A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Follow Me! -- A Homily for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saint Matthew 4:12-25 (especially vv. 18-22)

While walking 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. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

“Follow me…” Christ our Lord has already met these men as John and Andrew were disciples of Saint John the Baptizer. They have heard John declare to them that this is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Now Jesus comes up to them and calls them to be His disciples. They drop everything and follow Him then and there.

“…and I will make you fishers of men.”

In the Walt Disney film Finding Nemo there is a climactic moment when Nemo is caught in the fishermen’s net. He urges the other fish to swim down, all together, so that the net cannot pull them in. He does this so that they can live. For these fish, being caught means they will be taken out of water and die. Not so with you!

Jesus here speaks to the apostles about being fishers of men. But the verb He uses speaks of the fish being caught alive. You see, being caught by our Lord is actually a rescue from the cruel waters of this world. He pulls you into the boat of His Church and you continually swim in the baptismal waters of new and everlasting life! You are not like Nemo who would have been caught and died with the other game fish. You are a redeemed creature with a new chance on life – in fact, it is not a chance! It is a sure and certain gift!

Our loving Lord has used His apostles and generation upon generation of pastors to stretch out the nets of the Gospel in their preaching and in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. And by His grace, you have been caught alive in those nets, so that you may live forever!

Our Lord used Saint Andrew immediately. Before He even issued this call, when Andrew met Jesus, he went and told his brother that they had found the Christ! Andrew evangelizes his brother Simon Peter, and in the end, it is Peter who becomes the great apostle. Andrew fades into the background. But he didn’t mind. Andrew simply witnessed about Jesus to his brother, and became a fisher of men.

While Jesus is speaking to His apostles about their ministry of gathering people in the saving nets of the Means of Grace, it applies to you too! As you speak with your family and friends, you can tell them the Gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for them, or you can avoid it and let them be swept away in the raging currents of the world’s water. You can direct them where to find Jesus – in His Holy Gifts in His Church – or you can neglect their spiritual health and let them remain lost with no rudder, compass, or safe harbor.

Pastor Truelsen and I have been sent by the Lord to be fishers of men here at Saint John’s. And yet, we do not work alone. You are placed by God in your vocations to be living witnesses, to encourage others as fellow rescued fish in Christ’s boat.

So how are you doing? Have you latched on to every opportunity? Not in the least. Not one of us has been a great and powerful example of fishing for men. We more often try to be like Nemo and swim away from the fisherman – but the fishing boat we are trying to escape is God’s rescue – His Church! We try to save ourselves from our Savior! How ridiculous is that?!

Thanks be to God that we do not drown in those raging waters outside! In His mercy, our Lord and Master is a patient Fisherman! He watches as we try to slip away and dive overboard again and again. But He constantly is casting His nets to rescue us and return us to His Church. He never gives up when we persistently try to escape His salvation; instead, His determination and resolve are constant. Jesus does not want any fish stories about “the one that got away,” He desires to catch us all!

What joy we have in our loving Savior, who constantly rescues us. In spite of our attempts to escape, He still loves us and showers His mercy and forgiveness upon us. And there is no legal limit on how many He may catch. He desires all to be saved. So He sends His Spirit to cast those nets that even more may be rescued.

“Come with me if you want to live!” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character warned the boy he came to save in the film Terminator 2. In a far more urgent, more significant, more eternal way, our Lord speaks similar words: “Follow Me!” Indeed, He is saying, “Come with me if you want to live!”

Only in real life, you are not the one deciding to live. In the movie, John Conner forms a relationship with the Terminator and places his trust in him. He fights at his side. Not so with you! You are not the one deciding to trust or join forces with the Savior. It is the Holy Spirit calling you to faith and using Christ’s sacraments and preached Gospel to bring you to following Jesus. He blesses you with being caught alive and saved in Christ’s boat. The fish don’t decide to jump into the boat with the call: “Come with me if you want to live!” Instead, as we stubbornly attempt to swim away, we are caught by our Lord. As He places us safely in the font of saving waters, He speaks kindly to us, “Follow Me!” And by the Spirit’s work, we do.

Do we need to drop everything, and leave family and our jobs? No, that is not the point of this morning’s Gospel. We see from elsewhere in Scripture that James and John do not abandon their father; Zebedee is with hired hands as far as their business. Their mother is around too. Once again, Jesus shows a picture of priorities. In faith, their new vocation as disciples came first. Serving the Lord was more important than making a lot of money. Serving others was more important than remaining in their home town for the rest of their lives.

How quickly and willingly do we jump up when our Lord bids us, “Follow Me”? It’s more than saying, “Be baptized.” To follow Jesus can mean clearly showing His love, mercy, and forgiveness in what you say and do in your vocations. It might mean changing your vocation. It might mean that a boy or two in this congregation start seriously considering a life as a pastor serving in the Office of the Holy Ministry. It might mean a boy or girl here deciding to attend a Lutheran university and becoming a parochial school teacher. It might mean picking up your roots and moving to a new opportunity, or it might mean staying in one place for 70 years! Whatever the case may be, it means that the Lord is first and foremost in your life, and serving others goes hand in hand with that. It means setting aside any selfish motives.

You know as well as I that we are no good at this. From the person who says, “I’d rather die than live anywhere other than Lanesville,” to the youth who can’t wait to get to college and move away, if our thoughts, words, and deeds are to serve our own wants and needs then we fail. We are not following Him.

But – you guessed it – the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance, and our dear Savior renews us. He absolves us of our guilt and cleanses us from our selfish sin. He drowns Old Adam again and raises up the New Creature who once again is called to “Follow Me!”

This morning Jesus is using His lowly Fisher-of-men servants to rescue you once again. He calls out to you even now: “Follow Me!” Dear friends in Christ, drop what you’re doing. Come be nourished at His altar, that you may be forgiven and renewed to live a life following Him! Amen.

No comments: