Invited to Follow

Invited to Follow

Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

   “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
      on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles—
   the people who sat in darkness
      have seen a great light,
   and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
      light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Jesus Calls the First Disciples
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishers. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4:12-22 (NRSVUE)

How exciting that, after only a few invitations in our bulletin and during our worship announcement time, we welcomed eleven new members into our church family today! Now I have to be honest: things have changed a little over the years. It is no longer mandatory to attend new members’ classes or to fill out information sheets sharing all your vital information with the church. We don’t ask what you do for a living or where your faith journey has taken you. And we don’t insist that you sign up to serve in ministries, though we hope at some point, you might want to. In becoming a member of the Oldtown Church, there is no application process. You don’t need a professional resume, years of experience, or great biblical knowledge. All you need is a desire to be inspired, a yearning to follow Jesus, and a longing to be part of something bigger than yourself.

Obviously, all of our new members have found something here in Oldtown that feeds them, fills them, or calls them to deepen their faith. And I am sure they are not searching for stardom, though they might be stars out in the world, sharing the light of Christ. And they are definitely not searching for a place of perfection because our church and your pastor are far from that! But I believe what we have here in Oldtown is real. We are a rag-tag group of real human beings doing our best to follow Jesus, to love God and our neighbor, and to live out our faith as best as we are able.

Friends, in our gospel reading this week, we find Jesus just beginning his ministry and we hear the story of Jesus calling his very first disciples. Now that must have been a big undertaking! We just brought eleven members into the church. And what did He have, twelve? Sometimes I wonder how much planning Jesus actually put into the start of his ministry.  Because if Jesus had really planned ahead, if he had brainstormed the best way to begin his ministry, I would think that there might have been much more qualified people out there for him to have called to follow him: businesspeople, respected leaders, scholars, perhaps someone with marketing or management skills.

But Jesus always has a way of turning the understanding of the world upside down, doesn’t he?  Instead of looking for talented, wealthy, witty, well-to-do go-getters, marketing managers, or publicity pros, Jesus just walked down the beach one day and called out to a few simple fishermen. It’s almost like it was a spur-of-the-moment, “Hey guys, what are you doing? Want to come follow me?” What was he thinking? Fishermen to spread the good news all around the world and to help begin his ministry? Isn’t it surprising that he picked no one special, no one with obvious gifts for community organizing, or with proven leadership skills? No! He chose just a few simple fishermen.  But now, more than two thousand years later, look at the work that just those few fishermen accomplished! 

My friends, today’s gospel lesson is an invitation to follow, a call to discipleship, not just for the smart, witty, well-off, highbrow, saintly people, but for all of us! The regular, run-of-the-mill, ordinary crowd.  You know, the plumbers, the at-home moms, the photographers, the construction workers, the teachers, the artists and the cleaning people, the unemployed, the doctors and the nurses, the students, the musicians, the list goes on.  And to think it all started with just a few fishermen! 

But if you really think about it, what did those fishermen do? They accepted the invitation. They chose to follow Jesus. They watched and learned. They opened themselves up, mirroring the life and teaching of Jesus and reflecting the light of Christ for others! And isn’t that what we are all called to do?

It’s true, they were just a few fishermen, a rag-tag bunch really, but when Jesus looked at them and said, “Follow me,” they didn’t question him. They didn’t show signs of questioning themselves. They didn’t worry about how busy their schedules were or what was in it for them. They simply dropped their nets and followed him.  And I believe when Jesus looked at them, he didn’t just see rough-around-the-edges fishermen as the world did. He saw people made in the image of God and filled with God-given gifts. It didn’t matter where they were from or what they did for a living. Those were things that society worried about. Jesus knew that they were children of God and that they each had their own unique gifts to share.

I’ve always wondered if, deep down inside, those fishermen had been hungering for something more, and Jesus somehow knew it. But either way, I am always amazed at the faith that those fishermen had to simply follow Jesus, no questions asked. 

Folks, what do you think would happen if the front door of our church swung open and Jesus walked into this sanctuary today? What if Jesus walked through these doors and said, “Okay, everyone, follow Me, and I will teach you to be my disciples. I’ll teach you to make this church grow. I’ll teach you to deepen your faith, and I’ll teach you to reach out and make a difference in the world.” I wonder how many of us would get up from our pews and simply follow him. Or how many of us would start to worry about how much time it might take, how hard the work would be, or what we would have to change or give something up? 

My friends, Jesus calls each and every one of us to be his disciples, but what does that really mean? If we are to be true disciples of Jesus and follow Jesus’ call, does that mean that we need to leave our homes and our families, walking away from our lives and our jobs, as those few fishermen did?  I don’t believe it does. But I do think that we need to look long and hard at what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  Because you see, being a disciple of Christ is about allowing yourself to be changed by God’s love into the person that God has already created and called you to be. It’s about living your life with a purpose that makes a difference not only for you but for the world all around you. It’s not about trying to be good all the time and getting all the answers right, and always being kind and courteous. It’s about having the courage to be you! The beautiful you that God created the day you were born.

So brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, listen for God’s still-speaking voice in your life. Don’t worry about being perfect and always getting it right. Just be who God created you to be as you do your best to follow in the footsteps of Jesus because that is how you can best help those rag-tag fishermen continue to share the good news with the world.

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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