Casting Call

Our son Asher turned four years old at the end of December, and he has firmly reached a new stage.  It’s the “I want it and I want it now” stage.  I have been warned this stage never really go away, that it will simply take on new and different forms for the next 20 years, but right now, let me tell you, it’s really something.
“I want my grilled cheese.”  “Asher, we are making you a grilled cheese.”  But I want my grilled cheese.  Asher we’re making it.  Grilled Cheese.  Making it.  But Grilled Cheese.  Asher!
I know, I know, all the parenting books and podcasts and CD’s and classes tell you not to let your kid have that much control over you, but none of them have ever experienced my son hungry.
Have you ever been asked to tend to something “immediately?”
Many of you know this past summer my wife Kelley and I moved our family across the river, from Tariffville to Simsbury, the Squadron Line area.  We had Ella, our third child last March and were looking for a little more room.  But I have to admit, leaving our old house and neighborhood was a little harder than I anticipated.  I know it’s just a house, and it is also true that for our first two kids it was the only house they knew.  Kelley will tell you it took a long time for me to get over the fact that we had just completed some updates and had just finished painting every single room in the house when we decided to move, in fact she’ll tell you I’m still not over it.  The move was the right choice, more space, a flat yard, closer to church.  But I can’t help but wonder if they repainted over all that new paint, if this Spring they will trim the beautiful Japanese Maple next to the front steps, or if they’ll care to seal the deck.
What does it feel like to leave your routine?  What does it feel like to be called to something different?
What does it feel like to move, across town or across the country, to start a new school or a new job?  It’s been a long time now, but I transferred colleges after my freshman year and while it was the right choice, the process was excruciating.  What does it feel like to be asked to chair a committee outside your “professional skill set,” or to serve in a way you have never served before?
In our Scripture story this morning, two sets of brothers are called out of their routines to do something different.  Simon and his brother Andrew, and James and his brother John, are casting their fishing nets into the Sea of Galilee when Jesus approaches them on the Lakeshore and invites them to follow him.  Jesus calls out, “Follow me!,” asking them to join him in a different kind of fishing, fishing for people. The sets of brothers do not hesitate; they immediately leave their nets and follow Jesus.
How many of you fish?  On a scale of 0-3, 3 being a rather serious fisherman or fisherwoman, how would you rank yourself?  Raise your hand if you’re a 0, meaning you’ve never fished.  Raise your hand if you’re a 1, meaning you get out there once a year or so.  Raise your hand if you are a 2, you are ready to go when fishing season rolls around and rarely miss an opportunity to fish.  Raise your hand if you’re a 3, you’re very serious about fishing, you might qualify for one of those Saturday morning ESPN fishing shows…I don’t think ESPN is still doing that, are they?  I digress.
On our little fishing ranking system I’d put myself at about a .5.  Fishing peaked for me when I was a kid, fishing at a stocked rainbow trout pond with a cheap fishing pole and bobber purchased at Kmart.  Here’s what I’m getting at, the kind of fishing I did as a kid, and the kind of fishing most of the people we know do for fun, is not the kind of fishing Simon, Andrew, James and John are doing when Jesus approaches them on the lakeshore.  These four men were professional fishermen; they’d break our fishing ranking system because fishing was their occupation and their livelihood.  Still, even with fishing being all the knew, the scripture story tells us these four men immediately dropped their nets and follow Jesus.
Why do you think these four disciples walk away from their lives and follow Jesus?  And would you have responded in the same way?  I don’t know about you but if there on the lakeshore Jesus had given a stirring sermon, performed a dramatic miracle, or if the heavens had opened up declaring this Jesus’ was God’s beloved, I might have followed, but short of that I’m not sure I would have gone.  How about you?  I wonder what they knew, or sensed, that we don’t know?
Pastor and author Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that we’re missing the point if we spend too much time on the questions of why they went and if we would have done the same.  Taylor suggests the story of Simon, Andrew, James and John is less a story about the disciples or a statement about our own faith than it is a story and statement about God.
Taylor says, focusing on what the disciples gave up and whether we could do the same is “to put the accent on the wrong syllable,” Taylor says.  She goes on, “This is a miracle story, and it is really about the power of God – to walk right up to a quartet of fishermen and work a miracle, creating faith where there was no faith, creating disciples where there were no disciples just a moment before.”
