Last Sunday, we heard from the Gospel according to St. John how Philip and Nathanial were called to be disciples of Jesus. I also gave you some of the preceding verses about the calling of Andrew and Peter.
Today, we heard from the Gospel according to St. Mark about how Jesus called Andrew and Simon, the brothers who were fishermen. Jesus told them this interesting word twist that has become so symbolic of the Christian life: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
When I think of being a fisherman, I think of using a rod and reel. I’m not much of a fisherman myself, as you might be surprised to know that I don’t have much patience!
A good fisherman casts his line out and draws it back, trying to draw the fish in with an appetizing lure. He does this many times until he gets a bite, then there is another delicate maneuver called for to actually hook the fish and to reel it in.
The fisherman does not go out and bash the fish on the head with the rod! He does not try to scare the fish into jumping into the boat either!
But, I’m afraid that seems to be the prevailing method of preaching in many churches. I have heard a few of these tirades, and they did not attract me to the kind of religion these guys were selling.
When Jesus called to these men who would be his disciples, they followed him. Going on a little further in the Gospel we heard today, Jesus calls James and John, the sons of Zebedee to follow him.
Mark reports that these men immediately followed Jesus. There was no hesitation. These men had ears to hear Jesus, a phrase that Jesus would many times during his time of teaching.
I’m sure that what is not recorded in the Gospels is the many men and women who refused the call of Jesus to follow him. Not everyone had the spiritual ears these men had. After all, to everyone, Jesus looked like just an ordinary man, a carpenter’s son who was essentially homeless. He had no visible kingdom, and no throne, so to many he had no credibility.
But these men, Andrew, Simon, James, John, and the rest, saw something in Jesus, or perhaps they heard something in his voice, that hooked them, using the metaphor of the fisherman.
In today’s world of Christian preaching, it seems that a well dressed preacher in a large expensive auditorium, or perhaps on television, is able to attract whole masses of people to their brand of religion. The optics play a big part in this attraction.
In our tradition of Christianity, we have no personal sense of style. You see what I wear. It is the same thing being worn by pastors all over the world. It is the simple black suit and white collar worn outside the church, or the same fine vestments worn inside the church. The black suit is not supposed to be attractive. Anybody who dresses it up is missing the point.
We call our church Catholic, because we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, as we recite in the Nicene Creed every Sunday. If anyone asks what you believe, you can show them this ancient document that was written before the various fractures and divisions that men have created.
Jesus chose these ordinary men because they were in the most need of redemption. Remember what he said to the scribes when he was eating with the sinners: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
These men that Jesus called were indeed sinners, and they knew they were sinners. They knew their sin was so great that they had little hope of salvation from eternal death.
When they heard Jesus calling they responded. And there were many more beside the twelve apostles. There were the 70 men sent out on a mission, and there were many more who responded to the teaching of these missionaries.
Of course, many women heard and responded, and I think women believe more easily in Jesus because, in my experience, they tend to have the spiritual ears to hear him. We men are typically harder to reach with the Good News, and most of us have the women in our lives to thank for our faith.
Jesus knew that not everyone would respond to his call, but that did not stop him from calling everyone. We know this from St. John’s famous verse of 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God the Father does indeed love the world, meaning everyone one who in this world, that he would sacrifice his Son to save it. God wants no one to perish, but wants all to have eternal life.
So he called men and taught them what they needed to know to go out and proclaim that good news to all. One of the collects from the Morning Prayer service is so appropriate to sum up this fact, and I offer it in the love of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.