loud, or you may scare the fish. There is a skill that goes into fishing, and possibly even a little luck. I learned over time that you have to be dedicated to fishing because of the patience that is required.
It is not surprising, that as Jesus begins his ministry, some of the first disciples that he calls are fishermen. The four we hear from this morning, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, were found either in the sea, or preparing to go fishing. I wonder if these four were doing what they really wanted to be doing, or were they simply following the path that had been laid out in front of them by their father’s, grandfathers, and so on. It was a way of life that they were expected to fulfill as they were old enough. Were they longing for a different way of life?
James and John were quick to leave their father, Zebedee, behind in the fishing boat to mend the nets by himself. Perhaps, Zebedee gave his blessing to the boys before they went to follow Jesus. We do not get to hear that part of the conversation.
All four of the disciples that decided to follow Jesus in this lesson understood what it meant to be a fishermen. They knew what hard work it entailed. They also knew that there could be days that they came home with empty nets and full of disappointment. Hoping that the next day would go much better. Jesus promised them that if they followed him, he would make them fish for people. Surely, to catch people would be much easier than it was to catch fish at times. Yet, the beginning of the lesson points out that Jesus began his ministry after John the Baptist was arrested and imprisoned. Once they begin to hear more, the thought had to cross their mind that the same thing could possibly happen to them as they learned to preach a good news that was counter-cultural at the time. Would they have been arrested and imprisoned out in the sea fishing? Most likely not. Now, they decide to follow Jesus and put their lives on the line.
We have learned how hard it is ourselves to fish for people. If it was that easy, our sanctuary would be bursting from the seams.
More often than not, we have to think our actions through. Many of us are not as spontaneous as the four disciples that got right up to follow Jesus. We have to make sure everything is aligned before we jump right into the deep end. Usually, we just dip our toes in first. The disciples do not seem to hesitate. They are bold and ready to follow Jesus where ever he leads.
Our society has created an independent nature which people feel more empowered to push out on their own without taking the advice or lead of someone else. We begin to feel that we do not need anyone else around us when completing a task because we can do it on our own. When operating in this manner, we forget about everyone else; or at least not put any stock into them. We fall into a sin of arrogance when we do this. God does not intend for us to go alone. The gospel is one proof of that.
Did you notice that when Jesus called the disciples, they came to follow him in pairs. It wasn’t just Andrew, or just James. It was Andrew and Simon. It was James and John. The good news that Jesus is calling them to involves being in relationship. The willingness to drop what what they are doing and be with God. The relationship that they had with one another when they were fishing is a reflection of the relationship that Jesus is inviting them into as children of God and as disciples to share the good news.
Jesus knows that he has a tough road ahead of him and he wants to surround himself with a community of disciples that are going to be present and open to the calling that God has placed on their hearts. He knows that he cannot go it alone because he needs others to learn from him and to carry that good news forward. The good news of Jesus born into a world that is broken and willing to make his presence known so that the love of God can be poured out through the relationships that are formed. This is the good news that Jesus wants them to believe in. The lessons that he is going to teach them are for all of humanity. Not a select few. Or simply the chosen ones. The kingdom of God is going to come to all of us whether we are ready for it or not.
That same good news that Jesus wants the disciples to believe in, is there for us today. Jesus just didn’t come to share tidbits of wisdom here and there. Jesus came into this world to show us that God has not finished. The creation is on-going and in the midst of it we are called to live a life of repentance and love. It is in Jesus that we find out that we are not alone. The presence of Christ is within each and everyone of us, whether we are aware of it or not. We are called to live in community and be in relationship.
We could easily go about our days and sleep in on Sundays. However, there is something that draws you here. Something within you that knows that you should be present. Something within you that seeks to be in relationship with one another and to support one another through times of struggles as well as times of joy. Sometimes those relationships are built organically and at other times it has to be intentional. It may even require getting to know those that we disagree with so that we can come to a mutual understanding.
Can you think of those relationships that you value? The ones that draw you closer to others and hopefully closer to God. I have been blessed for the last year and a half to be part of a mentoring group with three other pastors that provides a chance for reflection and renewal. Being a Franciscan and being a part of the Order of the Lutheran Franciscans provides an opportunity to be with brothers and sisters that have many of the same passions when it comes to social justice and simple living. Where do you find relationship?
Christ is present with us as we are gathered into community. Even in those times that we are alone, Christ is present to listen and provide the light for us to follow. As the disciples are called to fish for people, we can do the same. If you have been fishing, you may know that sometimes the act of fishing is just being present for one another. Present to listen and share stories. Sometimes, you just have to sit in the boat and listen. Listen to each other or possibly in observing the silence, you may hear God. It is through our interactions with one another that we begin to attract others. It is in this attraction, that we can begin to fish for people.
Let us pray, God that draws near, we give thanks for the relationship that we are drawn into with Jesus Christ. May our relationship with Christ be a guiding example as we return to you and proclaim the good news to all we encounter. Amen.