Be Fishers of Men

Be Fishers of Men

Mark 1:14-20

We are ordinary people who go about our daily tasks. We are ordinary people who are called to love Jesus Christ. And now we are asked by him to go out into the world in his name and to bring others into that love as well.

[automatically transcribed]

The name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This is a very short, but very interesting gospel, because it teaches us about the way that Jesus calls us, about the model that God uses to call us. Now, if we look at how other teachers and other rabbis over the time called disciples to them, well, they didn’t really do that. They didn’t say to people, follow me. Become my disciple. They’d set themselves up as a teacher, as a rabbi, and they would go into the synagogue, and they would go into the marketplaces, and they would teach.

And people were listening to what they said. And if they agreed with them, if they went to the synagogue, marketplace and they heard the teacher and they agreed with them, then they would follow that teacher. The followers would go and listen to different teachers, and then they would choose who they might follow based on what they were teaching.

It’s a very greek way of doing it. It’s argument. If I can persuade you through argument, through reason, to follow me, then that’s how it worked. It’s an exercise of intellect and of reason, and that’s how they would get people to follow them. That was very much the model of gathering disciples and of gathering follows.

People would listen. They would think. They’d reason, and then they would decide to follow. They’d go away. They’d think about it.

But Jesus does something different. Jesus comes and asks people to follow him. Jesus issues us an invitation. God comes to us and asks us to follow him. And who does God choose to follow him?

Well, the teachers and the rabbis of the time would attempt to persuade politicians and important people, people with money, to follow them. Because if those people with money, if those people with influence followed them, then their star would rise. They would chart those political waters. So they would go to the markets where rich people shopped. They would go to the synagogues where the great Pharisees were who could help them in their political career.

But Jesus, who does Jesus choose to call to him? Well, of course we know that Jesus did the same thing, didn’t he? He always went to the important people. He went to the rich.

Oh, no, no. Definitely didn’t. I’ve got that wrong, haven’t I? Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus called straightforward, ordinary, normal, everyday people, to follow him.

He didn’t try to find people with influence, with money, with power. He didn’t try to chart those political waters. He wasn’t very clever about those earthly things, if you like. He wasn’t sneaky. He wasn’t political in that way.

He just asked ordinary people to follow him. And he asked people who were doing their everyday work. He asked fishermen who were about their work. They were casting their nets, just getting on with the everyday task of living. They weren’t trying to engage in any political uprising.

They weren’t trying to engage in becoming more important in the community that they were living in. They weren’t trying to do things. They were just doing their job. And this is how Jesus continues to call us today. He calls us in our everyday life.

He calls us to follow him, believe it or not, when we’re doing our shopping in Iceland, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in Iceland, in Hayes Town, I don’t know how many times, and called on God, that’s for sure. God calls us to follow him when we’re sat at our desk. God calls us to follow him when we’re loading the washing machine. God calls us in our everyday life and in our everyday tasks. And so, as much as we know that God talks to us through scripture and through sacrament here in church, he also speaks to us, calls to us, as we do the shopping, as we sit at our computers, as we load the washing machine, as we live our lives.

But we must be alert to how and when Jesus does call, because it’s very easy to shut Jesus out when you’re getting on with the task of living your life. It’s very easy to be open to jesus when you come to church. But you must be open to that call all of the time. And one of the ways that you can do that is by being aware of how Jesus calls us. He does it with love.

Not like the teachers and the rabbis who try to reason with you, not like a politician who tries to know, if you follow me, then I will give you this. It’s not a deal. Jesus talks to you through love. He doesn’t give you a list of reasons to follow him. He doesn’t try to persuade you.

Jesus asks people to follow him. The way you know it’s right is because he will then immediately ask you to call others to him. That is the model that Jesus gives us, particularly apparent in today’s gospel. He says, follow me and I will love you. You will know the greatest love there has ever been.

And that is how Jesus continues to call us a day through love, through grace, through hope. And then, and maybe only then, may we start to go through the reasons. We may start to apply our analytical thinking to it. But Jesus calls us from deep within us to follow him.

This week I did an assembly at Dr. Triplets. I love going to Dr. Triplets. I love speaking with the children. And unlike some of the other people who come and do assemblies, I don’t do wizzy powerpoints and I don’t do songs.

I just talk. And this week I was asked to talk about calling. How does God call us? And that’s a very hard thing to talk about with children who are four, five, six, right the way up to eleven. How do you explain calling?

So I had come up with a good way of explaining how God talks to us with all of the examples in scripture of how God talks to different people, right the way from Moses all the way to Our Lady and to St. Joseph. How does he talk to people? But when I got to the school, the headmistress, Mrs. Anderson, and Mrs. Byles, said to me, Father, will you tell the children of how you were called to be a priest? I said, I haven’t prepared that. And that’s a story. I’m not sure the children.

