As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:16-17
Dear faithful and thankful Seed-Sowers:
It is almost Thanksgiving! I would like to thank each and everyone of you. You have touched my life and the life of my wife and family in so many gracious ways. We are blessed and we are thankful.
This weekend I am in Pittsburgh to celebrate my mentor and my spiritual director’s retirement after 47 years in ministry. What a wonderful and faithful servant the Rev. Dr. John Gray Hamilton is. “Hammy” or John followed Jesus and served in four different churches during his 47 years of ministry. Think of all of the lives he has touched and changed by sharing God’s grace and love. Think of giving over 2,000 sermons! By the way, our church heard that I wanted this Sunday off so that I could fly out to Pittsburgh and attend John’s last Sunday service. Someone purchased my airfare, another purchased my hotel, and other anonymous people donated the funds for a car rental, and meals. Imagine that: the church being the hands and feet and heart and soul of Jesus.
John Hamilton was my home-church pastor for 13 years. He was the pastor who helped me to decipher my call into ordained ministry. He followed Jesus and he taught me how to listen and follow Jesus for myself. Today that my hope and prayer, that we all listen and follow Jesus.
Our reading comes from the Gospel of Mark. Let’s pray before we begin. “Lord, Jesus, You are our Lord and Savior, You call us to come and follow You. Help us to have ears to hear, eyes to see, arms and feet ready to follow and serve wherever you call us. May your Words become life to our weary souls. Amen”
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. Mark 1:14-17
Retired minister and author, Bob Russell, told the following account to illustrate how Christians often go along with the moral pace of those around us, and that, by comparison, we feel safe since “Everyone is doing it,” therefore, we’re okay. Russell writes: Two months ago my wife and I were visiting our son Rusty and his family. One day Rusty was test-driving a foreign-made car and was frustrated because he couldn’t figure out how to change the speedometer reading from kilometers to miles. That evening he suggested we take the kids and all go out for ice cream. “We’ll need to take two cars,” he insisted, “so you and mom just follow me.” I followed him … and was surprised when a policeman whizzed up behind us with his lights flashing. I couldn’t imagine he was after me because it didn’t feel like I was speeding. And besides, I was going the exact same speed as the guy in front of me. The officer came up to my window and said, “Sir, you were going 58 miles per hour in a 45 miles per hour zone. But wait right here, I’m going to deal with the car in front of you, and I’ll be right back.” When he went to my son’s car, Rusty quivered, “Officer, I know this is going to sound like a line, but this is the first day I’ve driven this car, and I can’t figure out how to change it from kilometers to miles, so I had no idea how fast I was going. The guy behind me is my dad, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing either!”[i]
Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t really buy you much of an excuse with God, does it?
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, is put into prison. John had been baptizing people in the Jordan and calling for them to repent. Jesus continues the story line by calling the people to repentance, Jesus also calls them to believe in the Good News! This may be the only place in Scripture where we are told by Jesus to believe in the Good News. Imagine THE REAL, LIVE, GOOD NEWS is telling the people to believe in the good news! (Would have loved to be there.) Let’s go to the Greek word Jesus’ uses for “believe” is a present active imperative. In the Greek it means that this a command and the action of believing is non-stop and ongoing. To “believe” in the Greek culture was to place your trust, to rely on, to have confidence in and to put your faith in…the good news. The good news of what Jesus was saying and — not just once, but every day, every hour and every minute of every year.
Jesus is saying, “Hear the Good News! The time has come! The Kingdom of God is near. The time that God will rule and reign is right here. The time for God to have supremacy is at hand. The time has come for us to change our minds, to turn back, to turn around and to change direction is at hand.” You know how I always ask you to put yourself in the story? This is no different. Put yourself on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This Jesus character is going from boat to boat; asking people to repent, be baptized, and follow Him. I propose a preposterous idea: maybe today you are hearing Jesus calling out to you: turn around, come back, change your mind, repent, be baptized and follow. Is this the GOOD NEWS you are hoping for? Could it be that Jesus wants us to put our trust in Him? To have confidence and faith in Him? And not just today but for every single day of the rest of our lives?
