Texts: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
I wonder what Zebedee was thinking as he sat alone among the fishing nets watching James and John walk away to follow Jesus? I also wonder how the conversation might have gone that evening when he went home for the night. Did he say something like, “The boys are not coming home for dinner tonight. They left to follow some rabbi they met on the beach. Not only that, but they left me to finish mending those nets all by myself! Kids these days…..
Of course, this is pure speculation. Matthew does not tell us if Jesus had a relationship with James, John, and Zebedee before this encounter on the lakeshore. We just know that Jesus called, and they followed.
Imagine what might have happened if Jesus had chosen his disciples using 21st century standards and methods. He may have subjected his followers to all kinds of achievement tests, psychological evaluations, and background checks. Perhaps he would have even hired a consulting firm to help him out. In his book "Eating Problems for Breakfast", Tim Hansel imagined what a report from this consulting firm may have sounded like:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.
The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully.
It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.
We wish you every success in your new venture.
Jordan Management Consultants
Peter, Andrew, James and John probably came from a long line of fishermen. As fishermen of their time, they were marginalized by society, uneducated, illiterate, and most likely smelled like fish. But Jesus calls unlikely people, from unexpected places, and transforms them into something amazing.
On the surface, it might have appeared that these 4 fishermen had none of the characteristics needed to become disciples of Christ. However, as fishermen, they had to be courageous. They had to be risk takers. They had to be persistent and keep throwing that net back into the sea even when it came back empty. They also needed to have faith that at some point, there would be fish in their nets. Jesus took all of this and used it to transform the world.
These four disciples left behind all they knew to become followers of Jesus. They left their boats and their nets to follow the call into an unknown future and into a new life.
This is what God does. God calls the most ordinary people to do the most extraordinary things. God uses all of our gifts, all of our knowledge, and all or our experiences ~ even our biggest failures and our deepest hurts. When we are in the mist of the darkness brought about by broken relationships, shattered dreams, life-altering medical conditions, or grief, God is there shining a light onto our path. This light may seem to begin as the tiniest flicker of a candle, but with God it will grow to be a lighthouse from which we can then reflect the light and love of Christ into others dark and hurting places.
Following Jesus and responding to the call on our life sometimes means that we have to get out of our boats and leave our nets behind and open ourselves to being transformed. But frequently, we may find that we are anchored to our boats by fears and anxieties. Fears of the unknown, anxieties about not being good enough, or simply reluctance to leave the comfort of the life that we have grown accustomed to and venturing on to something new.
We may be overwhelmed by the suffering around us. We look around and see people living on the streets because of mental illness, addictions, or the lack of affordable housing. We hear about the devastating wildfires in Australia, and the earthquakes in Puerto Rico. We see pictures of children being ripped away from their parents at the border and hear the fear in the voices of our immigrant neighbors. We read stories of human trafficking and the horrors of children being sold into it. We are afraid to open our hearts to hear God call us into these dark places because we just don’t think we can make a difference. But at the same time, how can we ignore the great need of these beloved children of God?
Psalm 27 addresses these fears and anxieties. In verse one the psalmist writes:
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
The psalmist has discovered that God is not only powerful and loving, but he is also with us on our journeys, shining light into the dark, scary places, and leading us back to the path of grace, joy, and purposefulness.
God calls us all to be disciples of Christ, and although each of our calls will manifest themselves differently, a common thread runs through it: we are called to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, be a voice for the voiceless, speak truth to power, and show kindness and compassion to all of God’s beloved children. We are called to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection and victory over death; and to reflect the light of Jesus into the dark places of a hurting world.
God’s call is often surprising, unpredictable, wild, and boundary-breaking. It may seem impossible, or just plain crazy. This morning I invite you to take a moment and consider if there are nets God is calling us to drop or weave into a different shape? Is Jesus inviting us to new ministries and ways of loving our neighbors? Are we being called into new ways of turning the world upside down and working to bring God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven? Where are we being called to reflect the light of Jesus?
Discerning our calling is not a once-and-done activity. It is a lifelong journey. The good news is that Jesus walks along side of us as we travel from lakeshore to lakeshore. As we travel along these lakeshores, may we catch others in the nets of God’s love and reflect the light of God’s glory to all we meet.