Posted on Jan 21, 2018 by Pastor Dave Whetter
Last week we heard John’s version of how Jesus began to call his disciples and now today we hear Mark’s version of the same story. Now, before I go any further, I want to answer the burning question that most likely many of you are wondering and that at least one of you will most likely ask me at the end of the service. The answer I have is “yes!”. The question is “Pastor, is John’s version the real story or is Mark’s version the real story?”. Again, the answer is yes!
We have to remember these are faith stories and they were written so that those who listened might come to believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior; they were not written so we would have the facts. As I have said many times before, I believe everything in scripture is true and I believe some of it even happened.
I think the real question we ought to be asking today is this, “What is the truth in both of these stories that the writers of the Gospels wanted us to come to know?”. So, with that question in mind, let’s take a look at the stories.
In both Gospels, Jesus is the first one to issue an invitation to come and see what God is up to in and through his ministry. So, the truth is, for those of us who are willing to at least listen a little bit, Jesus is the one inviting us to follow him to see what God is up to in and through God’s church. And, today we are called to do the same, that is invite others to come and see what God is up to in this world in and through the church. The other consistent truth is that in both cases, those that chose to follow Jesus left behind what they had been doing to see what Jesus was up to and to follow him. In John’s story, Andrew and the other disciple left John and his ministry behind to follow Jesus. We don’t know what Philip did, but he followed Jesus immediately and he even went and invited Nathanael to do the same.
In Mark’s story today, we are told that Simon and his brother Andrew were busy with their family business when Jesus walked up to them and said, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1:17). Following Jesus’ invitation Mark says, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him” (1:18). Then, we are told “As [Jesus] went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him” (1:19-20).
In accepting Jesus’ invitation to follow, all four men had to leave a big part of their lives behind. All four left their business behind, so that they might come to know a new life, a life that we later learn is an eternal life that cannot be taken away and that although will be difficult at times will offer a joy that only Jesus can give. The truth is, if we want to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to follow him, that is, to be one of his disciples, then there are things in our lives that we will and must say “no” to doing or being.
I can’t say yes to Jesus and think it is OK to treat other people poorly. I can’t say yes to Jesus and think it is OK to treat woman as sexual objects and not treat them as an equal in every way. I can’t say yes to Jesus, but say it is OK to not fully be willing to welcome everyone into my midst. Jesus wouldn’t turn the LGBTQ community away. Jesus wouldn’t turn Jews or Muslims away. Jesus wouldn’t turn away immigrants because they came from the wrong side of the border. To follow Jesus means there are many things in our culture that we must say no to. I know, we live in a culture that says you can have it all, but our scripture stories today tell us that is not true. If we want to follow Jesus, then we have to learn to say no to the world and its ways.
When I said yes to going to seminary, what was hard was learning to say no to the career I built, the house I knew Jill designed and loved. What was hard was learning to say no to my kids when they asked for things I could no longer afford.
But that is not the last truth we hear in this story. The other truth that is consistent in these call stories is that to say yes to Jesus means that we are willing to commit to change. Did you hear what Jesus said to Simon and Andrew? “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Simon and Andrew were fishermen. They knew how to fish. They had been doing it their whole lives. Why would they want, or need, to fish for something else? Well, to follow Jesus meant they would have to learn to fish differently. These men had to be willing to walk away and learn be fishermen all over again. To say yes to Jesus means we must be willing to drastically change our lives.
This story applies to us today. We must ask ourselves what is it we need to walk away from to follow Jesus. Personally, I hear Jesus saying to us to “Follow me and I will make you a new church.” But I like the church we are. I like the way we do things. I like worshipping in this building. I like… I am sure Simon, Andrew, James, and John liked the way they fished. They had fished the same way their fathers had fished and their fathers. It had worked forever but now Jesus was saying it is time to change. Time to be something different. To follow Jesus calls for drastic change in our lives.
Jesus desires that were learn to fish for people. He doesn’t call us to fish for money. He doesn’t call us to fish for buildings. He doesn’t call us to fish for budgets… No, Jesus calls us to invite people into his church, not our church building. He calls us to seek out the oppressed and the marginalized so that we might work for justice and peace. Jesus invites us to be different and he says come and follow me.
Next week you are invited to be here for our Annual Meeting so that we can approve a budget to move forward and to hear about what we have learned about our facility. You’ve already heard the about the cost of repairing/improving this facility and next week you will hear briefly from the Dream Team, who have done incredible work on this project, but we now are faced with a choice. How do we maintain and grow the ministries Christ has called us to do and be? Do we continue to fish as we have fished for the last 132 years, or do we find the courage to learn to fish differently? To do it differently will require us to give many thing up that we have grown to like. We might need to change how we gather, how we learn together, and how we worship, and most likely we may even need to change where we gather, not because it will make everything easy, but because we are being called to follow and fish for people. We are not being called to fish for money or for budgets, and I do not believe we are called to fish for buildings.
Brothers and sisters, we are faced with a real challenge. Do we stay and keep doing things the way we always have, or will we have the courage to make a real commitment to follow Jesus and say no to doing things the way we always have? Are we really willing to change, to give up our buildings, our comfort, our personal likes for the sake of Jesus? Are we willing to say no to these things so we can say yes to Jesus? I hope you are willing to at least partake in the Town Hall meetings today and the Annual Meeting so that we might come to being to discern this call together. I pray we come to know how to fully commit ourselves to saying “Yes” to Jesus. Amen.