This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Matthew 4:12-22
Dear friends, let's allow for a few moments of imagination rooted in Scripture.
Let’s make space to imagine that scene along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
The sun hung just above the horizon like a medallion. The morning haze stretched it oblong, but the sun promised to blaze and burn away the day’s gentle beginning. Andrew pushed the hair out of his eyes and looked down the shore for Peter. He should be back already.
They were already ashore with the morning catch. You could stay out there all day if you wanted, but the best fishing was just before dawn and just before dusk ~ in that in between time when it wasn’t really light and it wasn’t really dark. This morning was a decent haul, no record setter, but enough for the day. Peter had hustled the fish down to the market. Early and fresh they would bring a nice price.
But, he was always late. There was something so impulsive about Peter.
He would stop to see his wife,
stop to help another boat,
stop to pick a fight,
stop at the bakery for warm bread,
stop to listen to a rabbi.
Peter always led with his heart. Strong head, strong back, strong heart, strong back. He never ceased to make Andrew smile. And they wouldn’t do as well as they did without Peter’s bull strength, but sometimes Peter just didn’t see the big picture. He lived in the moment.
Andrew always lived in the next moment. He was worrying about prices and weather and equipment, wondering about saving and adding another boat, wrestling over hiring a few Syrians, and wanting to have something to pass on to their children.
But, Peter would just hook a big beefy arm around him and belt out a big beefy laugh and ask if this wasn’t enough: Good honest work with a brother? Who could ask for more?
Andrew rubbed a callous on his hand and looked down the coast again. Lately Peter seemed a little distant, a little drifty, and a little detached. He would be pulling the nets up, but looking at the horizon lost in thought. He would come back from the market looking at his feet ~ absent from the moment.
They had heard “John the Baptizer” recently and his word about repentance seemed to stick with Peter. For, Peter always bumbled and stumbled where angels fear to tread and then he would apologize later. He always made promises and resolutions – full of best intentions because duplicity wasn’t in his bones – but then he would falter and fail to follow through and beat himself up with guilt and frustration. He understood apologizing, but he longed for a repentance that would fix things. Maybe that was what seemed to be unsettling Peter.
They didn’t get many good rabbis up-north. The best teachers didn’t travel this far, so they always felt a little like the country-bumpkin cousins of Capernaum. These rugged hills of Galilee were generous with Gentiles and the Jews in Jerusalem could be snooty, as if all the light was in Jerusalem and everyone else lived in the dark shadows. But, be that as it may – where was Peter?
Andrew could hear Zebedee and his boys coming ashore. They were a bigger outfit with a few hired hands, and they certainly made a bigger ruckus, but they were good guys and hard workers. They were just loud,
Just then with a big loaf of bread, and a bigger grin, and before Andrew could say a thing, Peter showed up and piped up,
Come on, let’s put in a little ways and see what we can pull out before the day gets too hot. Maybe we can get one more good load! And, if we don’t we can eat this bread and relax and talk and we’ll tend to the nets later!
Andrew, shrugged his shoulders, chuckled, and turned toward the water.
It was good work with a brother; he could live in that moment!
An hour later they were pulling up empty nets and empty conversation.
And then Jesus walked by.
Jesus walked by,
in the middle of a work day,
on the shores of a distant lake,
nowhere near the temple,
in the flow of life,
with an indifferent sun in the sky.
Jesus walked by and called out to
two average guys
two blue collar brothers,
two working stiffs trying to make a wage,
two guys who weren’t the brightest or the bravest,
two guys who weren’t looking for him.
Jesus walked by and called out to follow.
Andrew and Peter followed, and James and John followed.
They left Zebedee in Zebulun and they followed Jesus.
And down the shore journeyed a carpenter’s son and four fishermen.
