Third Sunday after Epiphany
January 21, 2018
St. Jacob’s and Trinity Lutheran Churches
Rev. Kirk Shipley, Interim Pastor
Like many I enjoy the Bible verses that speak of a trusting and loving friendship with God. The ones where it is clear God or Jesus is the senior partner, but what comes across more is the divine love. Immediately I think of the classic Psalm 23 ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. There is the much less quoted but quite profound, Mark 10:21 when Jesus is described as looking at a wealthy man with love as he was telling him the radical path for him to inherit eternal life of selling his possessions, giving the proceeds to the poor, and physically following Jesus on his travels. I think of an exercise a counselor suggested. Visualize being given permission to leave work and go somewhere you find relaxing. I visualized being given permission, driving out of the Los Angeles basin through the rush hour and gradually leaving the traffic behind and going to the desert, parking near some Joshua trees, sitting by a tree where Jesus waits or joins me, being calmed by his presence, while we sit silently as dusk approaches.
When I’m in a quandary or on the ropes I’m drawn to the passages that indicate there is something special about Jesus that I know I can trust him for reorientation or helping putting things back together. I am looking for a more striking and commanding aspect that goes beyond being pretty sure a particular person can be trusted for assistance during an uncertain or shaky time.
In five short verses Mark’s Gospel gives us a look of Jesus showing that type of presence, that puts the word ‘awe’ back into ‘awesome’. Without doing much we see there is something about Jesus that invites the kind of trust that pays heed, senses it will be for the good, even though not sure where it might take one.
The setting is quite ordinary. It is a normal work day. Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee and he sees Simon and Andrew engaging in their occupation, casting nets into the water to catch fish. Jesus says to them, in a poetic play on words used in the King James and Revised Standard versions “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” An observer, aware that Andrew and Simon have some knowledge of Jesus, might not be surprised to hear, “Sounds good, we’ll catch you after our morning casts. Where do you want to meet?” Though possibly more likely, that observer would expect to hear the response, “Huh? What’s this fishers of men stuff you’re inviting us to take up?” Rather than anything near those scenarios, Mark reports, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
With Simon and Andrew following, Jesus continues along the shore and comes upon James and John in a boat mending the tools of their trade, their fishing nets, with their father Zebedee and some hired men also at work in the boat. Without explanation, Jesus immediately calls them. This pair of brothers also drops what they are doing to follow Jesus, while their father and the hired men look on.
Given almost 2000 years it may be hard to pick up the impact of what is occurring. I have been in a situation where I was floundering and had a sound sense that I could trust someone I had only seen in a picture on a wall of who was in charge of a certain area and laid my situation before that person. I have made career change from the legal profession. But I was not listening to a client or sitting in a staff meeting and immediately stood up, walked out, never to return in that capacity, because a call to do something else was strong. That is what Simon and Andrew do, seeing and hearing Jesus’ call “Follow me.”
How many people here have worked under their father and or mother on the family farm or in the family business, or know people who have or still do? Imagine you are engaged in your assigned tasks along with other employees, and the parent present. I come along and say “Follow me and I’ll make you harvesters or reorganizers of people.
Because I am generally a decent guy with some skills, you naturally drop what you are doing and follow to only God knows where while your father or mother smiles benignly approving, maybe offering encouragement, while the other workers glance up wonderingly for a few moments before getting on with their work. A father boss would not say, “Hey where do you think you are going? You still have a pile of work to finish!” The other employees would not chide you for being such a naïve ‘doofus’ and make sure you could hear them.
Of course the latter situation is much more likely, almost 100% guaranteed likely. Yet that is what James and John do seeing and hearing Jesus call out to them.
Decades ago there was, and still might be, a brokerage firm E.F. Hutton. They had a television advertising campaign for a number of years that featured a couple of people at a restaurant table, at a social occasion, a golf tournament, or on a bench at shopping mall. The people were surrounded by others but could carry on one on one conversation. They would be talking finances and one would say, “My broker is E.F. Hutton and E.F. Hutton says…”, and as the camera pulled back you could see a growing group of other people stopping what they are doing to listen.
Jesus such that his coming and calling goes beyond catching people’s attention. It operates on a plane beyond human history’s series of political and/or religious ideological demagogues, who identify the host of problems needing fixing or call for the brighter attainable future waiting to be realized. On that beach Jesus does not come denouncing or announcing a program. He calls without explanation. These first disciples not only listen but they immediately drop everything to follow and become fishers of men, without having any idea what that may mean and require. Jesus shows he is a most extra extraordinary person.
It is truly wonderful that Jesus is approachable and provides moments of special friendship and the peace that passes understanding in the most difficult times. It is important to remember Jesus also has the powerful presence that call us to do important things in a way normally unthinkable as he did with four fishermen attending their work on what appeared to be just another day making a living. Life changes when open to Jesus indicating what he might want you to do. Amen.