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Mark 1:14-20
Series on the Church as Called
Elizabeth M. Deibert

Simon and Andrew, James and John: two sets of brothers, fishermen, who decided to follow Jesus. The story of the call of the fishermen is in all three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, although Luke’s version includes the miraculous catch of fish with Jesus, after they had fished all night and caught nothing. In every case, the four fishermen, drop everything, including their valuable nets, and in Luke’s Gospel, a massive mess of fish that Jesus had helped them catch, representing a huge amount of income, and they followed Jesus for three years, and then after his death, they continued his ministry, which is still going on today. They change their priorities; they re-oriented their lives toward catching people with good news. Because of their decision, many of us have heard how much they are loved, and how good it is to follow Jesus. Those who truly follow have a lasting impact on the ones who come after them. Hear the story:

Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (NRSV)

Now hear the story in song so its message might settle in the right portion of your brain, as well as your left. Join me in the refrain if you want.

Two fishermen who lived along the Sea of Galilee
Stood by the shore to cast their nets in to an ageless sea.
Now Jesus watched them from afar, then called them each by name.
It changed their lives, these simple men; they’d never be the same.
“Leave all things you have and come and follow me, and come and follow me.”

And as he walked along the shore ‘twas James and John he’d find,
And these two sons of Zebedee would leave their boats behind.
Their work and all they held so dear they left beside their nets.
Their names they’d heard as Jesus called; they came without regret.
“Leave all things you have and come and follow me, and come and follow me.”

O Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John beloved one,
You heard Christ’s call to speak good news revealed to God’s own Son.
Susanna, Mary Magdalene, who traveled with your Lord.,
You ministered to him with joy for he is God adored.
“Leave all things you have and come and follow me, and come and follow me.”

And you, good Christians, one and all who’d follow Jesus’ way,
Come leave behind what keeps you bound to trappings of our day,
And listen as he calls your name to come and follow near;
For still he speaks in varied ways to those his call will hear.
“Leave all things you have and come and follow me, and come and follow me.”

Leave all things you have and come and follow me. It’s the leaving things behind part that is the most troubling for us. They left their father Zebedee. They left their nets, their source of income. There was nothing wrong with fishing. They just had something better to do – a new sense of purpose in life. Now Jesus did not say to them, “Leave all things you have.” But they did leave things behind to follow him.

In those days, one could not follow without dropping everything. In those days, they could not just read the Bible to know about Jesus, because the New Testament was not written. In those days, followers of Jesus could not keep up with his ministry on television. They could not log into his website to see where he was going. They could not be his Facebook friend or follow him on Twitter. They had to drop their fishing nets and go with him, in person. Even to this day, there is nothing that replaces face-to-face in person time with God’s people in church.

Danish theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said the typical Christian is
caught up in “admiring Christ instead of following Christ.” The question before us is whether we want to simply be Christ admirers or whether we are bold enough to be Christ followers. No doubt, if we are courageous, we will discover unexpected blessings when we let Jesus into our boats, when we listen to him, and when we follow him.

What about you? Are you sensing a new purpose, as you begin to listen for the voice of Jesus calling you? Some of you have been listening for years for Jesus’ direction. Others of you are just starting to listen. Your commitment to be here is a sign that you are making choices to follow. Sometimes there’s a pivot point, or a crucial moment of repentance when you really turn around. Some of us can remember moments in adolescence or earlier adulthood when, we made the commitment to follow Jesus. Usually those moments are reinforced by our own telling of the story, just as I’m sure these fishermen told people about the day Jesus met them by the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

In some churches, it is almost required that you know when that pivot point of Christian decision was. Nobody is going to pressure you to name when you decided to follow Jesus in this church, but we will keep reminding you that our purpose is to follow Jesus. We will keep encouraging you to make choices that reflect that decision because every day is full of decisions about following Jesus.

For instance, you made a decision this morning to follow Jesus, to drop the nets of your responsibilities at home, to sacrifice some leisure time to be an active part of the body of Christ today, to worship God, to receive the sacrament, to pray, to respond to God’s grace in the company of friends. Those friendships matter.

Your commitment to be here affects the commitment of others. Can others depend on your presence here? You see, a deeper decision to follow Jesus means each Sunday’s commitment to worship is already decided in your mind. It is not “Will I go to church today?” but “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Nothing but illness or some forced conflict of work will keep me away. Fifty years ago, the Sunday choice was easier. Go to church or stay home. There were no competing activities. But now there are multiple choices, asking us to follow them, commit to them, instead of Jesus and the family of faith that helps us know the love of Christ.

