Text: Matthew 4:12-23
Today we hear the story of Jesus calling his disciples from Matthew, which is not the same as the story we heard last week from John, in which John the Baptizer introduced his disciples to Jesus, leading them to know him through his testimony and witness. And someone asked me about that last week - what did John mean that he didn’t know Jesus, weren’t they cousins? But that’s the story from yet another gospel, Luke - only Luke describes Jesus and John as cousins.
And maybe this all makes you shake your head and want to know why there are so many variations in the stories.
Which is when I say, God is mystery and the Bible is poetry, and we are mortal, formed of the dust, and the theology and symbolic actions and words that had meaning to first century people sometimes elude or befuddle us. The Gospel writers had reasons for emphasizing certain details, and sometimes those reasons can become clear with a little study and sometimes they remain hidden behind the curtain drawn during the Age of Enlightenment.
At any rate, today Jesus is calling disciples again. He’s going down to the shore and finding these random guys, it seems, and saying to them “Follow me.” And they drop their nets, and in one case drop them in their dad’s lap, and they follow him, even though they do not know him, even though he has not performed any miracles, even though he is just this guy who speaks to them, who calls them, even though it means leaving dear old dad in the boat.
Much ink has been spilled in search of why Peter and Andrew and James and John would do such a thing. Why they would just leave their jobs, leave their dad, leave their life to follow Jesus. And so lots of theorizing has been done.
Such as: Well, really, they had met Jesus before, or they had at least heard of him, because he must have done some miracles that they heard about even though they’re not reported in this Gospel, or maybe he said some other things that the Gospel writer didn’t think needed to be reported, or maybe you could see Jesus’s halo or he was wearing a name tag that said “Hello! My name is Jesus the Messiah” and maybe “MESSIAH” was all in big letters just to make sure they got it.
But to go there is to miss the point that Matthew wants to make: they follow Jesus because he comes to them and he speaks to them, and his word engenders faith.
And his coming to them is disruptive, which is what happens in most all of the Bible stories from before Jesus’s time - the calling of prophets, the calling of folks like Gideon or Isaiah or Ezekiel and pulling them abruptly out of their lives and into God’s service. Sometimes those prophets say to God, I think you were looking for somebody else, and sometimes they say Oh Woe is Me and sometimes they say, you know God, I never asked for this.
But our guys today, Simon and Andrew and James and John are not like that. They do not protest or whine or anything. They don’t even ask where they are going or why (even if there will later be a little bit of plaintive cries of “are we there yet?”). Jesus has come to them, and spoken to them, and they obey.
Now, maybe you are wondering at this point if you really want Jesus to come to you and speak to you if it’s going to mean disruption. I get that. We like to think we can plan out life and it will go smoothly, although you know there is an adage that says if you want to make God laugh you should tell them your plans.
But all those readings we read during Advent about being watchful, about paying attention to when God may come near - those instructions are not just about Christmas. They’re about the life of the faithful person who is always watching, always paying attention, always expecting that Jesus may come to them and speak to them, and always hoping that the words Jesus speaks will create in them faith.
As the time comes for me to depart so that you can make room for your new rector to enter this community, I wonder what words Jesus is speaking to you now? I wonder if Jesus is asking you to follow without knowing where you are going because you have faith that the Spirit is here and will lead you forward? Even though this is an exciting time it is also a bittersweet time because it means we have to say goodbye, and that means disruption. Again. We’ve gotten used to one another and here comes someone new, someone who is not Jesus but who loves Jesus and wants to follow Jesus and wants to encourage you to follow Jesus on a different path than the one we have been on in this interim wilderness time. It’s going to be time to move into a different landscape with different joys and challenges, and that might feel like disruption.
But take heart. God will be with you. The Spirit will be with you. Jesus will be leading you into renewed life, into renewed mission, into renewed ministry in this place and even further afield. And your new rector, who is not Jesus and I assure you they know that, will be with you too to go into a new and daring adventure that will be fueled by your faith.
So be listening for Jesus and have faith that when you hear his voice, you’ll be ready follow him, and with him generate faith in those you will meet along the way.