MATTHEW 4:18-23

Good morning, Beloved children of God! Last week Anne Marie suggested that you think about who you could invite to “come and see” and experience the good news of Jesus Christ. Did you get to that assignment this week? It’s an important one – inviting others. Think about who first invited you. Was it parents who took you to church? A teacher, a friend, a co-worker. This is what I really hope – that your introduction to the love and grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and gift of life and salvation given to you is not some neglected thing gathering dust on a back shelf somewhere. No, I hope and pray that it is vibrant and alive and so richly active in your life that your life is a winsome witness. Just by being you. Just by being incredible, holy spirit gifted, loved to the core of your very being, desired of God, created for glory – YOU! I am so glad you are here this morning. I know you have other options. But it is important for you to be here, now. It is important for us to be together. This morning, I would like to continue the conversation that Anne Marie start last week about responding to God’s call on your life as we look at Matthew’s take on Jesus’ invitation to the first disciples.

The lectionary reading for this Sunday actually starts at verse 12, (Matt 4:12) though we did not include it earlier. It begins by telling us that John the Baptizer has been arrested and after hearing this Jesus withdraws to Capernaum, a little fishing village in Galilee. Matthew, remember that Matthew is keen on using fulfillment to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, Matthew offers up a fulfillment statement from the prophet Isaiah to explain this withdrawal to this backwater territory of Zebulun and Naphtali: “Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” (Matt 4:15-16) This part of the passage may sound familiar to you as we often read it during advent as a reminder that Christ is coming and has come as a light to the nations. Matthew goes further and says next, “From that time Jesus began to proclaim ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”(Matt 4:17) A bold declaration at the start of Jesus’ visible ministry.

And as Jesus begins this incredible life-changing ministry, demonstrating (just) how that kingdom works through teaching, preaching, and healing, he gathers his first disciples. I don’t know about you, but there are a couple of things that have always astonished me about this disciple calling business. The first thing is how seemingly completely unqualified these folks are. Right? We have no indication that they have any formal religious training, they aren’t exactly what we would expect. They are fisherman with no particular qualifications to recommend them, and, they are already occupied with their own business, they are already doing something useful. They aren’t waiting around for something to happen nor are they seeking anything different. Then Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Huh? That doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either. Fishing for people, what does that mean? But perhaps, the most noteworthy thing is … they do it… immediately…without question. They drop everything – their nets, their livelihood, in the case of James and John they leave their father. Don’t you find that incredible? The writer of Matthew doesn’t indicate that these men have ever even seen Jesus before, they have seen no miracles, heard no teachings. No explanation has been given them and they have not been told why they should follow, what will happen if they do, or where this will lead.[1] Yet, the call is extended and they respond. Immediately, Matthew says.

I would like to share a poem with you, written by Andrew King, a pastor and poet, titled “Why You Leave Your Nets and Follow.” Listen as it gives us some insight and also speaks to our own longing to respond to the call to follow:

Why You Leave Your Nets and Follow: Because your hope for that kingdom has teased the edge of your thoughts the way waters tease the edge of the shore

Because his words stir that hope in the depths of your soul the way wind stirs the waves of the sea

Because you sense that his love like a sea without bounds is as large as the needs of the world

and because he’s called you by name and the heart in you swims toward that love, toward joy, toward home.[2]

No, Matthew does not give us much about this calling, but don’t you imagine those disciples were stirred by the very presence of Jesus. And it this same inexplicable desire and call and response that has been repeated over and over through the centuries. Some have responded with great acts of bravery or very visible actions. Many of the early saints coming from wealthy backgrounds heard a clear call to give away all their earthly goods to help the poor. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, left safety to return to war torn Germany during the Nazi regime and was executed for his outspoken faith and criticism of the Nazis. Martin Luther King, Jr. called to be a prominent civil rights leader and preacher was assassinated for his strong stance for social justice. The list goes on. Some have intentionally listened and responded to God’s call with lives that have changed dramatically to demonstrate the kingdom of God. Some have responded and been presented with challenges and hardships that they never expected. Some have listened and responded and found that it takes a lifetime to adequately respond to the call. None have expressed regret at having responded to the invitation, to the calling.

So let’s talk a minute about “calling.” For most of my life I understood “calling” to be something that only certain people had. When I worked for hospice, I would often feel that the hospice nurses were “called” to that vocation – they had to be, to do that sort of work. Then when I began working in the church, I heard that expression a lot more often– explore your “calling,” are you “called” to be a pastor. For a long time I mistakenly believed that “calling” was something for those with special skills, or in special roles, or those who clearly heard God’s calling to something specific; that it took place under some formalized circumstances. And it’s true that there are many kinds of callings, each from God. But there is one calling that is greater than all others – can you guess what it is? It is Christ’s call to “come follow me.” This call is less about what you do and more about who you are. Christ calls us first to be something, a child of God. That is the most important call for all of us. To Follow Christ as beloved children of God.

Take another look at our passage today – Jesus walks up to four ordinary and down-to-earth guys, going about their modest, daily business. For them it’s just a routine day in an extremely unassuming slice of the world. And Jesus invites them – “come follow me”. And they do, without special qualifications, without even knowing what will happen next or where they will go. They certainly have no clue how this act of faithfulness will impact anyone else. They definitely don’t have a clue that we will still be marveling about this in 2023.

And isn’t this just exactly how Jesus calls people today – ordinary people such as you and me? Right in the middle of our ordinary days, in places just like Zephyrhills, Florida? People without special qualifications other than a willingness to follow? Jesus calls you too, “come follow me”. Come follow me and be who I have created you to be – a beloved child of God and the doing and everything else will follow. I don’t know what “doing” God may have for you, but it starts with being, with knowing whose you are.

Then finally we can understand that calling isn’t just for individuals, it is also for our congregation, our faith community. Dr. David Lose suggests that before figuring out what we are called to do as a congregation, we can remind each other what we are called to be.[3] “Because God is calling us to be the gathering of God’s beloved children. God is calling us to be a place of welcome and acceptance. God is calling us to be a sanctuary where God’s word is taught, the good news of the kingdom is spoken, and all find healing.[4] So let us celebrate our vibrant, alive faith together and be what we are called to be!

Now – I have an assignment for you this week. Yes, homework! How many have a to do list? How many of you alongside that have a to be list? That’s what I want you to do this week – make a daily to be list. And let’s see how it affects everything else –

Example: to be – assured of God’s love. Assured of your place in God’s family. Be a source of light and kindness….so on

[1] M. Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew, New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII, Pg 169.

[2] Andrew King, Copyright 2017, “Why You Leave Your Nets and Follow.” Used with permission.

[3] Dr. David Lose, In the Meantime.

[4] IBID