Dear friends, there is no evidence that these men simply dropped their nets, walked away, left their boats and their families, and never went back. We know that Zededee, the father of the “sons of thunder” stayed back to mind the fish. And, we know that further down the road Jesus healed Peter’s mother in-law (Matthew 8:14). The sense of the Greek phrasing in this passage is that their leaving was decisive, but it was also part of the culture for there to be traveling teachers and for the students/disciples to follow along to listen and learn.
But, we don’t know what Andrew and Peter thought they were getting into when they followed Jesus. We don’t know what James and John said to their father as they left to follow Jesus. Neither do we know the pragmatic details of what their following looked like, felt like, or if this was their first encounter with Jesus.
What we know is:
Jesus sought them,
Jesus found them,
Jesus called them,
and they followed.
In Judaism the rabbi didn’t call the students. It was considered bad form for a rabbi to go out and ask people to become his disciples. The responsibility fell on the student to seek out a teacher. But, here Jesus chose them.
There was no application process,
there was no review committee,
there was no standard to first meet,
there were no fishing tests.
Jesus tracked them down, intrusive and impractical and incongruous as it may be, and he called them to follow. In the words of G.K. Chesterton:
An adventure is, but its nature, a thing that comes to us...
One way to characterize the Bible is as a record of humanity’s long search for God. But, it is better understood that Scripture is the story of God’s search for humanity. Over and over in Scripture God seeks after us.
God goes looking for Adam and Eve.
God calls Abraham.
God tracks down Jacob.
God picks Moses.
God interrupts Jeremiah.
God chooses David.
God intrudes on Mary.
God shows up as a baby.
God gathers a band of disciples.
God goes to the cross.
God busts through death.
God calls you and me.
Or think of Jesus.
He told stories of a shepherd who beats the bushes to find one lost sheep, a women who turns her house upside down to find one lost coin, and a father who runs down the road to welcome his one lost son,
Or think of Jesus.
He picks Zacchaeus out of a tree,
He saddles up to two men walking on a road to Emmaus,
He enters a closed room of a bunch of uneasy and uncertain disciples.
He shows up on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and calls fishermen to follow.
May the news be that simple and that good:
Whether we’re rascals or recluses,
whether we’re impulsive or timid,
whether we think we’ve got it buttoned down or its all coming apart,
God seeks after us and calls us to follow.
I don’t know how God shows up in our lives. I know that sometimes I am too dense, self-absorbed, busy, or cynical to notice. Maybe there is something that gets in the way for you as well. But, I do know that the record of Scripture, played with a reformed hermeneutic, has a boldly struck chord. God comes after us!
God comes after us!
Someday when you’re cleaning nets,
or looking for your brother,
or waiting for your lover,
or doing your best to make ends meet,
or burying the dead,
or buying the bread,
Jesus will show up and call you to follow.
May we have the ears to hear, and the courage to drop what we’re doing, and the hearts to follow.
Come Lord Jesus.
Prayer of Response
Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that you seek us out—and that you call us to come to you today. May we heed your call. May we come joyfully to follow you. In Jesus name, Amen.
Order of Service
WE GATHER IN GOD'S PRESENCE
Welcome and announcements
Call to Worship: Psalm 95: 6, 7
Silent Prayer concluded with “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” PsH# 625
Votum: “Our help is in the name of the LORD who made the heavens and the earth.”
Prayer for God’s Greeting, “May God’s grace, mercy and peace be ours in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Opening hymn: “I Will Sing of The Mercies of the LORD” PsH# 169
SERVICE OF RECONCILIATION
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 130: 7-8
Hymn: “How Blessed Are They Whose Trespass” PsH# 32
God’s Will for our Lives: Exodus 20: 1-17
WE HEAR THE WORD
Hymn: “Break Now the Bread of Life” PsH#282
Scripture Reading: Matthew 4: 12-22
Sermon: “Leaving Zebedee in Zebulun”
Prayer of Response
Hymn: “O Christians Haste” PsH# 525
WE DEPART WITH GOD'S BLESSING
Prayer for God’s blessing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.”
Doxology: “By the Sea of Crystal” PsH# 620