By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
January 27, 2008
Read: Matthew 4:12-23
Today we heard twice, from Isaiah and Matthew… “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light..” Light in the midst of darkness is a familiar metaphor used throughout the scriptures. It is comforting because it implies hope. An opportunity for something different, something better; an opportunity for new life.
And so perhaps that is why, when Jesus says to the two sets of brothers “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”, they immediately drop their nets and leave their boat and follow Jesus. They see some sort of light, something very different in this man, Jesus.
When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him, they left everything behind to follow him. Matthew doesn’t go into much detail in telling that story. He just says that Peter and Andrew “immediately…left their nets and followed him.” James and John “immediately…left their boat and their father and followed him.”
That is so clipped –– so cut and dried. It fails to tell the whole story. It fails to convey the pain, and it also fails to convey the joy. Peter and Andrew were brothers. James and John were brothers. They had always lived in their little village by the Sea of Galilee. They had learned the fishing trade by going out in small boats with their fathers. They had known their friends all their lives.
In those days, people lived in their home village all their lives. They were expected to do so. When they were children, they lived in the village so their parents could take care of them. When they were adults, they lived in the village to take care of their parents. When they were old, they lived in the village so their children could take care of them. That was the cycle of life. They could not easily break it. They had responsibilities to their loved ones.
How could James and John immediately leave their father to follow Jesus? Did Jesus give them opportunity to say goodbye? I think that he did. I think that Peter, Andrew, James and John must have had tearful goodbyes. They must have been excited about following Jesus. They must have been honored at being invited to go with him. But they must have found it difficult to say goodbye.
Sometimes we have to say goodbye to be able to say hello. We must let go of the past to embrace the future. These men, Peter and Andrew, James and John, were willing to do that. That is amazing! But it cannot have been as easy as Matthew makes it sound.
It is difficult to say goodbye to family and friends, but sometimes it is necessary. In the small town where I grew up, most of us went away to college. And few of us returned. There wasn’t much to do in a small-town.
But that isn’t why Peter and Andrew, James and John left their village. They went because Jesus called them to a new life. He calls us to a new life too. That does not always require leaving old friends behind, but sometimes it does.
Recovering alcoholics know what I am talking about. When they begin their recovery, they have to leave their old friends behind. Old friends would tie them to their old behaviors. Drunks resent friends who quit drinking. They will do everything possible to sabotage a friend’s recovery. They will do everything possible to get a drink into his or her hands.
Sometimes we have to say goodbye to be able to say hello. Sometimes we must let go of the past to embrace the future. When Christ calls us to become his disciples, he calls us to become new people. He calls us to allow the old person to die so that the new person can be reborn. Sometimes that requires a dramatic break with our past.
Just as Jesus called Peter and Andrew, he calls us. Just as he called James and John, he calls us. He has a special job for each of us, but a similar call to all of us. “Follow me,” he calls.
How can we respond? I am reminded of a story –– a true story. Several years ago, Carolyn Yeargain wrote about flying on a small airline in the Northwest. A flight attendant asked the man in the row ahead of Carolyn if he would like dinner. He asked, “What are my choices?” She responded, “Yes or no!”
When Jesus says, “Follow me!” we might ask, “What are my choices?” Jesus responds, “Yes or no!” Not “Later!” Not “Maybe!” Not “After I take care of my business!” Not “When it is more convenient!” Just “Yes or no!”
Christ calls each of us to be his disciples. He calls each of us to follow him faithfully each day. Answer “Yes,” and he will give you a renewed sense of purpose. Answer “Yes,” and he will make your life count.
When Peter and Andrew answered “Yes,” he made them fishers of men. When James and John answered “Yes,” he gave them power to change people’s lives. When Peter and Andrew and James and John answered “yes”, it was the beginning of a new life for them. Their lives were forever changed. They said goodbye to the old and hello to the new. It is the ushering in of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”. A friend says, to me, it’s just like that moment when a mother-to-be suddenly finds the sofa cushion soaking wet beneath her…”It’s time!” It’s the unmistakable anticipation of childbirth – the unbridled excitement and the daunting realization that EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO CHANGE!
It’s that powerful moment when the old becomes new. It’s the moment when the conductor raises her baton and the orchestra raises their instruments, and the audience stops breathing in anticipation of the sound of music.
It’s that pregnant moment when the sun peeks over the horizon to usher in another day. It’s that incredible moment when our time (chronos) and God’s time (kairos) become one, and we are forever changed.
Yes. I’ll follow him.
I’d like to close with some words of wisdom from an anonymous author:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for help that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I was given nothing that I asked for;
But everything that I had hoped for.
Despite myself, my prayers were answered;
I am among all people [men] most richly blessed.
Yes, I’ll follow Jesus. Amen.
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