Monday, January 3, 2011

When God Calls-Matthew 4:13-19

Matthew 4:13-19

13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
   on the road by 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.’
17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

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 lake—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’

When one has discerned a call from God the details are not always clear. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew they were fishers. They knew and understood how to make their livelihood by fishing. When their worst day ever of fishing occurred they grew frustrated. Then Jesus, who was not a fisher but a carpenter turned itinerant preacher, intervened, telling them to put their empty net on the other side of the boat, not a huge distance. Suddenly the empty net was full and teeming with fish. Clearly Jesus had intervened not only by filling the net but initially by preventing the catching of fish after a whole day of fishing in order to make a point. Jesus uses what these men are familiar with - their own vocation - fishing. He would make them fishers of people, from now on they would catch something that matters even more than their livelihood. 

I'll be preaching on this text from Matthew 4 on January 23 in just a few weeks from now in Church of the Covenant, a union church of a Lutheran (ELCA) Church and a Presbyterian (PCUSA) located in Grafton, WV. I'm heading down on Saturday to spend two weeks emerged in the context of a small Appalachian town parish to be immersed in the distinct Appalachian content of West Virginia, a place I hold near and dear to my heart as I was born in South Charleston and have roots in WV going back to the early 1800s. 

My hostess for this upcoming immersion is the Rev. Jacq Campbell who has promised to show me some of the many exciting contexts of rural and small town ministry in the area. And she has invited me to preach on my last Sunday there.

My preliminary thoughts are to connect the idea of call and vocation (something near and dear to Martin Luther and John Calvin--the respective "fathers" of Lutherans and Presbyterians) with the lives of the parishioners. In what ways does their own vocation relate to their call to serve God. What illustrations would connect the gospel and evangelism to their lives from their own livelihoods/careers/vocations? If Jesus uses the image of catching fish and catching people, what might he use to illustrate what you are doing as a tool and an illustration for what you might do for God.

I hope to incorporate some technology in this sermon that will include the actual voices and images (perhaps video interview clips) of different members in the congregation reflecting on this issue and sharing their thoughts, as parts of this sermon. I have no idea if the church has projection equipment but I think I may be able to borrow some from the synod office. 


  1. I love that image, as I can imagine their frustration of an unproductive day of work. I for one do not enjoy fishing mostly because I'm aparently not very good at it. While the thrill of the catch can be exciting, not catching fish is frankly boring. For me though the beauty of this passage is that Jesus speaks there language. He uses there vocation to get there attention. Fishermen, become fishers of men. I think God speaks to us all in our own language, and we as pastors need to speak the language of our parisioners.

    One of the reasons I'm so excited about this class is hearing/seeing how more experienced people approach there sermon.

  2. My first thought is that the beginning passage is typical of Matthew highlighting how Jesus fulfills what has been prophesied. This may be because I've been studying Matthew's baptism of Jesus. You could also juxtapose Jesus' command to follow him with his rejection of Satan's temptation and call for Christ to follow him (Satan).

  3. Thanks guys! I also love this quote that Scott posted on Facebook today from Greg Heigel in a letter to the editor of the December 2010 Messenger Magazine: ‎"When Jesus said lose yourselves and follow me, maybe that means go from person to person, standing in their shoes, until you have lost your shoes and spend all your time in bare feet, hoping the person you disagree with will wash them." In this day of polarization politically and religiously this comment speaks volumes. It also seems particularly suited to celebrating the relationship of this ecumenical parish that chose to walk together while following Jesus.

  4. It also connects with the epistle lesson for that week 1 Cor. 1:10-23:

    Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
    11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.
    12 What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ."
    13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
    14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
    15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name.
    16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
    17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
    18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
    19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
    20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
    21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
    22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,
    23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
    (1Co 1:10-23 NRS)