by The Rev’d Nancy Rowe.
Jesus was a Jewish teacher, who taught people how to live their lives in relationship with God and each other. He did this by both the words that he spoke and the example of his own life. People could not help being attracted to the promise of a life where the peace of love is at the centre.
Jesus began his formal ministry to God’s people by asking two fishermen to leave behind their fishing nets and follow him in making God’s love and values known to all. Starting with the four fishermen, Jesus’ group eventually included twelve from different walks of live, who were his core group, although there were many others, both men and women, who followed him in this journey of bringing God to all people.
When we read this story (found in Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:14-20, Luke 5:1-11), which like many stories in the Bible is pretty ‘barebones’ we are left with questions. How could men who had businesses, families, responsibilities just drop everything and follow a complete stranger? Is that what God could ask of me? If we look at these stories from our 21st century perspective, then they really don’t have a lot of meaning for us. So let’s look at the story within the context that they would have been written. The first thing that we need to know is that parchment was extremely scarce and very, very expensive. When people actually began to write down the stories (which did not happen until over 70 years after Jesus had died) they used as few words as possible and trusted that people would fill in the details from their own experience of life. We do not have those same experiences to draw on. I would like to take the liberty of fleshing out the story that will allow us to identify our story, in the stories of the calling of the first followers.
Peter and his brother Andrew had inherited their father’s fishing boat. They had helped their father from the time they were young boys, learning the trade of a fisherman, learning when and where to catch the best fish, how to mend nets and sails and even the boat. Sometimes the fish were plentiful, which was wonderful (thanks be to God), but then, that always drove the price of fish down, and sometimes fish were scarce and the sound of growling tummies and crying children filled the air. There was always the worry that a storm could destroy everything. The cost of paying the Guild master for the right to fish, and of course the ever present taxes were always the first thing that had to be payed, before even food for the family. It was a hard life, but, by and large, they were better off than most. Life had a rhythm that seemed unchanging. And then one day, a stranger began to show up in the evening, when they were sitting in the cool of the day, mending the nets, preparing things for the next day. He was a great listener and had such an air of tranquility about him, that you could not help but like him. He asked them about their work, and as their friendship grew, other fishermen began to gather around him in the evening. He had the most fabulous way of talking about God and the things that God wanted for them and all God’s children. It was new and wonderful and exciting and they could not wait to share it with their friends and families. Their new friend began to talk to them about sharing this wonderful knowledge about God and their new understanding of God working in their lives, with others throughout the countryside. They began to talk to their families, their wives, their brothers and sisters, parents and cousins about leaving the business and their young families in the care of the extended family while they followed Jesus on this undertaking, for a while. When everything had been arranged, they waited for Jesus to let them know when. Then, there came the day when Jesus appeared and said, “Come, follow me.” And they put their carefully prepared plans in place, left their old lives behind for a while and followed Jesus. And that story will be told at another time…….
“Come, follow me” is still spoken by Jesus to each of us. Come, listen to my words. Come hear the stories about how I lived my life. Come, learn how much you are loved. Come, take up the life that God created you to have. Come, share with others what you have learned. Those words have echoed throughout the centuries and the two turned into four, into twelve, into a hundred, a thousand, a million, billions. And still the call is heard “Come, follow me.”
See you at Messy Church this Wednesday. Door’s open at 5pm.