Third Sunday after Epiphany 22 January 2017
(Isaiah 9:1-4 Psalms 27 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Matthew 4:12-23)
“Going Beyond the Mind You Have!”
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Peter and Andrew and said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” They left their nets. A little farther down the way, he saw James and his brother John and called them. They, too, left their boat and their father and followed him.
Can anybody with any sense, please explain to me what happened on that seashore? Can anyone please tell me how four grown men simply left behind everything that had worked for all their lives up to this point to follow Jesus?
We struggled with that very issue for a long time on Wednesday morning!
Some will read this story of Jesus calling the fishermen as a pious tale, an exaggeration that doesn’t really reflect the details of any real event. Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German Lutheran pastor executed by the Nazis, would tell us that is heresy, that if we do not take this story for what it is, then we have slipped into cheap grace and a degradation of the Gospel.
Bonheoffer insists that when Jesus said, “Follow me,” the disciples did just that. Bonheoffer says in The Cost of Discipleship: “Until that day, they could simply remain in their obscure lives, pursuing their work, waiting for the Messiah.” But, he says, with Jesus’ call, they had to get up and go. They could have stayed where they were, and Jesus could have been their friend, maybe even their Rabbi, but he would never have been their Lord.
Jesus’ message unsettled those fishermen. It caused them to do something I’m sure they never expected in all their everyday lives.
Jesus named this new existence the “reign of God,” or in Matthew’s words, the “kingdom of heaven.” There is no complete definition of that kingdom, no Wikipedia post that summarizes its characteristics. It is not even a place, but a way of being. Matthew gives a shorthand description saying that Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. An encounter with Jesus was an encounter with the kingdom of heaven, and it set people on fire because of who Jesus was.
Let me tell you what I did last evening after the 5:30 worship service. I went home and threw away my sermon and began again. Do you know why? Because I had gotten so caught up in all the tumult over the events of the past few days that I lost sight of how radical was the response of those four guys on the beach when Jesus called for them. I lost sight of the Gospel Good News.
The Greek word is “metanoia.” The English word is “repent.” And both of them offer an invitation to a different way of seeing things around you.
Sarah Miles would say that the real miracle isn’t that those four guys dropped their nets and followed Jesus. She’d say that the real miracle is when each of us drops those things that keep us from reaching out in genuine love to those we really do not understand or care for; or when we drop all the safety nets we cling to in order to move beyond however it is we understand the comfortable coziness of our daily life.
Marcus Borg1 says that in the Gospels, to repent has the Greek roots that mean “to go beyond the mind that you have.” – to see in a different way, literally to go beyond the predominant thinking of one’s culture, the way society expects us to think. It means to acquire a new way of seeing.
This is what it took me awhile to get to, why I threw last night’s sermon away. I was trying to clean up all this mess we’re into around us, and it was like I heard Jesus say “stop, you can’t do all this by yourself!” Do you ever hear that?
What I heard clearly was this: the scandal of the Gospel, the scandal of the kingdom of heaven, is that most often the kingdom of heaven looks exactly like the same crappy mess that jolts us out of thinking we know better than anyone else where God lives; or we think we know who is closer to God than any another. That’s the scandal of the Gospel!
Jesus wasn’t calling those first disciples into a whole new world. No! Jesus was calling them into the old world, but as new people, offering them a new vision to think and act in a new way!
Jesus, in his lifetime, spoke much more often about brokenness between people than He did about right and wrong; therefore, healing brokenness is where we need to stand this morning.
Finally, I don’t want this to get by us without me mentioning it. We are right in the middle of the Week of Christian Unity. It ends on Wednesday. The theme this year was, “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” [2 Corinthians 5:14-20].
What I hear in these words is what I hear in Jesus’ words. I hear that it is the love of Christ that must compel us to work for unity, in our churches, in our country, and in our communities, and that God continues to reconcile the world to God’s self in Christ Jesus, but not beginning by counting peoples’ sins. God has committed to us the message of reconciliation. As disciples, all that we do is the result of God’s acting in us. It is the love of Christ that compels us to heal brokenness!
Jesus issues the same call to us—to be in genuine and real relationships with the people around us, and to be in those relationships the way Jesus was and is in relationships with us and his disciples: bearing each other’s burdens, caring for each other, especially the vulnerable, holding onto each other through thick and thin, always with the hope and promise of God’s abundant grace.
To do this, we center ourselves in God—in God as Jesus spoke of God, in the God who comes to us each day in the Word, in the Meal, and in the fellowship we share a faith community, as the Crucified and Risen One. Amen.
1. Marcus J. Borg. Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary. 2006.