Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are Your Ready for an Adventure? - a sermon for the third Sunday of Epiphany, 2014

You see, Jesus turns up at the waterside. And when Jesus turns up at the waterside (or anywhere else for that matter) things are going happen. They may have met him before. Perhaps they had heard about him. But it doesn’t really matter. No, today Jesus calls them to a new beginning taking place. Jesus glances at these working men, with their nets and their hard-won catch, and he announces, in a voice perhaps both cosmic and comic, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” This landlubber on shore has just issued a challenge.
The call narratives in the bible have many things in common, three of them important for our story today.
First, God calls to a place. God calls us to a place in the world where we are already going. There is a lot of work to do. There are a lot of stories to be told. There are a lot of fish to be caught. God sends us now into the world in peace to the place where we already are to make disciples. But moreso, God calls to have a place in and with Jesus. Why did those four respond? Why did the other before them respond? Were they sick of being fishermen? I tend to think not. Instead, possibly, they sensed in John the Baptist a glimmer of hope. Perhaps they realized a new opportunity in this dynamic preacher from Nazareth. Maybe they found in Jesus the place where they were intended to be. Having a place is really important. When they sinned, Adam and Eve were tossed out of their place. Cain was doomed to wander without a place. Abraham and Sarah were called to journey from a place to a still better place – a promised place. The children of Israel were delivered from Egypt and again promised of a place – a place flowing with milk and honey. As he fled from Saul, David had no place to lay his head but upon victory with God had a place in the palace in Jerusalem. We all need a place. In Jesus, the disciples found a place where they could find mercy, purpose, stability, forgiveness, security, and a sameness that gave unity to their lives.
Second, God calls us to a time. And that time is the same for us all. The story heard today reports that the four in the gospel responded “immediately.” They left their father in the boat! Other call stories are similar. Immediately is the trend. Immediately is the time. Jesus calls us to “now.” “The kingdom is near.” The moment is now. Opportunity awaits. Seize it. “The kingdom is near.” So without delay, they followed him.
Third, God calls us to adventure. GK Chesterton writes, “An adventure is by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose.” While other rabbis would have waited for disciples to come to them, this Rabbi Jesus goes out and finds his own. What’s more, he looks not among those likely and typical candidates. He doesn’t look among the smartest, the brightest, the most well-trained and well-connected. No, he looks down at the docks, interrupting fishermen at their work. Discipleship would be a great adventure. We are taken away from predictable lives, plunged into adventure and woe to anyone who dilutes this adventure with dullness. Woe to anyone who makes discipleship into something safe. But blessed are they for whom the adventure remains forever sharp, who find themselves always at a new beginning.
Are these four men – Andrew, Simon, James, and John – ready and equipped for the adventure that comes to them, that chooses them? Are they ready for this adventure of discipleship? Jesus at the waterside does not collect resumes nor he does check references. The personal histories of these four do not have the last word about their futures. Christ's call means a new beginning. He takes a wide-open risk by inviting them. They do the same in response.
Indeed, subsequent events demonstrate their imperfection. Simon Peter will betray Jesus with a boldfaced lie. James and John, the Sons of Thunder, are not always the most agreeable pair, indulging in dreams of their own enthronement. Andrew doesn’t really appear again does he? Maybe his flaw was playing it safe. Yet Jesus never withdraws his invitation to adventure. They are partners with Jesus to the end.
“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it ... the end of safety,” wrote novelist James Baldwin. “The call to discipleship of these four fishermen, the beginning their story represents, implies the breakup of their familiar world, the end of their safety.” They leave behind old securities: the waterside, the boat, the nets, those days of fishing that so resembled one another, and even old Zebedee, the father of James and John, standing astonished in the boat as his two sons suddenly walk away. The new beginning requires this. Disciples must walk away into the future. They may be afraid but they are not so afraid that their faith does not lead them forward.
The story today tells us of a new beginning for four fishermen. They are called out from their occupation as fishermen about which they know a great deal and into a new occupation as fisher’s of people, about which they claim no knowledge.
Likewise, discipleship for each of us here gathered is new beginning, such that appear before us again and again. We experience the end of safety and comfort so that we may participate in a new world, finding ourselves engaged in Christ and with Christ. So, here’s the thing: However strangely it happened, Christ has come to us – to each one of us. However unjustifiable we may think it is, Christ chooses us. However ill-prepared we might think we are, Christ sends us out into the world to be the next new beginning.

Are you ready for the adventure – here and now?

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