I know it’s very hip right now to complain about the RCL, but SERIOUSLY. Why must we read the same story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew from John, and then Matthew in sequential weeks? Is the RCL just trolling preachers now?!
This, then, is part 2 of my apparent series on Jesus Calls Him Some Disciples. I later repurposed a lot of this for a talk I gave on the boat we rode on the Sea of Galilee. My pilgrim group was riding with a group from Texas, and another group from Brazil. Everyone was kind, and no one threw anything at me, but some of those folks were definitely confused as to why I was preaching at them.
Rev. Megan L. Castellan
January 26, 2020
Epiphany 3, Year A
Murder mysteries! There’s a formula. Highly quirky individual, with a specialized set of skills, but that enables them to SOLVE MURDER. Monk has OCD, House is a misanthrope, Sherlock has a crazy memory thing, Jessica Fletcher writes mysteries, and the UK has all number of quirky detective folks. Miss Marple’s thing Is that she’s an old lady! But all that comes together to help them magically solve all the mysteries.
In today’s gospel, we start out with bad news. John the Baptist has been arrested, and so Jesus retreats out of Nazareth, fearing that Herod will also come after him. He ends up in Capernaum.
This is a little bit strange—Capernaum isn’t a big city. And there were major cities around, like Tiberius and Sepphoris. But Jesus didn’t go to one of them. Capernaum wasn’t known for being a major trading destination—it was known for having nearby warm springs, where the fish would congregate during the winter. So the fishermen who worked the Sea of Galilee would winter there, to make their job easier. That’s Capernaum’s deal—winter fish.
So, this may explain why Jesus keeps tripping over Simon and Andrew, then James and John, as he’s out walking. Capernaum is the hangout of fisherfolk. And, it’s night time , or close to it, when he comes across them. Fishermen only worked at night because the fish couldn’t see well enough to avoid the nets in the darkness.
All of which is to say, the sort of casual “Jesus was taking a nice afternoon stroll, accidentally gained some disciples” tone of the story is somewhat misleading. There are a series of really intentional choices happening here that Jesus is making. He goes to Capernaum for his new home; he goes out walking at an odd time when fishermen are at work. And lo, he comes upon some fishermen, whom he asks to follow him.
There are times when we sense a call from God, and our first response is “Well, this makes no sense at all.” We assume that we are ill-equipped, unprepared, and do not have the skills to do what God is calling us to.
This is not helped by the stories of saints in the past, where oftentimes we talk of them as if they gave up all they had to follow God—making a clean break with one life in order to start entirely afresh. That they gave up their personalities to conform to some ideal of cookie-cutter goodness. But the truth is, God’s calls to us are as varied as we are. And in God’s economy, nothing is ever lost. The talents and gifts God gives to us in one time of our lives generally are called upon as we continue to seek after the path Christ leads us down.
Had Jesus wanted learned scholars for disciples, he could have found them. Had he wanted skilled politicians, great communicators, or excellent networkers, he could have found those. He intentionally went and found basic fishermen because he wanted fishermen. And in turn, over the course of the gospels, we see Peter, Andrew, James and John grow into exactly what Christ calls them to be.
It is easy to wish to be other than what we are; to worry that we aren’t enough to carry out the mission Christ has given to us. That we don’t have enough people, enough talent, enough resources, or enough know-how to be able to do the job. But that is forgetting that Christ knows exactly who and what we are. Jesus isn’t dumb. Christ knows exactly what we have, and what we can do when he calls us. And so we needn’t be afraid to follow that call when it comes.
Christ comes to meet us exactly where and how we are, to call us into service—not so we will stay there, but so we can be called into the walk of faith. But Christ calls each of us, knowing exactly who we are when he does. Jesus knew Peter was a hothead. Jesus even knew Paul had a tendency to make passive-aggressive asides in his speeches. But through the grace of God, each of us has a role to fill in the reign of God, and so Jesus calls each of us to bring our full selves to that task, even as we are fully known and cherished.
It is as we bring our full selves that we can follow God’s call–the parts we are proud of and the parts we aren’t so proud of. Because our full selves are what God needs to patch up our world.