Sunday, January 21, 2018

Invitation and Promise

January 21, 2018 – Epiphany 3B
© 2018 Evan D. Garner
Audio of this sermon can be heard here.
What would you do if you looked up from your desk one day and saw Jesus standing there? What would you do if he said, “Come on; follow me?” If Jesus came to your office or your school or your breakfast room or your back yard or wherever it is that you do what you do and looked you in the eye and said, “Come, follow me,” what would it take for you to say yes?

Given their celebrated status in our tradition, it can be hard to remember that Simon and Andrew and James and John were just ordinary fishermen, people like you and me, when Jesus walked up to them. They had families to take care of and bills to pay. They had chores to accomplish and careers to pursue. But, when Jesus saw them and said, “Come, follow me,” immediately they left their boats and their nets and the livelihoods that those things provided and set off behind Jesus. They didn’t know Jesus at that point. Perhaps they had heard him preach and been impressed by his charismatic convictions, but surely they didn’t know enough about the road ahead of them to leave everything behind. Yet, when the call came, they didn’t hesitate. What was it that Jesus said—what was it about his invitation—that inspired those tradesmen to drop everything and follow him?

In his invitation, Jesus made them a promise: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” It’s a strange image—the thought of casting a net or putting out a line and dragging in human beings—but in those words Jesus was doing more than inviting these would-be disciples to follow him. He was beckoning them into a ministry that would take all of their knowledge and skills and abilities and experience as men who worked on the sea and translate them into the transformational work that God was doing in the world through God’s Son. Jesus wasn’t inviting them to give up fishing in order to follow him; he was asking them to pursue their life’s truest meaning by becoming fishers for God’s kingdom. And he is inviting us to do the same thing.

What does it mean for us to follow Jesus? What does it mean for us to fish for people? At times, it feels like those who wish to be disciples of Jesus must leave absolutely everything behind in order to follow him. And, for a rare few, that is the call. But the vast majority of us are not asked to leave our whole lives behind but to use them absolutely and completely for the transformational work of God’s kingdom. You don’t have to be a fisherman. You don’t even have to like fishing. But, if you want to answer Jesus’ call and follow him as a disciple, you have to be willing to give up your life as you know it and instead use it to help the world know the good news of the saving love of God in Jesus Christ.

But how are we ever going to do that? How are we—how are you—going to find what it takes to bring others into God’s kingdom? By being the kind of fishermen or teachers or police officers or preachers or doctors or lawyers or bankers or builders who use their craft in the service of God. You don’t have to be a card-carrying evangelist to spread the good news. All you have to do is see and know that God is doing something amazing in your life and in the world around you and then use your life to tell others about it. You don’t have to go to seminary to be a disciple of Jesus. That’s the beauty of his call. It begins right where you are with the simple invitation to consider that there could be more, that the life you know could be a part of something bigger and richer, that your life could find its completeness by becoming a vessel for God’s work in the world.

And where does it all start? It starts when we decide that we’re tired of sitting still. It starts when we realize that with Jesus there could be more. It starts when we get up and take that first step down the road after him. Jesus didn’t walk past Simon and Andrew and John and James and say to them, “Follow me to the synagogue for an hour or two and then you can go back home until we do it all again next week.” Yes, God is here when we come together on Sunday mornings, and our worship together may be the highlight of our week, but we come together not for what happens within these walls but in order to be further equipped for the work of the kingdom out in the world. When we walk back out that door, it’s up to us to use our lives to show others what God is doing in the world.

Jesus is here with us this morning. You have come near enough to hear him whisper to you, “Come, follow me.” When you kneel at the altar rail to receive Holy Communion, listen to what he says to you: “Come, follow me, and I will use you and your gifts to show the world the transformational power of God’s love.” Isn’t that a call that you want to answer? Will you take that first step?

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