Follow me and I will make you fishers of people!
This is probably a familiar passage and it has been a rallying cry to ‘right’ those who are wrong.
To build on the words of poet laureate Amanda Corman, ( i couldn’t resist) this often means that rather than leaving what “just is”, the call to be ‘fishers of people’ has been distorted to appear to be “justice” – the right thing to do. It usually misses the mark by a long shot.
Christians have their own history of damage and annihilation in fishing for people – the crusades, and residential schools at the top of the list followed closely by modern day exclusion and shunning of people who didn’t fit into a less than righteous view of small ‘h’ holiness.
We feel the urgency of this mission, but don’t always get it right, but don’t worry, we are not alone in getting it wrong.
The disciples themselves felt the urgency to drop everything and follow Jesus- urgency as described by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, Urgency where spouse and responsibility and grief and joy pale in comparison – great and unstoppable urgency.
They felt that but even so, the disciples soon became distracted from their following and were tempted by their vision of what Jesus would make of them – fishers of people – maybe the most important fishers of people – maybe even, the most important people- and so it goes. It is humorous to look ahead and see these same two brothers, James and John- sons of Zebadee – as they argue over who will sit in the important place beside Jesus. When the focus is on the “I will make you” part of Jesus’ words at the seashore that day, imaginations run wild with visions of importance.
The disciples’ enthusiasm to follow Jesus was overshadowed by their personal desire for greatness.
But if we stop and truly hear Jesus call, the only invitation he issues is to say “Follow me”! That is all we are called to do. Simply. Follow. Jesus.
The rest is the work of Jesus. The “I will make you fishers of people” is what Jesus promises that HE will do!
God through Jesus will accomplish God’s will, and we see this all too clearly in the story of Jonah – part of which we heard this morning. God wants Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent and return to God.
Jonah is so smart that he knows better than God – Jonah himself judges the people of the city and declares them to be so disobedient that they will NEVER change – Jonah judges them as hopeless and he runs in the opposite direction, But that didn’t work out too well for him and Jonah ends up where God wants him to be- Down Town Nineveh! We might make note that willingness to follow is not always necessary for God to accomplish God’s purpose – as this account shows.
However, Jonah is still pretty sure that God is wrong (why is it so difficult to learn) But in a manner of humoring God, Jonah walks through the streets – maybe even mocking the people – Hear ye! Hear ye! 40 days more and you’re all going to be done for!
But Jonah finally completed the work God called him to do. Jonah finally spoke to the people.
So when we hear the call to follow Jesus, what does that sound like and what does that mean for us?
Understanding how that call will play our in our life requires a close relationship with Jesus. When we follow a sports celebrity or an artist we learn as much as we can about them. Then we have a sense of their goals and plans and celebrate with them in successes. It is the same in following Jesus. Learn as much as we can about Jesus, loving what he loves.
Right now it is a privilege to work with the young people in the congregation to explore and build on a relationship with Jesus – to question our understanding and to build strong faith foundations. Hold these young people, Presley, Travis, Lesley, Nathan, Dylan, Marie and Ben and ourselves in your prayers as they and we explore stories of Jesus’ love for us and truly hear Jesus’ commandment to love God and love one another.
Pray for ways to follow Jesus in love.
Loving as Jesus loves means that our heart aches when we hear news stories of children being held in cages, when we hear accounts of young people deprived of hope who complete suicide, accounts of injustices that we are not able to fix. Sometimes only our understanding is broken.
Quite often, following Jesus means making an effort to understand.
At one point in my life, I had an opportunity to work with children whose parents were residential school survivors. Many of the young people had been in trouble with the law and had a high chance of continuing on that path. They spoke of loss of their language and traditions that marked milestones in their life – of the knowledge that something was missing leaving them with an emptyness. Of course, their parents did not know the traditions, so the children floundered and trouble found them. I met them when they were in a week long enrichment setting, learning about their heritage. I may have mentioned this before, but I was astounded with the attention of these young people – these restless, trouble makers. They sat for hours listening and learning as a wise elder shared what had been taken away from these people.
Sometimes following Jesus means to lovingly desire and seek to understand others. Jesus is calling each of us to follow him. How we hear the call is as unique as each of God’s children. We are called to follow Jesus in love and to be loving. And make no mistake, there is an urgency to this call. We cannot be distracted by thinking we need to tell God what to do. We need not be the judge of who is worthy. We are called to follow Jesus’ commandment to trust and love God, and love one another. God will do the rest.