Based on Matthew 4:12-23 and 1st Corinthians 1:10-18
Andrew and Simon were back to their usual chore – back to fishing. As the first rays of sun cracked open the edge of the horizon, they pushed the old boat off the sandy shore of their home town – Capernaum. They worked instinctively, silently. They knew the routine.
Not much was said when Andrew came back a week ago. He’d gone off several months before to follow some wild-eyed prophet in the desert; some baptizing crusader, shouting repentance like the prophets of old – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos. They’d learned about such great men, as boys in school. But prophets like that were just in the dusty scrolls the old priests read. Weren’t they? That didn’t really happen anymore, – did it? But something had caught Andrew’s attention and he’d gone traipsing off into the desert – a variable fish out of water, and there he stayed.
At least until the arrest. They were clearly Herod’s own elite guard. They left no doubt that they meant business as they bound and dragged John the Baptizer through the river, nearly drowning him in the very waters he used as a sign of new life. `Repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near’, he shouted and sputtered until a soldier’s fist slammed into his mouth.
That was the end of Andrew’s desert discipleship. He came back to Capernaum and took his place beside Simon. Nothing more was said. But sometimes, Simon noticed him staring into the night sky, out toward the barren hills, and beyond. He knew Andrew stared beyond – as if looking, as if hoping something or someone would appear.
“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea…
He came to Capernaum. He came to where Andrew and Simon were silently setting out to fish. Where their boyhood buddies James and John set out close by. As I said, no one pushed Andrew to say what had happened out there in the desert, no one had razzed him about it when he came back. But clearly they had talked amongst themselves, in the evening, over wine and fish and bread. Clearly the old stories of the prophets were stirred up, and they’d all heard not only of John, but of yet another. Some said he was John’s cousin. Some said he had fire in his eyes, but a voice both compelling and calm.
That day he came to the shore. He came as they sat mending their nets in the cool of the evening. All he said was, “Follow me.” Then he turned slowly and started to go. It was Andrew who moved first. He let out a ragged sob, a sound that had been caught in his throat for weeks. He dropped his net, and stepped in beside the gentle prophet, like a faithful dog welcoming his master home. And the others…without a word…did the same.
I saw a commercial once for a movie. I may never see the movie and they may have used its only good line in the commercial, where a man says, with passion and awe, to a woman, “You are exactly what I never knew I always wanted.”
I wonder if that’s why the disciples followed Jesus that day. Jesus was `exactly what they never knew they always wanted’ – or needed, or needed to respond to.
Maybe that’s why we’re in church today. Jesus calls us. Jesus offers us something, that we discover, despite all the other tempting options in the world, is what we never knew we always wanted – it’s something to do with purpose, justice, relationship and spiritual transformation. It’s what Bishop Desmond Tutu in his book “Made for Goodness” describes as `God pressure.’ He says, “I don’t quite know how to describe “God-pressure” but speaks of it as a loving compulsion. “God-pressure” is a feeling of being compelled to act, even against the voice of reason.” p170.
And so the first four disciples set out to follow this itinerant preacher…
Now, fast forward 20-30 years later, a man who never even met Jesus in the flesh, has had a life- altering experience that has deeply transformed him; it is the experience of the spirit of the risen Christ. He’s shared this experience with communities in Turkey and Greece, and … we get to read their mail and find out that things were not all sweetness and light in the early churches.
(Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-18)
Oh my, what went wrong? The congregation in Corinth is more impressed with power than faithfulness. They get into cliques and turn their hearts against one another, choosing to make leadership into a popularity contest rather than honour the gifts that each leader brings, and honouring the gifts that each community member brings.
In our world today, surely we are as tempted as ever to measure our success by more bums in pews, by charismatic leadership, by financial prosperity, by being edgy, creative, having the best music, the best technology, the most kids and a great youth program. I got a phone call last week from someone trying to sell me a fund-raising program for our youth group. However, at not quite 3 years old, I thought it was a bit much to ask little Eldon to go door to door selling discount booklets. So I declined the offer.
But we face these pressures in subtle and not so subtle ways to be more, do more, have more – and we run the risk of destroying rather than building community.
Next Sunday we gather to hold our annual congregational meeting. I’ve lived through enough church annual meetings to know that we can turn on each other, like they did in the church at Corinth, or we turn to each other, and honour the contributions that each person can make and we can turn together, in prayer and discernment, to ask, with open hearts and minds, `Where are you leading us God and what would you have us do?’ Again, leaning into the wisdom of Bishop Tutu “…it doesn’t matter if we are successful in the moment, in our lifetime, or in our generation. It matters only that we are faithful.“p190
And in our being faithful, in our serving God, following the example of Jesus, may we find that this is exactly what we never knew we always wanted to do. Amen.