Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
January 26, 2020 ● Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
Mother Hymes’ sermon this Sunday, “Divinity in Motion.” Gospel Matthew 4:12-23.
Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, January 26, 2020
If you have ever seen an infomercial on television, you know that its effectiveness relies on the repetition of commands. The viewer is commanded to “Order online today at wwwDOTyouneedthis.com.” The spokespersons pushing the products are hyper and convincing, and they are masters in the art of mobilizing audiences to do what a complete stranger has commanded. The urgency of the message might intrigue someone so much that they are moved to immediately act—no questions asked, they just say, “Yes…I need that.”
Many of you know that for 15 years I was a public relations and marketing executive, primarily working on public health education campaigns—many of which needed to raise awareness, or change behaviors, in matters of life-altering and life-threatening diseases.
In the fast-paced, competitive world of public relations and marketing, the crafted message is important, but it is nothing more than words. The message becomes a powerful change agent only when it urges the reader or listener to do something. The message is empty without, what public relations folks identify as, the call-to-action statement.
At the beginning of the Gospel passage, we learn that when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Matthew quoted Isaiah 9:1-2 to show how Jesus, the Jewish Messiah’s divine movement was rooted in God’s purpose to bring Light to the Gentiles, the people who walked in darkness.
We enter into the scene when Jesus called his first disciples. As Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, both fishermen, casting their net into the sea. Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (v.4:19). We don’t know how Jesus said the command, whether or not his command was accompanied by hand gestures or facial expressions. What we do know is that there was something about Jesus that led the two brothers to immediately leave their fishing nets; abandon their source of livelihood; and move to follow him.
Then, Jesus spotted two more brothers, James and John, also fishermen, and he called them to follow him. They, like Peter and Andrew too, responded with a sense of urgency to a stranger’s words. The stranger, Jesus, was divinity in motion. And there was something about his presence, his divine movement and his divine command that stopped the would-be disciples in their tracks. In Jesus, the kingdom of God had come near to them. And, and in the presence of Jesus’ indescribable “otherness,” the men knew no other response than obedience.
While the men’s actions are portrayed as void of hesitation, moving to follow Jesus could not have been easy. The sacrifices the fishermen endured were not insignificant. They left their fishing nets and boats, effectively leaving their businesses and abandoning responsibility for their families’ livelihood. In abandoning the things in life that gave them identity and purpose, they sacrificed their lives. There was a price to be paid for discipleship.
The fact that Jesus noticed the men at all, and initiated the relationship by calling out to them, tells us that there was something about Peter, Andrew, James and John. In this encounter we witness the forming of community—on the fisherman’s turf, through Jesus’ personal invitation and a very public acceptance of that same invitation by the fishermen as they physically moved to follow Jesus.
No longer would the four men be defined by their occupation as fishermen. Now their existing skills would be transformed in service to God. The job of fisherman had been transformed into a “call”—a vocation. I imagine that this drastic transformation might have made the newly-called disciples feel, themselves, like “fish out of water,” caught up in Jesus’ “divine net” that is at once a method of death and of new life.
“Come and follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Inherent in that command is a clear message meant to equip and empower. For these men who were experts at what they did as fishers of the sea, were met by right where they were—just as they were—and said to them, “Listen, those ‘on-the-job skills’ you already have; those skills that keep you and your families alive—will now be used to keep others alive by leading them to me, the source of everlasting life.”
God wastes nothing. I often reflect on my own “call” narrative over the years, and I am certain that God uniquely equipped me with natural abilities, as well as my acquired skills in public relations and marketing, to build up His Kingdom at USF and here in Wesley Chapel.
And, if you truly reflect upon your own God-given abilities and acquired career skills, you may find that you, like the fishermen, have been uniquely equipped to fish for people with the divine net of the gospel.
Jesus embodied and modeled the Kingdom of Heaven, which had come near, by inviting disciples who could walk with him in his public ministry. Building community and equipping fishers of men was Jesus’ ministry. As his followers, it is our ministry.
We must be willing to participate, over and over again, in the never-ceasing divine movement of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is THAT divine movement that catches us up in the “net” of God’s heavenly kingdom. Discipleship is not easy. And, the sacrifices, which must necessarily be endured to follow Jesus, are not insignificant.
Like the newly-minted disciples, there are times when Jesus calls out to us, commanding that we follow him in ways that might make the most faithful people feel like “fish out of water,” moving toward certain death of self into fullness of life with God.
Our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us that this divine “net,” in which we are inextricably entangled, is God’s saving grace through which we have eternal life.
Yes, there was something about Andrew, Peter, James and John that led Jesus to call out to them.
Yes, there was something about Jesus—his divinity in motion—that moved four men to follow a stranger. And, yes, in the presence of the indescribable “otherness” of Jesus, there is something about each one of us that causes Jesus to call out to us commanding that we follow him as faithful disciples.
And, if you ever feel like Jesus hasn’t called out to you, you must call out to him immediately, saying, “Jesus, I need you. Jesus I will move to follow you.”