January 22, 2012
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
Simon and Andrew are casting their nets, Jesus calls them and they follow. James and John are mending nets, and Jesus calls them and they follow. Anthony Robinson points out that many of the commentaries on this passage conclude with the admonition, “See how great their faith is! If only our faith were like that!”
Such exhortation makes for impassioned preaching. You can do some serious finger pointing and pulpit thumping while preaching that we ought to have the faith of the first apostles. What is far more difficult is to reread the passage and realize where the verbs are, and who is the subject of the sentences.
Jesus came into Galilee,
preaching the gospel of God, and saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent, and believe in the gospel.”
He saw Simon and Andrew, and he called them.
He saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and he called them.
And then, in response to this immediate call, they leave immediately.
(It is the Gospel of Mark; things happen “immediately.”)
Jesus is the subject, coming to Galilee, preaching the good news, seeing and calling. What is left to the fishermen and the net-menders (that is also to say us) is to respond.
We don’t like not being the subject of the sentence. We spend much time and energy and many resources trying to be the author of our lives, the lead actors in our drama, the ones in control. This is not wasted effort or unimportant. It is far better than trying to live someone else’s life. For our own well-being, for the life of our family, for the sake of a healthy community, it is necessary for us to be responsible for ourselves, for us to be able to respond as ourselves. But it is not the end of our story.
It is good and right and at the heart of the Biblical faith that no one but God gets to be God. But the way is narrow indeed. Just as soon as we have finally kicked everything else off of God’s throne, the ego likes to sneak back in and have a seat so not even God gets to sit there. Said another way, everyone wants to serve God, most just want to serve as advisors.
But the insistent word of the Bible does not have us as the subject. God is the subject. Jesus is the subject. The Holy Spirit is the subject. We are the called, not the caller.
Mending nets is not glamorous. It is slow, laborious work, going over each section, checking knots and string, tying and splicing. It is the work that is done after the work is done.
It is the doing of the dishes after the groceries have been shopped for, the ingredients prepared, the food cooked, the table set and the meal eaten.
Down at the fire station, it is the cleaning of the gear, washing the hoses and hanging them to dry, laying clean hose on the trucks, all the other things that have to be done to get the trucks back into service. And this is done after fighting the fire or rescuing the person from the car.
Mending nets is the necessary stuff that has to get done, usually when we are already worn out. It is the day to day work that makes possible all the other stuff we have to do. It is how we get through our days. And, like laundry, it is never really finished.
And in the midst of the day to day, menial, ordinary, tired moments, Jesus calls. How much attention do we pay in those ordinary moments of our lives? How many moments of holiness have happened in the midst of all that we are in the midst of, and we did not notice?
One rabbinic tradition says that the burning bush had been burning since Creation, but Moses saw it and turned and looked, and that made all the difference.
How much attention do we pay in the midst of our day?
Do you remember the old Dunkin Donuts commercial, where the guy keeps saying “time to make the donuts,” and he is so busy going to work and coming from work that he meets himself coming and going at the same time? Anyone else had days like this?
What if, when the phone rings, rather than thinking “now what?!?!” we say, “Okay God, how are you calling me now?” What if we prayed before we started, “Okay Lord, I’m mending my nets today. Maybe you will show up. If so, help me be ready to hear what I need to hear; see what I need to see; understand what I need to understand. And then help me do what I need to do.”
God does the calling. Ours is the response. And the one who calls is faithful.
Thanks be to God. Amen.