Yesterday’s sermon from Matthew 4:12-23
On a sunny afternoon in early December of 2002, I made my way across my college campus from my dorm to the music department to play 2 piano pieces for a jury of my professors. I got nervous so I made quite a few mistakes; and when I had finished Haydn’s Sonata in C and Bartok’s 6 Roumanian Folk Dances, my professors proceeded to tell me that I lacked the necessary discipline and skill to be a performer.
I left the room utterly crushed, having spent my entire young life preparing to study piano performance. Filled with shame, I felt guilty for having wasted my parents’ money on years of piano lessons, and profound sadness that I had apparently misunderstood what I felt was a calling to study, perform, and create music. I felt disconnected and untethered.
Shame, guilt, and sadness are not unfamiliar elements of our human existence. Often they can surface when we feel a sense that something is not right in our lives – that something feels disconnected, or untethered.
For some, retirement can feel like a wilderness where after devoting your life to one thing, you are left to decide what you will make of the life you have left.
For others, the loss of a spouse or loved one, or the loss of health and vitality can feel like a wilderness. Still others, after a long life well lived, having watched friends and loved ones pass on, may ask themselves, and God, “why am I still here?”
I think everyone wonders from time to time, “why am I here?” And “what’s my purpose?”
We hear news of the darkening world and wonder if we are, in fact, untethered; left to float in the uncertainties of the world, alone.
We have no shortage of experiences with brokenness in our lives and in our world; no shortage of experience searching for meaning and purpose amidst times of darkness. It is an ongoing quest for wholeness.
Wholeness is a state of being unbroken, complete, or full. It’s hard to find wholeness when the world around us is broken; deeply marred with a woundedness that is centuries old.
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he was filled with fear and took up a new home in Capernaum. People like John, like Jesus, were a threat to the Roman Empire – a kingdom run on manipulation, coercion, and an ongoing pursuit of military power and recruitment of soldiers.
It was a kingdom of force and fear; shame and might, where the poor, sick, and broken were cast aside and forgotten. In this kingdom, Andrew, Peter, Zebedee and his sons, James, and John made their way in the world through fishing. Their livelihood hinged on the whims of the sea, the sturdiness of their nets and their ability to haul in the daily catch. Every day, this routine of mending nets, getting out on the water, and catching fish sustained the living of their lives.
I wonder if they longed for something more? Did they look at the world around them, the people on the bottom rungs of society, struggling to make a life, and long for their un-breaking? Did they feel disconnected and untethered?
Maybe so, and maybe that’s why when Jesus comes walking on the shoreline there at the Sea of Galilee, saying “follow me and I’ll make you fish for people,” they immediately drop everything – their source of income and security, the life they know to be stable and fairly certain, to follow.
What do you think made them immediately drop everything?
As Matthew relays this story, he quotes from the prophet, Isaiah, saying “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” presenting Jesus as the great light.
As he walks the shoreline, their hearts quicken and in his voice, they hear not only a welcome to come and follow, but an invitation to transformation. An invitation into hope and wholeness.
What does it mean, to fish for people?
Peter, James and John immediately drop everything to find out, and they learn that it means exactly what they’ve been hoping it would mean. In following Jesus they will learn to love deep and wide, to become a great light to the world around them and to bear witness to the healing power of God and the good news of Jesus, who is God with us.
As Jesus preaches in Galilee, healing their sick, the people are reminded that the kingdom of God is near. Not a kingdom of force, fear or shame; the kingdom of God is an invitation to wholeness, where all people work together for a world where God’s redeeming work is done on earth as it is in heaven. A kingdom where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to use their unique lives and gifts to be the presence of Christ in the world around them.
Theologian Howard Thurman said “don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
People who have come alive let shame and fear give way new adventures in following Jesus.
People who have come alive look for opportunities to cast their nets far and wide, welcoming all people into the vast love of God.
People who have come alive always look at their lives with a mission to see where God has been at work in the past and present, asking how God wants to be at work in them in the future.
We, the people of God, have been invited to come alive. Like the first disciples called away from their ordinary lives to follow Jesus into ministry beyond themselves, we are also, as followers of the same Jesus, called each day from the ordinariness of our lives to walk the same, well- traveled path toward ministry beyond ourselves in the world around us.
This is a vibrant truth for us today, a rich reminder of the way we have come alive with dreams for greater ministry in partnership with First Baptist. Here, in Jesus’ words we find encouragement to keep casting our nets and faithfully responding to the needs we find there; together.
“Follow me, and I’ll make you fish for people,” Jesus says. Seeing the brokenness in the world, connecting to our own experiences of brokenness, we hear in Jesus’ voice a hope.
Immediately, we drop everything and follow the one who can make us whole; who can make us people who have come alive; fishers of others, who are feeling disconnected and untethered; who want and need to share in this wholeness that comes from transforming encounters with the risen Christ.
Thanks be to God.