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Doing a Little Fishing

Matthew 4:12-23

The Rev. Jon Roberts

19 January


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper′na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb′ulun and Naph′tali, 14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zeb′ulun and the land of Naph′tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb′edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb′edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.

Doing a Little Fishing

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1481

All my life I’ve been wishing,
To meet my Lord,
While doing a little fishing.[1]

On this third Sunday in Epiphany we find ourselves “Doing a little fishing.”

It was foretold a great leader would restore peace unto the land. It was foretold he would come along the road by the Sea, across the Jordan River, into the lands of Zebulun and Napthali. He would come from the east. This road ran along the Jordan, and stretched down to the Sea of Capernaeum. Further south, one could take a right turn and go to Nazareth if they wished. There, they would enter the lands spoken by the prophet Isaiah.[2] A land long ago, marked by fierce battles between the Canaanites and the Israelites.[3] The people had a history of oppression and freedom. An ongoing series, if you will. They had some bad days, yet they remained optimistic; A good combination for those who “wish to fish.” Travelling down the road, past the sea, we see men mending and casting their nets. When Jesus comes walking down the road. Two of them, immediately drop their nets and follow him. They saw their opportunity. The waiting was over.

There is another story of a fisherman who stopped fishing. Not long ago, near a highway bridge several boats were scattered about in the lake where they were having the Annual Bass Catchers Classic fishing tournament. In the middle of the day, while the tournament was in progress, a funeral procession came by on the bridge. Everybody just kept on fishing except for one fisherman, who put his fishing pole down, stood up, removed his hat and remained still. He remained in that pose until the funeral procession had passed. A nearby fisherman happened to see this and was impressed at how respectful the man had been, so he cranked up his boat and pulled up beside the other man’s boat. "Howdy. I saw how considerate you were toward that funeral procession, pausing and standing like that. I wish I had been as thoughtful." The other man replied, "I reckon it's the least I could do. After all, we'd been married for nearly 30 years."

It’s hard to believe that Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John, those sons of Zebedee, were willing to leave all they loved and knew for nearly thirty years to follow Jesus. There is a beautiful fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio, in the Sistine Chapel of The Vatican that paints the picture. It portrays Jesus calling Andrew and his brother Simon Peter. They are in the foreground, kneeling and receiving Jesus’ blessing. In the background we see where two mountains intersect into a valley where the Sea of Capernaeum runs through. It’s very European-looking. They look more like the hills of France or Germany, than the Holy Land. There are over a hundred witnesses watching the event. They are dressed in vibrant colored robes, men and women alike. Interesting enough, most of them have turned their heads away. They seem to be most skeptical. They look like they are whispering, huddling together, pointing. As if to say, “Who is this man?” Andrew and Peter know. They are the optimists and they have connected Jesus as the one who would set them free from their current oppressors, the Romans. They drop their career; their livelihood and follow him. Jesus came from the east just as the Messiah would in the future. Jesus preaches the need to repent. Just like the Prophets did in the past. He had validity of being the “One” and they didn’t want this one to get away. They were set on catching everything Jesus had to say. Andrew and Peter have long beards. They’re not young boys. They can make up their own minds and by the looks of it, they already did. They dropped everything to go do a little fishing of a different sort. Later, in the background of the same painting, there is Jesus on the shore calling James and John, the Sons of Zebedee in the same way. Perhaps it was one thing Jesus said that caught their attention. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”; A different translation says, “I will make you fish for people.”[4] Either way, they got to keep doing what they loved. We wonder what it was like for their fathers and mothers, their kin, to watch them make this decision. By the looks of those with turned head and skeptical glances, they may have thought they were making a big mistake.
“You are a fisherman and you’re throwing it all away.

Sometimes God calls us in the boat or on the shore in the same way. He says, “Follow me.” Have you ever had that feeling that God was calling you to leave everything you knew to follow His will? Others look on and think differently. You can’t go by that. You must follow your heart and sometimes you must do it immediately. Some call it being impulsive. The Gospel according to Matthew is about the joy that comes from following our Lord, “immediately” when the wind changes direction. Like the fisherman we must look for the signs. Perhaps this is the moment of procession, when the Holy Spirit moves across your bow and around your stern. Some may choose to stand up and respond to something they have neglected for years while others keep on sitting.

Several members of our church today are called to areas that may seem foreign to them. Maybe it’s like that for those members who want to join the Vestry. Perhaps it’s like that for those who are serving at the altar or preparing the altar on Sundays; or to join a hospitality team, serving coffee and refreshments; Maybe it’s like that when asked to be an usher or a greeter; or to lead a new program that reaches out to people; maybe it is as simple as saying hello to a visitor and making them feel welcome. Maybe this is your moment, when all your life you’ve been wishing, to meet the Lord, while doing a little fishing.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Isaiah 9:1-4
[3] Judges 4:1 “Story of Barak & Deborah”
[4] NIV, Matt. 4:19

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