There’s a great community park near our house called Crump, which has a little pond with a fountain in the center.
When our kids were young, they used to ask to go fishing and I would take out my old tacklebox with the floaters
(or maybe you call them bobbers) and go to the store, and buy some bait, and we’d go to Crump Park and sit on the bank by the water and cast our lines, but we literally never caught anything.
I would say that it was because we always got there too late in the morning and that fish like to be out when it’s still cool, but the kids were still disappointed.
Somehow, one day, much later on, not too long ago I guess, I got to talking with Will Burger, who is to my astonishment now a junior in high school.
Will and I were talking about the pond at Crump Park because we live near one another, and I was sort of lamenting that we had never caught anything and I was speculating that maybe there just weren’t any fish in the pond.
He said that he had caught fish in there and that he would send me a picture.
So, a little later that afternoon Will sends me a picture of himself standing in front of the pond at Crump Park and Will is holding this COLOSSAL fish!
It was at least 3 feet long!
I texted back: you have got to be kidding!
There is no way you caught that fish there!
How did you do it?
He said that he used weights to send the hook down to the bottom of the pond because he had figured out that’s where all the fish are!
Will clearly had a deep knowledge of fishing, which made all the difference.
In his public ministry, it comes time for Jesus to gather followers, as all rabbis of his day would have done, and he selects four fishermen.
And I think we could guess that they were skilled at fishing (as opposed to yours truly) since we’re told that it was their family business.
After a lifetime of growing up in the trade, these fisherman knew, as all fisherman did, how to make their own nets, and after each outing how to mend, wash, dry and fold them.
They knew how to use small hand nets as well as the larger dragnets and how to fish from the boat as well as along the shoreline depending on what the occasion called for.
But for all they knew, Jesus had a deeper knowledge of fishing even than they did, because he would transform their knowledge of simple fishing
into an as-yet-uncharted course to change not only their lives, but the life of the world and all humankind.
Jesus’ idea of fishing is his metaphor
for bringing other people along in the adventure of following in the life-giving way of God which he himself reveals.
Just as these fishermen gathered fish, Jesus, in word and deed, gathers a community who prepares a way for the Kingdom of God, bringing God’s merciful and peaceful rule to each person and place who will respond and receive it.
On the pond bank in Galilee, Jesus’ words to these fishermen were very simple. Nothing very complicated, Jesus simply said, “Come, and Follow me.”
But these words were significant, because while in some ways, Jesus was much like an ordinary Jewish rabbi, in that many rabbis traveled the same ground, took on followers, and used their own life as the primary teaching tool, the expectation and practice of the day was for disciples to have to take the initiative to apply to follow a rabbi.
It was unknown – even extraordinary – for the master to invite the follower.
But with the simple words, “Come and follow me,” this Master shows that something brand new is underway.
And so it is, as Jesus takes the reigns of this new movement of the Spirit,
he carries on John the Baptist’s message to ‘Repent for the Kingdom of God has come near,’ But it’s clear that he is taking the mission public.
That is to say that by God’s prerogative this mission isn’t just for those who apply, or for the brightest or most well-respected, not just for the educated, not just for the middle class or better, but for everyone.
It’s for this reason Jesus moves the operation from the boondocks of Nazareth to the city center of Capernum – by the interstate and near the airport – to where all the people are!
Jesus wants to be where he can reach each person and everyone – fisherman and tax-collectors, yes, but also the scribes and CEOs, blue collar and white collar, old and young, male and female, insiders and outsiders, religious and anti-religious.
Jesus has come as God’s light and love made manifest making repentance and a new life of healing and forgiveness possible… for everyone!
So Jesus says, join me and spread the word: tweet it, put it on a billboard, and the 5 o’clock news, Facebook and TikTok, and tell the people you know and the ones you don’t.
Because to be a disciple of Jesus means to follow him and also, to tell about him by the way we live.
And to me it’s interesting that when Jesus arrives on the wet sands beside the boats of these fisherman we’re told that they were in the middle of undertaking two specific actions.
The first pair of brothers were casting their nets.
It seems to me that the first thing that disciples of Jesus do in our ministry
is cast our nets.
We cast our nets anytime we invite someone to “come and see” what God is up to the community of faith –
be it the Epiphany Quilters, Guy’s Night, “Gen E,” which is Epiphany’s young adult group.
We cast our nets when we serve as an usher or a ministry team leader, anytime we are gathering people for God.
God has blessed our nets with new members to welcome today, women and men and children who have already blessed us by their presence
and will continue to bring blessings with their gifts and talents.
And then, we do that casting… according to God’s grace… for a purpose.
Because the second specific task the first disciples were undertaking
when Jesus came to them was mending their nets.
It seems to me that the casting of the nets to bring people into God’s Beloved Community leads, by God’s design, to mending.
God mends and heals and restores and strengthens us by the Word which encounters us in worship and Bible Study, in our Epiphany Youth Groups, and our community service team.
We do no less that mend lives through LAMBs basket, and Liberation Veteran Services Meals and Stephen’s Ministry.
God is the one who reaches down into the depth of us and into the dark places of our lives through these ministries (and many more like them) to shine his light.
God’s casting and God’s mending overlap and work together in harmony,
always drawing us through the Word of God to learn how to be Christ to the world.
But just know:
there is danger in the way of following Jesus which is truly no less than a re-routing of the plans that world and humankind has for itself.
The empires and aristocracies of the world love their power too much to let go of it so easily or to be swept aside so easily by this new vision of God,
and to them the way of the cross and humility and self-giving are foolishness
and so the same powers that beheaded John,
and crucified Jesus,
and killed or exiled all of these disciples
will at the very least frustrate,
and may well do worse
to those who seek to be the change agent God has sent into a world…
…but God’s plan is for us to simply invite, invite, invite until eyes are opened and hearts see
that it is emptied of ourselves we are filled with God’s mercy;
in sacrificing our life to and with Jesus we gain everything;
and that in Jesus Christ, God has shown us that to submit our own will to God’s will is the way to peace.
I think it was two Sundays ago. I didn’t hear it myself. I was only told the story, but two Sundays ago during worship,
in the very middle of the sermon,
one young girl in the congregation who, I believe is in the 3rd grade,
looked over to her mother and said in a voice loud enough for many to hear:
“Is Jesus real?”
And what a wonderful question for a third grader to ask! Or a person of any age!
Perhaps especially a question a person who has a loved one with cancer might ask, or a person who has been laid off, or someone who has lost their child, or has come to the end of a marriage, or battles depression and anxiety and loneliness.
“Is Jesus real?” the little girl asked, sincerely.
She could just as well be asking, as we may sometimes ask: Can Jesus’ way of power made perfect in weakness really be true?
“Yes,” the mother said.
And Jesus says to us, “Yes, I am real” in the waters of baptism and I take the initiative with you each day to make you my own again.
“Yes, I am real,” Jesus says in the bread and wine that are his body and blood, given so that you may taste and believe the goodness of God who will be with you in your suffering.
“Yes, I am real,” Jesus says, and I will live among you, so that you become my body in the world, given away to those in need, so that when others see you they will see me, and the cross will be made manifest in your shared life of forgiveness and service.
By God’s grace, in our genuine love for one another, which is drawn from the depths of the well of the one who first loved us, may we be a witness that God is real and the cross is the power of God which sustains us today and will sustain us until the end of time, when we will see Jesus face to face, and hear him say again, pointing to life everlasting, “Come and follow me.”