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All stories are true, some of them actually happened. This was what Dr. Megan McKennan at our Convention told us last year. She told stories. She also told us that the Gospel stories should always unravel us a bit, unsettle us, make us uncomfortable, and confront us with change.
I, too, want to tell you a story.
Jesus is walking down the beach of the Sea of Galilee one day. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Take a moment now and close your eyes. Imagine the scene: the beach, the water, the trees in the background, the smells of sand, fish and hard work, the sound of the water lapping on the shore, and the men at their boats with their nets; baskets of fish on the sand, ready for market. Now put yourself into the scene somewhere. You can be one of the disciples. You can be a bird sitting on a tree limb, or maybe a gull circling above, waiting for a scrap. Maybe you’re a child walking down the beach, or a hungry customer looking for supper.
Now here comes a man walking down the beach toward the fishermen. What do you think of what he says? How does it make you feel? From where you are in the story, what do Jesus’ words make you want to do?
What Jesus said dropped a bombshell into the peaceful working scene on the shores of Galilee. His invitation puts the fishermen at a crossroads. Do they leave what they know and follow this guy, or do they blow him off and keep doing what they know? How about Zebedee and his fishing enterprise? We know the answer. They do the unthinkable. They get up and go.
What does it mean for you? You put yourself in the picture somehow. If you were in the market for a fish for dinner, what does that mean for you? If you were the gull circling above waiting for a scrap, what does that mean to you? If you were a child, curious about what was happening, what does that mean to you? With these words, nobody in the story is the same any more. Everything has changed, and can never go back to what it was, including you, for remember, you put yourself into the picture as well.
Take another moment. In your mind’s eye see Jesus walking up to you and making the same invitation. What do you think? How do you feel? What does this story make you want to do? Let me give you some examples of what I mean.
I know a young man who loves to work on cars. When he was in college studying mechanical engineering, he joined the auto club. The club was given a challenge: Someone had donated the car for the use of a missionary in Africa. Africa is notoriously hard on automobiles. They were to take a Toyota Land Cruiser, and make it Africa-proof. They got together and stripped it out. They yanked the gas engine and dropped in a diesel instead. They created heavy-duty bumpers that were at angles so kids couldn’t hang onto the car as it moved along, fall off and get hurt. They put a luggage rack on top that could hold your house. It had Roll bars, reinforced flooring, heavy-duty transmission, and was waterproof, inside and out. It was a work of art. It was also a work of ministry.
I know a man who can count. He can’t just count, he can figure out how to count well. He is a people person and a good communicator. He’s one of those guys you go to, to figure out what to do with your money so it can grow, but he’s more than an investment consultant. He’s what he calls a “wealth coach.” “Wealth” for him means a whole lot more than money, in fact it comes close to what Jesus would have meant if he had wished you “Shalom,” God’s peace and well-being. He told me once that there are clients he does not take on, because all they want is to make money, and there are plenty of investment consultants out there. Unless what he does can be a ministry with you he’s just not interested.
I knew an English teacher. She was ruthless. There was a spelling test every Friday in her classroom. You got what you got, and you lived with it. She demanded the best of her students, and at the same time, they all knew that she cared deeply for them. She knew how important good language skills were, and she was going to do her best to get those kids ready for the best life possible. She was ruthless because teaching language arts was her ministry.
The difference between a ministry and a job is kind of like this. Remember when you were a kid and you had done something to your sister or brother. Mom or Dad would say, “Now say you’re sorry!” and you would mutter, “I’m sorry,” almost under your breath, and your sibling would whine, “He didn’t mean it!” because, of course, you hadn’t.
Compare that to later when you ate the last cookie, and your younger sister complained that she was saving that for Aunt Booboo who was coming over later, and Aunt Booboo was your favorite aunt, and you had just eaten Aunt Booboo’s cookie, and made your little sister sad…and you say, “I’m so sorry!”
Jesus stands at the side of your boat. All the trappings of your world are in it. And he says, “Follow me.”
All of a sudden, the most important person in your life has asked you to make fishing not just a way of making a living, but a ministry, of making fishing, or mechanics, or investing, or teaching or whatever it is you do something that serves the Kingdom of God, as a way of making life in the lives of so many who are walking around dead. To make what you do a ministry is to leave your nets as you knew them, and find them anew in a totally different way. The baskets of fish, the boat, the water, the gulls circling overhead, they will all take on a deeper, eternal significance, and be suddenly worthwhile!
When he says, “Follow me,” what will you do? Will you choose ministry, significance, deep satisfaction and the joy of service? Or will you just go on fishing, and let the Lord of Life, the possibility of truly significant things, the potential of true friendship and meaningful work, slip through your fingers like water through your net, and have to admit to yourself that Jesus is NOT the most important person in your life after all?
Take a moment and just consider this.
Now I’m going to quit preaching and go to meddling. Today is Parish Meeting Sunday. In a little while we will hear reports about ministries throughout 2017, and we will look forward into 2018. Many opportunities for vital and important ministries will be laid out on the table. Jesus says to you, “Come, follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
What will your ministry be in 2018?
What will your ministry be at Good Shepherd Church in 2018?