St. Andrew’s Day – November 26,2017
Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24
Matthew 25: 31-46
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” What a wonderful way Paul starts his letter to the Ephesians! I feel the same about you. I do give thanks for each of you in my daily prayers! I hope you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We had such a wonderful celebration last weekend baptizing Charlie and celebrating the ministry of Barbara Fox. This week it is time to remember the patron saint of our church and recall his life. I think that one of the best ways to honor a person living or deceased is to adopt a characteristic that you admire and immolate or transfer that to your own life. It is not enough just to give thanks and remember people, it is far more important to respond to God’s call.
Andrew and his brother, Peter (who is still called Simon), were fishermen. They were going about their work when a man named Jesus shows up. The Seven Springs is the traditional site of the Call of the first disciples. Andrew was the very first. Jesus invited him to accompany him. Jesus meets up with the fishermen just as they were washing their nets. The fresh water springs that flow into the sea at this precise spot make it a logical place for those fishermen to wash the nets.
The rushing streams and the breaking waves make the Seven Springs a surprisingly noisy lace. Jesus shows up amid the washing of the nets, the commotion of the fishing boats being hauled onto shore, the men unloading their catch of fish, and the rolling surf. The Galileans were preoccupied with their tasks at hand. If they had not been, Jesus walking up would have stopped them all in their tracks. In Mark’s account the story is told this way. He begins with Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. Both are hard at work, plying their trade along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. According to several ancient writers, the Sea of Galilee was home to a thriving fishing industry and its shores were heavily populated. The area was also something of a crossroads in between the Greek-influenced cities to the east and the Jewish town and settlements to the west. Perhaps this is one reason that Jesus was attracted to the locale: he could be assured of meeting people from all over the region. Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus going back and forth across the lake, perhaps symbolizing his mission to both Jews and Gentiles.
Peter and Andrew are casting their nets into the sea. John’s gospel tells us that Peter and Andrew are from Bethsaida, only a few miles away, and that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. In Mark’s account Jesus has just finished his journey into the desert. Without any fanfare the carpenter from Nazareth strides up to Peter and Andrew and greets them and says words that will change everyone’s lives. Most Christians know this famous quote: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
The invitation is also open-ended. Jesus does not tell Peter and Andrew how they will “fish for people.” He does not say, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people by doing the following things: I’ll preach, I’ll suffer, be crucified and be raised from the dead after three days, and finally after my resurrection you’ll be charged with spreading my message to the end of the earth.”
No – Jesus’s call is – like many calls – appealing but also confusing. It was very unusual. At the time rabbis did not call followers; followers and students sought out the teacher. Also, Jesus did not say, “Come learn the Torah with me.” That would have been the norm.
Stranger still is their response: “and immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Farther down the shore Jesus meets up with James and John, the sons of Zebedee, working on their nets. Jesus calls them. “And immediately they leave their father behind and the other men in the boat and follow Jesus.
We have heard this story so many times that we forget how unusual their response is. You may be thinking, “Of course they follow him. That’s what disciples do.” But their decision was by no means an easy one. After all, they had commitments and responsibilities; they were settled. We know, for an example, that Peter was married because the Synoptics tell us about his mother in law. James and John are leaving behind their father. At this time in history, duty to father was paramount – a really big deal!
Finally, there are ties of habit and security. Most likely their families had lived and fished on the shores of Galilee for generations. Over all, Peter and Andrew, James and John were accustomed to this way of life, and they were accustomed to this way of life together – as business partners as well as family.
Jesus does call people to work together – even today we are called to work together in our ministry here at St. Andrew’s. This church thrives because you all do this so very well. Each has a part and we depend on everyone to carry out this ministry.
Still, even with their common call, it must have been hard for these fishermen to leave behind their ways of life. In that way, these Galilean fishermen were like many of us. It is difficult to let to – even harder to let go based on a few words from a stranger. Each of these men were enmeshed in a variety of very real commitments. The nets they were holding are the marvelous image of the intricate ties that bound them to their old lives – their entanglements.
There are many ways of being called. Many people think that being called means hearing voices. Some feel that since they have never had a knocked-me-off-my-feet spiritual experience that they have not been called. Often the call can be more subtle, or it might manifest itself in a strong desire to do some aspect of God’s work or even an impulse to leave something behind.
God has created us uniquely with many different talents and gifts. We are already the people God made us to be. At the same time, he is asking us to drop the nets that entangle us in our old ways of doing things, ways that are not healthy for us or ways that keep us from being more loving.
No matter what it is, God is calling each of us. This is just as much of a call as the one Jesus issued at the Sea of Galilee. As I just said earlier, God’s call is open-ended. It is usually unclear what the future will bring. So we need to listen carefully for those calls and not grow so entangled in our daily lives that we miss them. In our gospel today Jesus asks us to feed the hungry, quench the thirst of those who have nothing to drink; take care of the sick; visit those in prison and welcome strangers. What if Andrew, Peter, James and John were too busy to listen to Jesus and did not respond?
We must be receptive to the ways that God calls us – today, tomorrow and 10 years from now – so when we hear God say, “Follow me,” we will be ready to drop our nets and follow.
This week as we remember St. Andrew’s response let’s listen again to the words of the collect and take this as our mission this week: “Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence. AMEN.