I really like that, and it made me wonder, does God still work these kinds of miracles?  What does this “Miracle on the Lakeshore,” as Taylor calls it, look like today, in our lives?Many of you know that our church tutors every Tuesday at the Simpson Waverly school in Hartford.  It’s really a wonderful thing.  I take the church bus over to the high school to pick up our youth and bring them over to the Dunkin’ Donuts here in the center of town for a snack, and for adult tutors to hop on the bus and join us.  It’s truly inter generational, and it’s been fun watching the relationships between our youth and the adults blossom and grow.  In fact, you’ll hear from two of them next week.  But you also might have heard that the Simpson Waverly School is one of the schools being considered to be shut down.  If you’ve seen this at all in the papers you know there are good reasons for this.  And yet, there is a perspective we gain when we get to know people and their stories.
This school is one of the poorest in Hartford, and these kids would be forced to move to schools father away.  The parents, many of whom don’t own cars, would struggle to attend school meetings or pick their children up from after school activities.  And then there is class size.  Of course, part of what would happen is these children would attend bigger schools, which would be even more populated.  And we know, children always learn better in situations where there are smaller class sizes.  And these children, in this neighborhood, who are disadvantaged in so many ways, they need all the advantages they can get.
The faculty and staff are devastated, and we were asked if our group could attend a public hearing.  Wouldn’t you know it, in the midst of mid-term week, our youth came out, joined by Bill Clark and Dave Waddhams, to advocate for the school.  And when four of our young people went up to the microphone to speak to the school board on behalf of the students and their families, it was truly touching.  It was quite clear to me that our folks didn’t attend that meeting because they were faithful followers of the faith, they attended that meeting and spoke at that meeting because God moved in their hearts. The final vote is this Tuesday and we don’t know what the outcome will be, but we know God moved in us to do all we could.
God is working miracles anytime we drop our nets, whatever our nets may be, and follow him.  And they don’t always have to be big things.  In fact, one of the best descriptions of faithfulness I’ve ever hears is doing small acts of integrity over and over again.
The most well known verse in this passage is of course, verse 17, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  But this makes it sound as if fishing for people were a task.  The better translation receives fishing for people as a new identify. A literal translation might read, “Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers for people.  There is a world of different between “I will make you fish” and I will make you become fishers.”  “I will make you fish” gives us one more thing to add to our to-do lists, one more commitment to work on to our calendars, (Right, Jesus fish for people…how about every forth Monday?”  Can anyone else do fourth Monday’s?”)  But “I will make you to become fishers?  That’s Jesus promising us a whole new way of being, a way in which they respond less for God than because of God, not because of what God might do but because of what God has already done.  And that’s what he calls us to as well.
When we doubt if God can work miracles in us in this way, if we are good enough or valuable enough or if we have enough to give, I like to think of a Rob Bell video I show to our confirmands.  In it he reminds us that Jesus was a rabi and that most rabi’s sought out disciples that were the best of the best.  They were scholars who had excelled in memorizing the Torah.  And then he looks at who Jesus called.  Peasant fishermen.  The not good enough’s, the jv team.  In fact, we could do a whole sermon next week on Jesus picking these fisherman for just this reason.  Just as God chose a poor family to be the holy family, Jesus chose these poor fishermen to be the first to help him spread the word. The Gospel is good news to us all, and always especially to those who need it most.
Dallas Willard writes, when he was a boy, rural electrification was just happening and power lines were being strung throughout the countryside.  But suppose even after the lines were up and running you ran across a house where the wary family still used only candles and kerosene lanters for light, used scrub boards, ice chests and rug beaters.  A better life was waiting for them right outside their door if only they would let themselves be hooked into the power lines.  “My friends,” you could proclaim, “electricity is at hand.”  But suppose they just didn’t trust it, thought it was too much of a hassle, and anyway didn’t believe the promises that things might be easier with this newfangled juice running into their house.  “If it’s all the same to you, we’ll stick with the old ways.”
Maybe Jesus’ call, his summons to us is like that: it’s here, it’s real, it’s right outside our door.  Sometimes we have no choice but to respond immediately, and sometimes it takes us a little longer to figure out what the call might be.  Sometimes we are someone into a completely routine, and sometimes we are called to make a minor adjustment.  No matter how it works for us, here’s the thing.  God is working miracles of love and hope and joy and peace and compassion in our lives and in the world.  May we live knowing this is true, and may we live so that others can experience it too!fishers_of_men


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