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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


22nd January 2006

Fr David Shepherd

Epiphany 3

And Jesus said to them, ĎFollow me and I will make you fishers of men.í Mk. 1.17

If youíve been to Aldeburgh youíll know that you can still by freshly landed fish on the beach straight from the North Sea, cheaper and much fresher than from the fish counter in the supermarket. You may not be able to for much longer as we were told that the local council wants to clear the beach of fishermen on the inevitable health and safety grounds. Also there isnít much left of the North Sea fishing fleet and not many fish left either. Sadly that ancient way of life is coming to an end, that hard way of life that inspired the music of Benjamin Britten. Not for much longer will fishermen make the 25-mile round trip from the harbour down the Alde to a point only a few yards across the shingle from whence they set sail.

Fishermen feature in todayís Gospel describing Jesusí calling of the disciples. Itís one of those famous passages that we all heard so many times and yet somehow whenever we hear it brings us up sharp, it reminds us of what we are about as Christian people. Most of you, like me, will have been reminded of the old Sunday school chorus, ĎI will make you fishers of mení. We too are called to follow and given the missionary task of fishing for human souls rather than the Dover Soles you can buy on Aldeburgh beach.

Markís is the oldest Gospel and the most pithy and direct. It earthed in reality. Todayís passage begins by referring to Johnís arrest. To proclaim Godís message is costly it has consequences. John Baptist ended up in prison. For Jonah his reluctance to accept Godís unwelcome call to preach to Nineveh got him into a fishy scrape, inside the belly of a great fish.

News of Johnís arrest, coming to Jesus shortly after his baptism by John, brought him to a moment of crisis. Now was the time, Godís time to proclaim the Gospel. ĎThe time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near: repent and believe the Gospel.í

For Simon and Andrew, for James and John the kingdom of God came near in the person of Jesus. In Jesus, Godís coming reign as king draws very close, too close for comfort. St. Paul, believing wrongly as it turned out, that Jesus was about to return at any moment to inaugurate that new reign, got to the heart of the matter. The call of Jesus goes to the very core of our nature. It has consequences for our sex lives, our grieving, our emotions, our possessions and our dealings with the world. Sex, family, death, money, power, the search for happiness, and no wonder the call is controversial, divisive and unpopular. We are called to do a u-turn, speeding down the open road we are to turn about in a new direction, in the way of Jesus Christ who is the way the truth and the life. Thatís what is means to repent and believe in the good news.

Such was the force of Jesusí personality, (his is the person of God, the second person of the Trinity to use the language of the C4th), that the fishermen íimmediately left their nets and followed him. í They were given the apostolic task of fishing for people. We might imagine them simply leaving everything behind and following Jesus. That picture somehow stays with us from Sunday school days. If we think about it was not quite like that in the Gospels. There are other passages describing fishing, the stilling of the storm, Peter walking on the lake, the post Crucifixion fishing trip. No doubt the disciples response was both physical and spiritual, the left and they were changed, they went to spend time with Jesus. In leaving their nets, Simon and Andrew left all that ensnares in human life. In leaving their father in the boat with the hired men, James & John left human ties of family and business. Changed and changing they returned to their trade to live.

The key is that they were called by Jesus to change and to follow, to be with him. They were called to bring others to Jesus or to bring him to them. We too are called to change, to follow, to be with Jesus and to bring others to him.

Our lives are complex. In life we can often feel like fish caught in a net. As Christian disciples we canít avoid lifeís complexities. We too live in the world of sex, family, death, money, power and the search for happiness. As Christian disciples we are called to follow Jesus through lifeís complexities and to invite others to follow. By being with Jesus, in worship, in prayer in bible reading and in fellowship one with another the way becomes clearer, we are released from the net. For Simon, Andrew, James and John discipleship was not easy. It led to the Cross of Christ, yet also to the glories of the resurrection.

And Jesus said to them, ĎFollow me and I will make you fishers of men.í

Amen

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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at webmaster@stmatthewsoxhey.org.uk Last updated 22/01/06 19:30 Author: David Shepherd