1 Jonah 3:1-5,10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ Mark 1:17
God of Good News, Bearer of the Gospel, call us to repentance, call us to belief, so that we may fish for people in our generation and draw them to your love. For you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he 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.
Simon and Andrew were casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Day after day it was the same thing; the same sea, the same net and the same boat. Day after day it was wind, water, fish, sore muscles and tired bodies. They probably grew up watching their tupuna fishing, watching their future life and watching how they would spend their time. Casting nets and pulling them in. If you aren’t casting the net, then you sit in the boat mending the net. That’s what James and John were doing. Fishing and mending nets.
You and I know about those days, don’t we?
Many of us living in Sydney may not fish for a living but we know about casting and mending nets. Days that all seem the same. One looks like another. Life is routine, nothing changes and we don’t expect much to happen. This is our life. Casting and mending to make a living for ourselves, to feed our whanau and pay the bills. Working hard to gain security and get to retirement, to hold our whanau together, to make our relationships work and to support our children and mokopuna as they grow up. Working to gain the things we want; a roof over our heads, a car, clothes and holidays. Working to earn a reputation, gain approval and establish status. Or working our way through another day of loneliness, sadness or illness.
Casting and mending are realities of life. They are also the circumstances in which Jesus comes to us, the context in which we hear the call to new life and the place where we are challenged, changed and our ordinary lives become extraordinary.
You see, these would be disciples, Simon and Andrew, James and John, are not looking for Jesus. They are too focused on fishing. It’s another day of casting and mending nets. They may not have even noticed Jesus but he not only sees them he speaks to them. Jesus has a way of showing up in the most ordinary places of life and interrupting the daily routines of our lives. That’s what he did to Simon and Andrew, James and John. That’s what Jesus does to your life and my life. “Follow me” is Jesus’ invitation to a new life. If these four fishermen accept the invitation, their lives will be changed forever. They will be different. They will no longer just catch fish. They will fish for people.
When Jesus says, “I will make you fish for people,” he is describing the transformation of their lives, not simply offering them a job catching new members or followers. He could just as easily have said to the carpenters, “Follow me, and you will build the kingdom of heaven.” To the farmers, “Follow me, and you will grow God’s people. To the doctors, “Follow me, and you will heal the brokenness of the world.” To the teachers, “Follow me, and you will open minds and hearts to the presence of God.” To the parents, “Follow me, and you will nurture new life.”
Whatever your life is, however you spend your time, Jesus calls us to “Follow me.” “Follow me” is the call to participate with God in God’s own saving work, God’s ministry. It’s the work of change and growth. That work is always about moving toward a bigger vision, moving our life in a new direction and experiencing that our little story of life is connected to and a part of a much larger story of life, God’s life.
As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Jesus called them. Mark records no discussions, no questions, no goodbyes. They simply “left… and followed him.”
I’m afraid that if Mark were writing about many of us – when he gets to the part when Jesus says, “Follow me” – Mark would write, “and immediately the questions followed.” “Why? Where are we going? What will we do? How long will we be gone? What do I need to take? Where will we stay?”
But this conversation doesn’t take place in today’s gospel. Jesus doesn’t offer GPS coordinates, a map, an itinerary, or a destination, only an invitation. This is not the type of journey you can prepare for. This is the inner journey, a journey into the deepest part of our being, the place where God resides. It’s not about planning, organising, making lists or packing supplies. It’s not that easy. If anything, this journey is about leaving things behind. Listen to what Mark says:
- “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
- “They left their father Zebedee in the boat…, and followed him.”
The invitation, “follow me,” is also the invitation to leave behind; to leave behind our nets, our boats, and even our parents. That’s the hard part for most of us. We’re pretty good at accumulating and clinging onto but not so good at letting go. More often than not our spiritual growth involves some kind of letting go. We never get anywhere new as long as we’re unwilling to leave where we are. We accept Jesus’ invitation to follow, not by packing up, but by letting go.
“Follow me” is both the invitation to and the promise of new life. So what are the nets that entangle us? What are the little boats that contain our life? Who are the fathers from whom we seek identity, value or approval? What do we need to let go of and leave behind so that we might follow Jesus?
Don’t think this is simply about changing jobs, disowning our whanau or moving to a new town. It’s about the freedom to be fully human and, in so doing, discover God’s divinity within us. We let go so that our life may be reoriented, so that we can now travel in a new direction, so that we may be open to receive the life of God anew. When we let go, everything is transformed – including our nets, boats and parents. That’s why Jesus could tell them they would still be fishermen. But now they would fish for people. They wouldn’t become something they weren’t already, but they would be changed. They would become transformed fishermen. They would more authentically be who they already were. In other words, if you’re a cleaner, you’re still a cleaner but a transformed and authentic cleaner! Same as truckies, fruit pickers, accountants or lawyers!
Ultimately, it’s about letting go of our own little life so that we can receive God’s life. This letting go happens in the context of our everyday activities; work, school, families, paying the bills, running around doing things, cooking a kai, relationships and trying to do the right thing. It happens in the casting and mending of our nets. These are the times and places where Jesus shows up and calls us into a new way of being and then our world changes. It happened for Simon, Andrew, James, and John. It can happen for you and me. Amen
Archdeacon Kaio Karipa
The Venerable Kaio Karipa
The Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu