Saturday, January 25, 2014
Simon Peter and Andrew, his brother, cast their nets into the sea one day as they did every day, but this day was different. James and John the sons of Zebedee, were in their boats mending their nets as they often did just as a matter of routine, but this day was different. On this day Jesus said “Follow me”. They put down their nets, they left their boat and their father immediately. The why’s and how’s of this immediacy are lost to us now but there was something about their encounter with Jesus that leant an immediacy to Jesus’ call to follow.
It is a matter of urgency that we listen and respond to that call just as the disciples did. It is on the masthead of all of our Diocesan printed matter; “Answering God’s urgent call”. This is no casual call. This is a matter of life and death; not just our own but of the life and death of the whole world.
It was for the sake of the world that Jesus came to us. We know the words by heart, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). This is a matter of life and death.
How appropriate that it is in this biblical context that we come to this congregation’s Annual Meeting. For it is on this day that you and I are called to answer God’s urgent invitation; “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men, women and children.”
Gone fishing! What more fun is there for anybody than to go fishing. Not that I’m into fishing but I can see why there are those who love the sport. It is relaxing. It is beautiful. We are surrounded by God’s beauty, invigorated by the bracing refreshment of the winds, and lulled to peace by the call of the gulls. Just now at this particular time of year, those images might be a bitt too invigorating and much too chilling, and no doubt startled at how those gulls set themselves in those fish freezing waves, as it it were just another day.
When we compare that with the greed, the violence, and the addictive self absorption with which much of the world lives, who wouldn’t want to live in the way that leads to eternal life?
There is a movie called the “Wolf of Wall Street”. It is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio. I heard a discussion about the movie on NPR’s “On Point” with Ed Ashbrook, the show’s broadcaster; one of the more intelligent conversationalists I know. I love listening to all the issues that come up about politics, economics, technology and culture. The issues Ed Ashbrook explores are always matters of immediacy, urgency and controversy. But the conversations are always enlightening as those participating make serious efforts in exploring many facets of the great issues facing us.
This movie; “The Wolf of Wall Street” explores the story of one especially intense trader whose appetite for greed, sex, and cocaine are a matter of legend. The misuse of funds leads to many clients losing their millions, as the traders pocket their ill gotten gain. The whole culture of Wall Street and banking excess led to the collapse in 2008, not just of the American economy, but much of the economy of the world.
When it comes to sin, this movie takes the idea to a whole new level. Many commentators complain that the moral ambiguity presented in the movie suggests that this example of art is itself a glorification of evil in many forms. Even animal rights groups are up in arms about the movie because of the harmful way in which a chimpanzee was forced to “act”.
So then what of this idea of discipleship? What of God’s urgent call? What of this immediacy? How shall we challenge the world’s greed? It’s violence? It’s dangerous flirtation with drugs, sex, and all its other addictive behaviors?
Sin is so seductive. I was young once, and I’m still not too old to look. But I know a dead end road when I see one. I know where addiction to greed and all the other sins leads. It leads to death.
It is interesting that Jesus begins with a routine, everyday, hum drum life profession like fishing. Jesus greets them with something far more interesting, let’s go fishing for folk.
He calls out to a tax collector. “You know, Matthew, everybody hates you. You are the essence of greed and corruption. Is that the way you want to lead your life?”
The woman at the well; “Yes, dear one I know you have had seven husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. Is this the way you want to live your life? Hated and despised by all except during those transient and meaningless interludes?”
For all sorts and conditions in life Jesus issues an urgent call. “Is this really the way you want to live?” If you do it will take its toll not just on you and those you love, it will ultimately be the undoing of whole world. The way you are living leads ultimately to the dread of a very dead end indeed.
In contrast Jesus calls us urgently toward his baptism and toward our own. Let’s try a whole new way of life; one based on bringing ourselves and others to the knowledge and love of God and of the God’s people. Lets do so with all our hearts, our minds, strength and our souls. Let really make this fishing expedition one of the great achievements of humankind.
Let’s call this the Church. Let us put on earth a gathering of people who live for the sake of the world, just as Jesus did. Let us organize our lives around the needs of the people; our needs as well as the needs of others. You will notice that in today’s Gospel Jesus teaches and heals. So too shall we teach and become a healing presence for our gathered people and the communities in which we find ourselves placed.
Let’s build these churches. Let s become more visible, more inviting, more skilled in greeting and incorporating people into God’s communion. We are not so much interested in making people members of our church, as we are interested in making people members of Christ and members of one another in the body of Christ.
And let’s go fishing every day of our lives. There is nothing boring about being alive; not when we are fully alive! Not when we realize that our fundamental urgent call is to respond to God’s invitation to share with one another the story of what it means to encounter the living Christ in our lives.
Jesus is always here; loving us, forgiving us and reconciling us. This is a life long effort that requires our very best efforts; namely to be Jesus to one another; always loving, forgiving, and reconciling one another.
It is he who begins his sermons; “Blessed are you...”
In every report for this annual meeting, we document the work of God by the people of God on behalf of the servant ministry of this church. There are many programs and organizations dedicated to the work of the church. We teach and heal those in needs of learning and healing. We tend to the household of God; its program, property, and finances.
“Blessed are you...” because you are not far from the kingdom of God, and this is so because you have dedicated yourselves to the love and the care of God’s house and God’s people. The stirring words of today’s psalm speak well of our hearts desire as we love and care for this place and these people;
One thing have I asked of the LORD;
one thing I seek; *
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days
of my life;
To behold the fair beauty of the LORD *
and to seek him in his temple.
So, let’s go fishing.