Reflection for Epiphany 3A:Matthew 4:12-23, by The Rev. Dr. Kate Hennessy-Keimig
It’s just an ordinary day, and you’re going about the business of your life. Maybe at work, or in an aisle at Hy-vee trying to decide between the corn and peas, vacuuming a rug, shoveling snow, chatting on-line….and suddenly, there is this person you have never seen before and he stops in front of you and says, “So…. Kate or Sally, Rick or Jim…. Drop everything you’ve got going on there, your tasks, your work, whatever it is and follow me.” Yeah, what would we think, what would we do? Well, that’s the story this morning. Jesus is passing by the Sea of Galilee and he sees Simon and Andrew fishing, doing their every day, regular jobs, and he says “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And “immediately” just like that, no questions asked, as Matthew tells the story, they leave their nets and they follow him. And so, too with James and John. He calls to them and “immediately” they, too leave their boat, their nets, and their father and off they go with him. Ordinary people doing the ordinary tasks of their day until this extraordinary thing happens to them that changes not only their lives but the whole course of history. So do you ever wonder…what made them go? What was it that made them “immediately” drop what they were doing, leave their livelihood, their worldly goods and family member behind and go off with this iterant preacher?
Maybe it was something about Jesus. In John’s Gospel last week we heard another version of this same story. On that story too, the people whom Jesus called to him were transformed by abiding with him, experiencing him.
Perhaps it was God’s power at work. Theologian and writer Barbara Brown Taylor agrees with this. She says that we tend to forget about God’s ability “…. to sneak up on people who are thinking about lunch, not God, and smack them upside the head with glory.”
The truth is we don’t really know what made them do it. What we do know is that they were nothing special as people go. Not wise, or educated, or by any reports even particularly religious or holy people. Just your average folks. Ordinary people called to an extraordinary task of becoming the ones, right along side Jesus of bearing God’s message, of bearing the light. John says Jesus is the light… not much further along in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, "You are the light of the world. . . Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). And that’s a big inclusive “you”…not just directed to a few disciples on a mountain over two thousand years ago.
Those disciples can give us a lot of hope, though. Here they were, right up close and personal with Jesus, with him every day as he taught and healed and lived out his mission and even so, they didn’t always quite “get” Jesus or his mission. While the Gospels give them their bright and shining moments, we also see them in their all-too bumbling humanity. And yet, they have become our spiritual ancestors, part of that great cloud of witnesses that remind us who and Whose we are. They help us remember that this is God’s work we are being tapped for, called up out of our lives for, that it is God who supports us with what we need as we leave our particular boats and our nets to follow Jesus, and that we can bring whatever we have, whoever we are and that God can make use of us to transform our little corner of the world. God can use us, even if we don’t quite get how it works at the time.
We are all called by baptism to be co-creators with God in building God’s kingdom on earth. We know that God desires that this is a kingdom of mercy and justice, peace and compassion. We know that we are called to love God and love our neighbor. We have Jesus, Emmanuel, God who is with us to show us how to be in this kingdom. We do not have to be perfect in our efforts. Those who went before surely were not! Sometimes we are like Simon and Andrew and James and John who did respond immediately but then spent most of the rest of their discipleship career bumbling along, well-intentioned but often confused, trying to figure out just what it was that this Jesus was asking of them. Hearts in the right place, but often feeling just a half bubble off in trying to do the will of God.
The world as we know it is in great darkness. We are called to be the bringers of the only light that can truly shine through…. Sharing the message of God’s unending love and presence, standing for justice, being peacemakers, bringing mercy to those in need, speaking for the voiceless, healing… feeding.. clothing…tending….All these ordinary acts in our ordinary lives, can bring about extraordinary transformations….people sitting in darkness seeing light….God’s kingdom right here and now.
So whatever it means to us… stretching ourselves to try to see beyond our own small worldview to try to see with God’s eyes, or perhaps turned in a new direction entirely we simply turn our lives "in the same direction as God's life" and let "our wills spill into the will of God" in Barbara Brown Taylor’s words, we have an opportunity follow him, too.
So on an ordinary day, if he came, and he said, “YOU are the light; will you come and bear it into the darkness with me?” Would we drop our nets and go?