When is the last time that you had to begin something new? When was the last time that you had to leave what you knew, what was comfortable, and do something you had never done before? Maybe you moved to a new town? Maybe you began a new job? Maybe you got married? Had children? Lost someone you loved and had to learn how to live alone again? Beginnings are scary, and often overwhelming.
In our gospel lesson for today, we find ourselves at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And his ministry doesn’t exactly start quietly. In the middle of our gospel text, it says “From that time Jesus began to proclaim ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Things were about to change, in a big way for the people that would come to know Jesus. Their lives would be completely altered.
We heard in our gospel lesson that Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee and he sees two brothers, Simon Peter, and Andrew. They are fishing. Their father was a fisherman, and it was all they had grown up knowing. They were casting their nets into the sea, and Jesus told them “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And we are told that they immediately left their nets and followed him. They walked away from their livelihood and followed this man who was preaching about the kingdom of heaven. Their lives would never be the same.
Jesus keeps walking and comes across a few more fishermen. This time, he encounters James and John and their father Zebedee in the boat. They are helping their father mend the nets. They too have been fishermen their whole lives…it is all they know. Their father taught the skill to them, and they were expected to follow through and keep the family fishing business going. But then Jesus comes and calls to them. And they leave their nets and they leave their father and follow Jesus.
It is a story that has always kinda’ bugged me. I know that we all hope if Jesus shows up in our lives and tells us to follow him that we would. But it bugs me that they have to drop the livelihood they know. It bothers me that they leave their poor father, sitting in a boat, watching as they walk off down the beach with Jesus.
Why is it that they have to leave their nets? Why do they have to leave their father? Why can’t they still be fisherman and disciples at the same time?
One of my professors pointed out in a podcast this past week that although they drop their nets and their boats and their families, they don’t walk away from those things forever. They just focus for a while on following Jesus. Later on in the gospel, after Jesus has died on the cross and risen from the dead, he appears again to these same disciples. And where does he find them? Back in their boats, fishing. He has breakfast on the beach with them, and they eat fish together.
Often when we find ourselves at the beginning of something, we are overwhelmed and we feel thrown off from everything we know. We may feel like we are being forced to lay down things we care about, and wonder if our lives will ever be the same again. But if we just trust that God is there in the newness, eventually even the new begins to feel familiar.
One of my favorite movies is Hope Floats. At the very end of the movie, the main character says this: “beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will...”
Today, at Saint Matthew’s, we find ourselves again at a beginning. Today we will have our annual meeting, and we will vote in new members on the council. In the coming weeks we will be exploring a new way of doing team ministry, and working towards having more people involved in the ministry here. Each of you has been given gifts, and is being called to use them.
What is Jesus calling you to this morning? What might Jesus be calling you to in the coming days and weeks?
What would happen if Jesus is calling you to something that might mean you need to leave something else behind for a while? How would having to do new things in a new way make you feel?
What are the “nets” of your life that take all your energy and attention? What would happen if Jesus called you to leave your nets and follow him?
We need to not be afraid when we hear Jesus calling us to leave our nets. We need not to resent that we might have to put something we love down for a while and focus on what we are being called to. Because reality is my friends, we are being called to an awesome adventure in Christ. We are being called to love one another and love our community in ways that we haven’t even begun to dream about yet. God is calling each one of you…how are you going to respond?
God of all, you call us to leave our nets and start again, and sometimes that is overwhelming. Be with each of us as we listen to your call, and help us to have the courage to leave whatever might be in the way of following you. Strengthen us and the ministry we do. Give us peace in our new beginnings. In your heavenly name we pray, Amen.