Sunday, January 26, 2020
Third Sunday after Epiphany / Lectionary 3, Year A

Prayer of the Day
Lord God, your lovingkindness always goes before us and follows after us. Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness that come through the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Isaiah 9:1-4 Light shines for those in darkness
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Appeal for unity in the gospel
Matthew 4:12-23 Revelation of Christ as a prophet

Sermon

Title:  Yeses Beyond the Seashore

There they are again.  In their quiet little town, doing their very normal and very essential job of supplying food to the community.  They are compensated so that they can supply livelihood to their families, pay their taxes to the government and to the temple.  It is a good, simple life they are living.  And we’ve encountered them here before.

There they are again on that day that would not just change their lives but would change the world.  They are doing their jobs and it feels like just another workday in a life of thousands of workdays. Nets, fish, boat, shekels.  Mending, hauling, rowing, hoisting, counting.  But is it a skill set that has prepared them for what they are about to be called to do?  Fish for people?  Can’t use nets – that’s slavery.  No need for boats – that’s rescuing.  And you certainly don’t cash in on them – well, you’re not supposed to, but some do…another day, another topic.

Yes, there they are again.  We’ve heard the story many times.  We perhaps heard it as kids and were thrilled.  We hear it as adults, and we are mystified.  How could they do that?  How could they have just left their nets, their boats, their desks, their wait stations, their assembly line positions, their classrooms, their responsibilities, how could they have just left it all so as to answer the call to follow?

Do you, like me, marvel at this story every time you hear it? Do you try to put yourself in Simon and Andrew’s position and wonder what you would do?  Could you just say yes and go?  Do you question how James and John, with competition lessened because those other two brothers are leaving the fishing business, could just walk away from such budding prospects, from such business growth potential, when this magnet of a man called to them as well?

I guess we can just discount it all to simpler times, right?  Simpler people.  Simpler society.  No one could do that today.  And if they did, they’re crazy, brainwashed, victimized.  Maybe the power that Jesus displays that would cause these rough and so not ready fishermen to follow could be considered the real first miracle of Jesus.  Coaxing water into wine is certainly spectacular.  But coaxing people to do what those guys did that day, that is miraculous.

This story always gets me.  That immediate yes.  That bold yes.  That complete sacrificial yes of the fisherman on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  I certainly reflected on it as we walked the shore a few years ago with the ruins of Capernaum to our side.  As we saw the remains of a 2,000-year-old boat preserved in the mud.

But what were they saying yes to?  We know.  Jesus knew, but what were those fishermen thinking?  Was this some new teacher that would tell them a few stories, break up the monotony of their workday and then they would get back to their life?  Was he going to give them some new fishing tips, bolster up their business plan?  What does this fish for people mean?  Did James and John come along because they were afraid the competing brothers were about to gain some sort of advantage from this stranger.  We do learn later that James and John (thanks to their feisty mother), do have a bit of a competitive streak in them.  Did these guys think they were just going away for a weekend retreat?  Do a little male bonding away from the drudgery of work and daily life?  In their wildest dreams they could not have, in that instant of hearing “Follow me,” envisioned all that they were saying yes to.

So today, as we come back to this story yet again.  It isn’t so much the seashore “yes”, that first step “yes”, that “yes” in response to an invitation into something that they could not have imagined, that has my attention.  Today, I am inviting us to think about all the yeses that were to come after that first yes.  All the steps that came after that kept them following Jesus – the teacher, the healer, the prophet, the messiah, the man that they would call friend and Son of God.

Just as they could have said no on the lakeshore, they could have said “I’m done here” at any step as they continued to follow Jesus. But they said yes to that first step into the unknown and they kept saying yes even as Jesus day by day, step by step unveiled a way of life that wasn’t just rocking their world, it was turning their world upside down. Or was it turning God’s world right side up?

Those disciples kept saying yes, and following Jesus even as he told them to:

  • Turn the other cheek, when someone hits you.
  • Forgive until you loose track of how many times you’ve forgiven
  • Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you
  • Don’t be angry at someone because that’s the same as murdering them
  • Chop off your limbs if they cause you to sin

And that was all just in the Sermon on the Mount, soon after they had said the initial yes.  Do you think after that sermon, they might have been asking, “What have we gotten ourselves into?  Who have we left everything for to follow?

But they stuck around, they continued to follow.  Even as Jesus was rejected by his own hometown folks.  Even as he was criticized by religious leaders for the company he kept and the folks he dinned with.  Even as he told people to sell everything they had and give it to the poor.  Even as he predicted his own death.

There must have been something about that man, that, through it all, they kept saying: “Yes, we will follow you.”  Maybe it was the miracles they witnessed, the feeding of huge crowds, the healings, the raising from the dead.  And that ultimate yes to continue his work because of the witness of his own resurrection.  And then there was that yes, ignited by the Holy Spirit, that created the church in Jesus’ name.

How that Holy Spirit must have exuded from Jesus that inspired all the yeses, that continued to lead those first disciples into a deepening faith.  And now that Spirit continues to lead us in faith, because of their witness, because of all the grace and mercy of God that was revealed in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, because his presence and light continue to live and shine in the sacraments we participate in and the word we continue to hear.

The same Jesus, the same Spirit, the same call to follow, the same risk-taking to keep saying yes even as we follow, as we listen, as we learn, as we are challenged to live as Christ to ourselves, to one another, to those we think are our enemies, to those in need, to the world.  And as a diverse community of faith, the Spirit continues to inspire our YES to continue to live as children of God, follow in the way of Jesus.  We say YES because with eyes of faith we continue to see what God is doing in our midst as we celebrate the presence of Christ in our midst.

May our yeses be daily affirmations inspired by our witness of God’s work in, through, and around us, drawing us forward in Christ’s name, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  For God says YES to us this day, every day, and forever.

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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