“No, no, please tell that story now.”

Fortunately, Edmund’s no longer. My son is no longer in Dr. Triplet’s, so I could tell the story. Gavin, were you there for the assembly? I won’t ask you to remember what I said. That’s really unfair.

But Gavin was there and I told the story of how God called me in the delivery room at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.

After my son was born, Catherine had had to go off to surgery and I was left in this windowless delivery room holding Edmund for 5 hours. I really thought something had gone very badly wrong with Catherine. And I didn’t want to leave the room, I didn’t want to change anything.

I just held onto Edmund for 5 hours and I prayed like I had never prayed before. And in amongst that prayer, I recognised the love that I had for my son as I held him, the deep love that I had never experienced before. And I heard Jesus say to me, if this is the love you have for your son, imagine the love that God has for you.

And I went right back to this piece of gospel. How did those men respond? They stopped what they were doing and they followed him, which is exactly how I responded. It was an act of love. It was not an act of reasoned, analytical thinking that came next.

When I went to the vicar the following Sunday and said, God has spoken to me. God has called me. Now what? And then started a ten year journey to ordination.

Just so you know, Catherine was absolutely fine. She’d had a very normal thing. She was out of surgery in an hour or two, they’d just forgotten about me in the basement of the John Radcliffe. It was only when the nurses changed shift that they discovered that there was some bloke and his baby sitting in a delivery room. I got taken up to the ward and given a cup of tea and a biscuit. Even Catherine hadn’t been offered a cup of tea and a biscuit!

At that point, Jesus says, follow me and I will love you. Follow me and then call others to me. I will make you fishers of men. I believe very, very strongly that every single one of us has that spark of God within us, even people who are not christian. We had a school group in church this week from the De’Salis college.

And those children, there was one christian child amongst them and he was russian orthodox. He was great because he answered all of my questions. But all of the other children were Muslim, they were Sikh, they were Hindu, and they had no understanding of who we call God. And for an hour I told them what it meant to be a Christian. And I saw in each and every single one of those children that spark of God in their heart.

And I tried to communicate the love that Jesus had for them and why we believe that Jesus was the son of God and why we believe the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. For an hour they sat and they listened. These children who were between eleven and 14 year olds, and those of you who have or know children who are of that age know, they do not sit and listen for an hour to some bloke at the front of church where they’ve got to do their schoolwork and answer some questions. But they listened for an hour and you could hear a pin drop because I talked of the love that Jesus had for them and how Jesus called them. And at the end of that lesson, one of the muslim children came up to me and asked if I had a Bible, because I’d been teaching about the Bible, how it was made up, where it came from, how it speaks to us.

And I said, yes, of course I’ve got a Bible. And he asked me if he could have one. So I gave him a Bible. And in my pocket, as ever, I had a rosary. So I took the rosary out and I blessed it and I gave it to him.

And then another child and then another child and another child and another child. And before you knew it, 35 of those children had come forward and had asked for a Bible and had asked for a rosary. The fire of God’s love inside them was ignited from that spark because I had told them about the love that Jesus had for them. How Jesus calls to that spark, calls to God inside all of us. But then what?

Once you’ve done that, once you’ve accepted that Jesus is the son of God, once you have turned towards him. And remember that is what the word repent means. It means turn in the right direction to turn towards God. The first thing that Jesus calls us to is repentance. That means to turn towards God.

Once we’ve done that, then what? What is the first instruction jesus gives to the disciples? He says, follow me and I will make you fishers of men. He calls us to repentance, to turn towards God. And he calls us to bring others to his son.

What does he offer the disciples who are on one hand giving up everything to follow him? What does Jesus continue to ask us to do today? Repent and to preach the good news. That’s the task. That’s what we are called to do.

There’s no difference 2000 years later between those disciples at the edge of the sea of Galilee and us and how we respond to that call.

And listen. He doesn’t call us to elevate us. He doesn’t call us to make us special. He doesn’t call us to make us rich and influential. He calls us to service.

He calls us to serve the world, to serve one another in his name, in his love. He calls us to bring other people to that love. He calls us to do it through the food bank. He calls us to do it through being together on Sunday mornings. He calls us to do it through Thursday fun and fellowship. He calls us to do it through spanners and coffee. He calls us to do it when we say hello to somebody in the street. He even calls us to do it when we’re doing our shopping in Iceland.

He calls us to do it through smiling at one another and encouraging one another in dark times.

He calls us to service his name, to bring other people into that service.

He calls us to give us everything.

And all we have to do to receive it is say yes. To stop doing what we are doing and turn towards God and say yes. That’s all it takes.

We are ordinary people who go about our daily tasks. We are ordinary people who are called to love Jesus Christ. And now we are asked by him to go out into the world in his name and to bring others into that love as well.

So leave today and be like those disciples and say, yes, Jesus, and be fishers of men. Amen.