July 3, 2022 ~ Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
“Discipleship by the Sea” Summer Worship Series
Rev. Beckie Sweet
Simon and Andrew were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. Day after day, it was the same thing; the same sea, the same net, the same boat. Day after day it was wind, water, fish, sore muscles, tired bodies. They probably grew up watching their dad and granddad fishing, watching their future life, watching how they too would spend their time.
Cast the net, pull it in. Cast the net, pull it in. If you are not casting the net, then you sit in the boat mending the net. That’s what James and John were doing. Casting and mending. Casting and mending. You know about those days, right?
We may not fish for a living, but we know something about casting and mending nets. ‘Days that all seem the same. One looks like another. Life is routine, lived on autopilot. Nothing much changes. We don’t expect much to happen. This is our life. We cast the nets. We mend the nets. Casting and mending to make a living, to feed our family, to pay the bills. Casting and mending to gain security and get to retirement. Casting and mending to hold our family together and raise the children. Casting and mending to gain the things we want: a house, a car, books, clothes, a vacation. Casting and mending to earn a reputation, gain approval, establish status. Casting and mending our way through another day of repetition, routine, loneliness, sadness, or illness – even desperation.
Casting and mending are realities of life. They are also the circumstances in which Jesus comes to us, the context in which we hear the CALL to new life, the place where we are change agents and the ordinary becomes the extraordinary!
These would-be disciples, Simon and Andrew, James and John, are not looking for Jesus. They are too busy with the nets. It is another day of casting and mending. They may NOT have even noticed Jesus but he not only sees them, he speaks to them. Jesus has a way of showing up in the ordinary places of life and interrupting the daily routines of casting and mending nets. That’s what Jesus did to the lives of Simon, Andrew, James, and John. That’s what Jesus does to your life and to my life.
“Follow me” is Jesus’ CALL to new life. If these four fishermen accept the CALL, their lives will forever be different. They will be different. They will no longer catch just fish. They will fish for people.
When Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of humankind,” he is describing the transformation of their lives, not simply a JOB catching new members or followers. He could just as easily have said to the carpenters, “Follow me, and you will build the realm of God on earth.” To the farmers Jesus could have said, “Follow me, and you will grow God’s people.” To the Doctors, “Follow me, and you will heal the brokenness of the world.” To the teachers, “Follow me, and you will open minds and hearts to the presence of God.” To the parents, “Follow me, and you will nurture new life.”
Whatever your life is, however you spend your time, there is in that life Jesus’ CALL to “Follow me.” “Follow me” is the CALL to participate with God in God’s own saving work. It’s the work of change and growth. That work is always about moving to a larger vision, orienting our life in a new direction, and experiencing that our little story of life is connected to, and a part of, a much larger story of life, God’s LIFE.
As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Jesus called them. Mark records no discussion, no questions, no good-byes. They simply “left….and followed Jesus.”
I know that if Mark were writing about us – when he gets to the part when Jesus says, “Follow Me,” – Mark would write, “And immediately the questions followed.” “Where are we going? What will we do? How long will we be gone? What will it cost? What do I need to take? Where will we stay?”
But that conversation doesn’t take place in today’s gospel. Jesus does not offer a map, an itinerary, or a destination, only a CALL. This is not the type of journey you can prepare for. This is the inner journey, a journey into the deepest part of your being, the place where God resides. It’s not about planning and organizing, making lists, or packing supplies. It’s not that easy. If anything, this journey is about leaving things behind. As Mark says: “They immediately abandoned their nets and followed Jesus.” “They left their father Zebedee standing in the boat with the hired help, and went off in the company of Jesus.”
The CALL to “Follow me,” is also a CALL to leave behind; to leave behind our nets, our boats, and even our family members. But there is something remarkably compelling about Jesus to cause those who are CALLED to follow him into an uncertain future. Astonishingly, those CALLED followed Jesus with no idea where it would lead.
That’s the hard part for most of us. We’re pretty good at planning, accumulating, and clinging, but not so good at letting go. More often than not our spiritual growth involves some kind of letting go. We never get anywhere new as long as we’re unwilling to leave where we are. We accept Jesus’ CALL to follow, not by packing up, but by letting go.
“Follow me” is both the CALL and the promise of new life. So what are the nets that entangle us? What are the little boats that contain our lives? Who are the family members from whom we seek identity, value, or approval? What do we need to let go of and leave behind so that we might follow Jesus with joyous abandon?
Please don’t think this is simply about changing careers, disowning our family, or moving to a new town. Following Jesus’ CALL is about the freedom to be fully human and in so doing, discover God’s divinity within us. We let go so that our life may be reoriented, so that we can now travel in a new direction, so that we may be open to receive the life of God anew. When we let go, everything is transformed — including our nets, boats, and some family members. That’s why Jesus could tell them they would still be fishing. But now they would fish for humankind. They wouldn’t become something they weren’t already, but they would be changed. They would become transformed fishers. They would more authentically be who they already were.
A friend of mine is a middle school teacher. Since he was active in his congregation while growing up, some of his relatives urged him to consider becoming a pastor. He told his own pastor that he felt no calling to be a pastor, but felt God wanted him to be a school teacher, to help kids feel valued and to develop their young minds. His wise pastor told him to follow that calling to teach children, and he would be serving God as well in a classroom as he might in a pastor’s office. That pastor understood what it meant to follow Jesus’ CALL in any vocation.
Jesus is CALLING us while we are casting and mending, casting and mending. Jesus’ CALL is to leave behind all that lacks meaning, or would benefit from our transformation and growth. Jesus is CALLING us. May we follow as he leads us and teaches us and shows us a new way of being, and living, and serving.