That leads me to ask the question: What was so compelling about this man Jesus that the fishermen would drop their nets immediately, and go with him? I mean they might have spent a little more time listening to him, before they walked away from the family business. Being in the real presence of Christ must be an amazing experience. We get glimpses of that real presence here in worship when we sing and pray, and especially when we hear God’s Word and come to Christ’s table, having been reminded of God’s amazing, forgiving love earlier in the service.

One person who understood the value of being part of the body of Christ in worship regularly was Gretchen Frueh, whose memorial service was yesterday. Gretchen made the effort to study the faith, to worship weekly, to grow as a Christian in caregiving, in speaking the truth in love and reaching out to others. While she was still reasonably healthy, she took advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow by participation in adult education, something I hope more of you will start doing. Gretchen grew by her service as an ordained elder, making that same prayerful commitment to serve God faithfully as a church leader, as five of you are making today when you are ordained later in this service.

Gretchen grew by significant involvement in the Stephen Ministry of caregiving, by participating in prayer groups, as well as mission activities. I have a photo of Gretchen with Tom Knierim at one of Peace’s first trips to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. But one of Gretchen’s best gifts for Peace was her ability to fish for people, so to speak. She took an active interest in welcoming every newcomer to Peace. And with all of us who got to know her, she reflected the love of Christ by her genuine interest in you and her gentle manner of inquiry, which made you feel comfortable and cared for. That takes time and energy, and the determination to get beyond self to thinking of others. We thank God for Gretchen’s determination to follow Jesus.

Back to the 1st century now. How easy it seemed for the fishermen to make that initial decision. They did it so quickly, but I wonder if they had second thoughts. Did they ever say, “Gosh, I should get back to dad and the fishing business. How am I going to pay my bills? Or following Jesus too tiring. I just need some time to relax. ” Did they ever think that following Jesus was too much of a sacrifice. The rich, young ruler did. Jesus challenged him to give up his many possessions because of the grip they had on his life, and he went away depressed because it was a big sacrifice. One time, someone wanted to delay following so he could bury his father, but Jesus was unwilling to wait. There was an urgency about the mission of Christ. He reminded his followers that those who want to save their lives will lose them, and that those who lose their life for his sake, will save them.

So let’s talk about what following Jesus means. Following Jesus means you’re watching to see where he’s going. Following Jesus means putting your Christian faith as your number one priority. It means giving up some interests that distract or pull you away from being a loyal follower. Jesus said we must deny ourselves, be willing to sacrifice, to follow him. It means listening to his voice in prayer, reading scripture, being meaningfully involved in the church. Imagine the lively learning opportunities we could have if more people stayed one extra hour on Sundays. You have sixteen waking hours every Sunday. Imagine the church building we could have to live out our mission and ministry, when we all give in a way that demonstrates our deep trust in God.

Imagine the ministry and mission we could accomplish if every single member did worship plus two. Worship plus Lively learning or a weekly prayer group plus a Ministry Team or Choir.

Following the call of Jesus does not mean that you all need to be in the professional ministry or that you are all called to be elders in the church. It means that you choose to do things that bless people, in whatever field you are called to serve. You show the love of Christ in whatever you are doing, and you do the job in such a way that people see you as both capable in your work and caring in your disposition, caring and kind beyond the ordinary.

In Asheville at a Fuddruckers, there’s a guy named Smitty. His job is to clean the tables. It is impressive to watch Smitty clean the table with such energy and enthusiasm and joy. You cannot see Smitty work, without wondering what makes him tick. You want to speak to him, you want to watch him, and you want to tip him. Smitty is following Jesus by the way he cleans tables at Fuddruckers. Now if Smitty was half-cleaning tables and mouthing off about Jesus all the time, he’d get fired, not to mention the irritation to customers. But Smitty just works so joyfully with such enthusiasm, he draws you in. He lures you. He throws a net over you and your attention is caught.

We should all being doing whatever we do with such energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, that people are curious about what inspires us. Jesus says to the fishermen, “I will make you fish for people.” Your primary vocation as a Christian is to fulfill the Great Commandment – loving God and loving people – no matter what you do. It is also to fulfill the Great Commission – fishing for people. Jesus calls us to turn our vocation into something that demonstrates the amazing grace of God. In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described the difference between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” Cheap grace, he said, is grace without a commitment and response from the believer. It is grace without servanthood. Costly grace, said Bonhoeffer, moves us to respond to the call of Jesus. Will YOU respond? Will you follow?