Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany

‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’

One of our many activities on our holiday was fishing.
We found a great spot outside of Tuncurry where there was a little jetty on to the river.
There was a little park with sheltered seating and tables.

It was Ivy who was fishing, not me.
It is not something I have ever really enjoyed, or done that much.

My grandparents were very keen flyfishers.
There house was filled with books and pictures of fish.
They had many rods, and boxes of fly tying equipment.
It was something they did as a family often.
This was part of my childhood, going to rivers and watching my grandparents, uncles, brother standing in the middle of a river, wearing waders, fishing.

Flyfishing was my grandparents great love.
To them it was the best escape from work and domestic life.
It was more than a hobby, it was passion.

For Simon and Andrew, and James and John, it was more than a passion.
It was their life.
This was what they did.
This is how they fed themselves and their families.
This is how they earned their living.

It would have been a 6 day a week job, early rising, late finishing.
The sea would be something they feared and respected.
The sea was their environment.
Their understanding of the world, the place in it, and their understanding of God would all be interpreted in terms of the sea.
The sea would dominate their being.

When Jesus shows up at the shore,
he understands how their environment and work dominates their being.

He uses their world to ask them for their lives.

‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’

By asking them to follow him,
Jesus is asking them to give everything they know away.

He asking them to leave the environment that has made them who they are.
He is asking them to give up their livelihoods.
He is asking them to leave who they are.

Yet this is not all about abrupt change and disconnection.

He tells them they are to keep using their skills, but in a new way.

‘and I will make you fish for people.’ 

This simple sentence shows how Jesus understood humanity, the world, and how we are.

Jesus saw the men and knew them.
He understood their lives and their way of being.
He knew how to speak with them and knew what kind of language and images to use.

So while “I will make you fish for people” may seem quite a basic statement,
if not a bizarre image, in a few small words,
Jesus is able to speak directly to these men’s entire life and experience.

Now, with my lack of interest in fishing, this call would not work for me.
Jesus would have to come up with something different.
It is not an invitation I would be that keen on following up.

I dare say it would be the same for many of us.

This all tells us the importance of context,
environment and circumstance when we speak with others about Jesus.

We all change the way we speak, the words we use, the tone, pitch, pace, all those things when we speak with different types of people
Think for example the way you speak to a little baby.
This is different to how you speak to the woman at the checkout at the IGA.
You may be saying exactly the same thing, expressing the same ideas and concepts, for example “Hello, how is your day,” but they will be different.

It gets even more subtle.

The way we speak to people in church will be different to how we speak to people outside of church.
The way we speak to Christians will be different to how we speak to people of different or no faiths.

And so it is when we speak of the Gospel to people.

Jesus spoke into these men's lives,
he spoke of their experience and used that to invite them on a wonderful journey,
one that would change their lives,
and would change the world.

When we speak to people and invite them on a journey that will change their lives,
and the lives of those around them,
when we invite people to church,
to meet Christ in the word and sacrament,
we need to speak into their lives and experience.

That will look and sound different each and every time.
The message doesn't change, it is eternal, but the way we speak and be it will.

So for each encounter we have, the way we speak of God will be different each time.
God doesn’t become different,
we don’t become different,
 but our way of expressing God’s love for us, and for those we are talking to is nuanced.

As Jesus spoke about fishing to fishermen,
we too are to speak about what we observe and understand in our environments when we speak about God.

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