The Rev. Jennifer Adams – January 29, 2017 at – Epiphany 4, Year A: Isaiah 9:1-4, Matthew 4:12-23
So at this point in the service, if you were here last week, you might be feeling a little de ja vu. “Didn’t we hear about Simon Peter and his brother Andrew last week?” you’re wondering to yourself. Did Jen forget to turn the page? Maybe you’re even feeling a little awkward on my behalf. Well, I can assure you that the page has been turned; I’m on it guys. But you are also correct in terms of the story itself. In a rare experience of blatant lectionary repetition – I don’t think this happens any other time of the year – we just heard the story of the calling of these two disciples two weeks in a row. This difference is that we heard it from the gospel of John last week and Matthew this week, and so don’t worry, there’s still a lot to talk about. Last week we even noted that there is more than one way to tell a story – and the means by which the story is told tells us something too.
Last week remember (or to bring you up to speed) it was a totally Johannine experience. There was a bit of poetry and some mystery woven in to it all. There was no mention of fisherman or nets or a lakeshore. The guys just sort of “saw Jesus” walking through town. They began to follow him, which was more like a lurking behind him as he wandered through the streets. And then at one point Jesus turned around, and asked them a question and offered invitation that was then repeated throughout that gospel, “What are you looking for?” he asked and Jesus invited them to “Come and see.” In that version of the story, the newly called disciples spent the night in a home with Jesus presumably listening, praying, eating, discerning. And they experienced a conversion of sorts which they then shared with their family and friends, some of whom then followed Jesus too.
And so last week we talked about that spiritual process of allowing the gentle yet direct question and invitation to sink into our own hearts and lives, to do the work of being honest about what it is we’re seeking and allowing the Body of Christ to become that through which we are fed and through whom we “See” the presence of our God. I even gave you homework last week to prayerfully sit with the question and invitation, to see what it is that God reveals to you.
Well this week, the story is the same but so very different. This is the calling of Andrew and Simon told by Matthew and it’s every bit as spiritual, but rather than creating silence for a sort of deep reflection and discernment to take place like we did last week, we’re off and running right from the start of the passage.
According to Matthew, Jesus got word that John the Baptist had been imprisoned which was a sign for him that it was time to get things moving. And so Jesus packed it up, left his hometown, and headed toward the lakeshore. (Now we can relate to the strategy there. It’s never a bad approach to hit the lakeshore.)
But instead of wandering and sort of responding to those who had been attracted to his revelatory presence, Jesus, was far more proactive. There’s an urgency and necessary action woven into this version of the story that were not there last week.
Jesus saw two fishermen, Simon Peter and Andrew and he went up to them. And then Jesus told them to “Follow me.” And Peter and Andrew did. According to Matthew they, “Immediately dropped their nets and followed.” Then Jesus kept going. There was no settling down in a home for supper and conversation. Jesus just kept going. And he saw James and John and “called to them” and they too, “immediately got out of the boat and followed.”
And from there Jesus and the brand new didn’t-even-have-time-to-talk-to-their-friends-about-all-of-this-in-fact-we-left-our Dad-Zebedee- back-in the-boat disciples went throughout Galilee, “teachingin their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curingevery disease and every sickness among the people.”
So last week we sat here in this place. We took some deep breaths and contemplated our needs, our callings, the revelations we’ve experienced or hope to experience. But THIS WEEK there’s barely time to catch our breath because we have just been told to get out there, heal, teach, proclaim, cure!
And so I am very, very aware that we need both versions of this story.
There is a budding awareness (how’s that for a gentle summary of our times?) – there is a budding awareness that we need to be engaged in the struggles and hurts and pains of this world. Yesterday in our country and all over the world on all seven continents we experienced what is being called “the largest march” ever held, the largest and probably most peaceful march ever held. We witnessed and some of us were people claiming power, claiming voice, standing together and offering themselves/ourselves to a larger vision of “good.”
There is a sense of urgency that hasn’t been present on this large of a scale in a very long time, an awareness that we all need to be engaged. Now truth is the world needed us, needed all of us six months ago too. People were hungry six months ago. People were un-equal then too. There were millions needed shelter and care and home then too.
But maybe we’re waking up. Maybe a light is dawning on those who sat in darkness – at least I’m going with that interpretation for now. Maybe we can even help the story being written now to swing in that direction. Regardless of where you stand politically, (and my guess is that that in itself is an ongoing discernment for us all) the world, if it is ever to resemble the kingdom God needs each and every one of us now. It always has and until the kingdom comes in full, it always will.
And so Jesus is here down by the Lakeshore today. And Jesus is calling out to fishermen, teachers, doctors, activists, law enforcement officers, lawyers, priests, students, musicians, truck drivers, nurses, therapists, librarians, accountants, homemakers, programmers, bankers, (who am I missing? Add your vocation to this list!) And Jesus is saying “The time is now.” I will help you fish for people,” he says, “God’s people. I will help you play for them, teach and learn for them, drive for them, preach for them, deliver for them. I will help you, pray, lead, manage, march, serve, protect for God’s people.”
There is an urgency for us to consider. The time is now. The time is always now. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,” we heard from the prophet Isiaiah. And so, we should act like it.
We are both of these versions of the story of the calling of disciples and we need to be both versions of this story. I actually think it’s a particular charism of the Episcopal Church to be able to hold and integrate both – the deeply prayerful and discerning with the active and engaged. We are to listen in ways that invite and actually demand a deep, reflective and spiritual awareness. “What are you looking for, what do you seek?” needs to be a question we ask ourselves on a very regular basis if for no other reason than it keeps us aware of the energies and desires we are acting out of. It also opens us up to have God respond.
And we need be active. The time is an urgent one as it always is. The Kingdom of God is at hand and it will take everyone from fishermen to teachers to kids to lawyers and doctors and activists and law enforcement officers and even a priest or two to help it break through more and more. We have all been called to offer our skills, our talents, ourselves in ways that proclaim to this hungry world the love and justice and mercy of our God. Desmond Tutu said, “It’s those little pieces of good put together that overwhelm the world.” That’s what this is all about.
And so catch your breath when you are here. Breath deeply here. And feel empowered through our prayer to become and engaged response, a response that embodies the healing, mercy and hope of a God who loves us all.