January 26, 2020 | Pastor Kelli Schmit
today, we hear all about Jesus calling people to a new task. Our Gospel writer, Matthew, tells us that in response to learning that John the Baptist had been arrested, Jesus withdraws to Galilee. There is a whole lot of chaos running behind this very mild sentence.
John had “[criticized Herod’s] immoral life” and “challenged [his] oppressive economic practices that had dealt death to many at the margins.” And Jesus is all too familiar with the violent reactivity of Herod and his family. Remember when Jesus was just a child and he, Mary, and Joseph had to flee to the safety of Egypt because Herod sent his footmen on a murderous rampage through Bethlehem?
He doesn’t meander, wander, or head off to Galilee. He is fleeing to avoid the paranoid and brutal escalation on behalf of the Roman Empire. And there, in Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus makes a home. He gets to know people and establishes relationships. Here, he begins his ministry by calling his first followers. Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John – two sets of brothers – all fishermen. Not the high and mighty power players with social capital and influence, but ordinary folks.
This is great news for us
We are surrounded by messages that we don’t quite measure up – that who we are is just shy of good enough. People strive for academic, musical, professional, extracurricular excellence. Athletes are awarded MVP, when the majority of the players are at the top of their game. Instagram and Facebook highlight homes that are the most perfectly organized and they offer tricks to help you, you lowly person, strive and try to become more like them.
But what happens if we’re ordinary? Not a terrible person but not a super-achiever either? And let’s admit, even those who are deemed the Greatest of All Time are ordinary in some part of their lives. So we all know what it’s like to feel ordinary. But this is the good news. Jesus calls ordinary people. Those are the exact ingredients to be a disciple. We are – right now, exactly as we are – we are good enough. We are who God wants to share the good news of Jesus’ love with the world. We are who God wants to send out with a different message – one that changes what we think is required of us in order to be seen as excellent and accepted and worthy of love.
Throughout the rest of the Gospel, the disciples travel around with Jesus and they make mistakes along the way. One scholar pointed out that the disciples will even abandon Jesus at his most crucial hour and he still doesn’t give up on them. Jesus will send them out with the commission to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They make mistakes and hide away when things get rough, and Jesus still loves them, still calls them disciples, and still sends them out to share his love with the world.
Perfection isn’t a prerequisite to becoming a disciple
It’s not even an expectation of discipleship. The call isn’t to perfection but for ordinary folks to be fishers of people. Discipleship is using what we already know how to do but in a new and different way for a new and different purpose.
The fishermen disciples were called to fish for people. They are to be fishers of people. We typically think of discipleship in terms of location: we are disciples at church, at work, at home. But thinking of being a fisher of people shifts our focus of discipleship from where and how…to whom. This relationship-based view challenges these typical understandings of our call to discipleship, instead of where or how we can be disciples.
We are challenged to think about with whom we are in relationship
How do we live into our call when we are with a coworker, when we are with our grandparents, when we are facing off with another team? How do we live as disciples with that person? How do we use the skills we already have in a new and different way to promote the kingdom of heaven?
This may include inviting someone to church or talking about scripture, but it can also be praying for a coworker who is going through a divorce or making sure our grandparents have a shoveled driveway or not taking the low-road and trash-talking the competition. Discipleship happens in these walls but it doesn’t stop in the parking lot. We are ordinary people whom Jesus calls to follow him in all aspects of our life with all whom we encounter. The location and the task may not change, but our approach and emotion toward those with whom we interact may shift significantly. Like I said before, I don’t have strong feelings toward cubicle panels, but I loved my coworkers. It’s not about the task but the people. And I’m sure a number of you can say the same thing.
Because after the Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John decided to follow Jesus, they went with him throughout Galilee teaching, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing every sickness and disease…and all of these things require being in relationship with people. They were teaching…people. They were proclaiming Good News of the kingdom…to people. They were curing every disease and sickness…of people.
These are not solo acts done in some far away room, these are done in close proximity with people – some so close you can see the wind move their hair, know the sound of their laugh, and appreciate the well-deserved wrinkle around their eyes. These relationships – these human-to-human connections – when Jesus and the disciples teach, proclaim, and heal people…this is what the kingdom looks like.
Jesus made his home in Capernaum and heralded that the kingdom of heaven has come near. It comes near through ordinary people doing what they already know how to do, with other ordinary people whom they already know. And that is anything but ordinary.