RADICAL CALL — FOLLOW ME
In the days of Jesus, we need to understand how amazingly radical the call of Jesus really was. During the days of Jesus, the Rabbis (the priests of the synagogue) would come to town and choose the best and brightest of the boys to become their disciples.They would take them and train and educate them. The boys who were not chosen would go into their father’s businesses. We can assume that Peter and Andrew, James and John and the rest of the disciples were not among the best and brightest because they were working in their father’s businesses. Imagine the scene: Jesus comes walking along the shore and calls out to them sitting in their boats, “FOLLOW ME.” The Greek word for “follow” is “opiso” — “come after or come behind.” Put yourself here into this story. You have grown up in a little fishing village called Bethsaida. You’ve made a trip or two to Jerusalem, but most likely never traveled very far from home. You have no hope of doing anything greater than working in your father’s fishing boat.
Listen again to Jesus words … “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
What a radical message! Let me tell you how I heard Jesus say, “Follow me.” “Hey, hey, you! Dave Peters, I see you. Working in the family business selling tires! You. Yes, you! FOLLOW ME.” At first, all I thought Jesus wanted was for me to shape up a little. And then a little more. And then a whole lot more! Here’s what I want to say to you today: Let Christ rule and reign in your life. Repent. Turn around, change your mind, your heart and your direction. Believe and keep on believing. Never stop having trust and faith in this Good News! What a radical call! “Come follow me, (insert your name)! I will make you fishers of people!”
What happens? These untrained, uneducated fishermen follow Jesus! They had never traveled very far. They had never talked about much other than what was happening in their fishing village. And along comes Jesus; their world is turned upside down. History tells us that John became the Bishop of Ephesus, Peter went to Rome, and Andrew went as far as the borders of Russia! By following Jesus, their hearts were enlarged enough to take in the whole world— not just the four corners of Bethsaida.
Immediately the men left everything and followed Jesus. Take note: one of the radical demands of a radical call by Jesus is that you must respond with a radical obedience. (“Immediately” means at once, without delay, without hesitation.)
So What? What a year we’ve had so far. I don’t know about you but 2019 has not been an easy year, it’s had some ups and downs. I’m ready to begin a new decade, are you? 2020–here we come!
As we begin to study this new series, I want us to hear the words of Jesus as if they were spoken to us. I want us to hear them with new ears fresh every morning. “(YOUR NAME,) follow me.”
Remember Bob and Rusty Russell? Rusty had no idea as to how fast he was driving…but Bob—Bob knew exactly how fast his car was going: 58 in a 45. Bob had decided to follow Rusty. That’s our choice each and every day, are we going to follow Rusty or are we going to follow Jesus? The world behind me, the cross before me…sounds like a catchy tuna–I mean, tune.
Maybe for this series, you can go and get a new journal. Call it your “SEED OF FAITH GOOD BYE 2019” journal. Let’s study all the times Jesus (the good news) calls us to FOLLOW Him! It’s going to be another great series. I’m praying for you. Kiss the wave.
Let me explain, this is a famous quote by Charles H. Spurgeon. “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the ROCK OF AGES!” I remember wrestling with my call to go into ordained ministry. I went to see Pastor John. We met over a series of time. We prayed. He checked in with me and listened to me. I remember one day, I knew God was calling me into full-time ministry. No doubt about it. John looked at me and said, “Okay, I’ve been waiting for this day. Dave, if you can do anything else–then go do that but if you must answer this call–then know that it will break your heart.” I said, “I know. I must follow.” John has been there for me for the past 22 years of my ordained ministry, for my 3 years of seminary, and for my many other years when I served as youth director. He was wise and he was right. Following the call of Christ has broken my heart…but in a good way.
The world behind me, the cross before me. I have decided to follow Jesus. Go ahead, get that journal out.
See You Sunday …
God loves you and so do I,