Rev. Michael F. Bailey
January 22, 2017
Matthew 4:12-23 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Today, we continue in our New Year’s sermon series entitled, “Reset." The idea is taken from the fact that some computer programs and electronic devices have a “re-set” button. When you press the button, the program or device returns to its original manufacturer’s specification.
And with our openness to God’s Holy Spirit Presence, we too, can have our lives re-set in a new year, to God our Maker’s desires for us and this is Good News!
Sometimes though, as we live life, life itself, in circumstances beyond our control, seems to re-set, in ways we neither seek nor desire. You know this: a company merges or re-structures and we’re suddenly um-employed; a relationship heads south and ends; we receive a dire lab report. And for my family, recently, a death occurred. The best of all is even in the un-controllable resets of life, God is with us! My father’s funeral was last Sunday, and the days spent with him prior to that were holy, tender times.
And how much God has been with my family in the form of this congregation’s caring church staff that carried on ministry seamlessly. And how much God has been with us in the condolences, cards and memorials many of you have offered. God is with us in life re-sets.
God is with us in the re-sets of our civic life together, as well. I’ve been in the pulpit since President Carter. I’ve prayed for every president since regardless of whether I voted for or agreed with them or not. The Bible doesn’t ask us to pray only for leaders we agreed with; it doesn’t tell us to not pray for those we disagree with. We celebrate having differing opinions in our church, but I will be praying for President Trump and urge you to do the same. We can be united in this act regardless of our perspective.
Our series though is more about the re-sets God can and will bring about in our lives through our openness to the life-shaping and life-changing Presence of the Holy Spirit. You see, when we seek to become as God wants us to be, God’s Holy Spirit helps us get there; the Holy Spirit helps us achieve God’s desires for our lives.
Today, we seek to become open to the Holy Spirit reset our life of of “inviting” others to experience the grace, freedom, love, joy and direction found in life in Christ and his body, the Church.
In our passage we note first that all inviting to Jesus starts with Jesus. At this early point in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus has been baptized by John, affirmed by the voice of God as being God’s Son, overcome the temptations in the wilderness, heard that John has been arrested and now, Jesus is preaching, “repent for the Kingdom of God at hand.” As he’s walking by the Sea of Galilee, he calls to two fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” They responded. Then Jesus invited James and John, who also responded and followed him.
The origin of the invitation to live as Christ and in Christ is centered in Christ original invitation then, to the fisherman and today, to us; to you and to me.
Without qualification Jesus invited then and invites still today. Fishing was hard work done at night, away from home, and something frowned on in those days. It was done by cursing men like Peter along with day laborers; it was taxed up to 40 percent and middlemen took most of the rest of the money, making it an economically marginal profession, even when the fishing was good. And yet, without a litmus test of knowing how well they kept the Law and the covenant; without knowing the quality of their home life and relationships; with no knowledge of their education or income or lack thereof, Jesus invited them.
And Jesus does so today; Jesus invites all to follow him and that includes you and me.
Pete was born in the Northeast to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother and was raised with no religious practice at all. He had the blessing though of marrying a mainline Protestant girl from the South. An Ivy Leaguer, he was and is a “high flyer” in government service. One day he came by my office, describing a “yearning” in his heart to learn more about Jesus and Christianity. Through many conversations and several books, notably C. L. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Pete accepted Christ’s invitation. I was blessed to baptize him and receive him into the church. He responded to the invitation of Christ. Christ invites still. Have you responded? Today, in prayer can be the day and it will re-set your life! If this is something you’d like to have a conversation with any of the pastors about, know that we’d cherish such an opportunity.
However, the invitation of Christ isn’t all there is in our passage: the invitation is given with a directive, to invite others; as Jesus put it, “to become fishers of people.”
For me, one of the greatest illustrations of this in the entire Bible is Andrew.
Andrew is often over-shadowed by his brash brother, Peter. But he is the one the Bible records how, after he heard and responded to Christ’s invitation by the seashore that day, who went forth and invited others, often going the second mile of bringing them to Christ.
As a matter of fact, as John records the calling of the first disciples, Andrew alone heard the invitation of Christ first and then went and shared the invitation with his brother Peter and brought him to Jesus. What a lesson! When we share the invitation and bring someone to Christ and His church, they may become a Kingdom leader like Peter!
Elaine was raised in an almost nomadic construction household in the North West. Her childhood was impoverished much of the time. Her home frighteningly dysfunctional and at times marked by violence. Her family had nothing to do with the Christian faith. Any yet, along the way, different Christian neighbors invited her to supper or VBS. She saw a different way of being family; a loving way of families praying together and as she puts it, “where the father wasn’t someone to be feared." Those invitations had an affect. She came to the faith in her late teens. Today, she is a UM minister and Dean Elaine Heath of Duke Divinity School through invitation and response became a great servant of the church. We never know what God will do with those we invite to Christ and his church.
But more, in the feeding of the 5000, do you remember who brought the little boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus? Andrew.
When we invite someone and bring them to Christ and His Church, we never know what wonderful Kingdom work Christ may do with and through them, what they have and who they are.
And in John 12, Andrew broke all prejudices, barriers and cultural boundaries. He brought some Gentiles, Greeks in this case, to Jesus. And we gentiles today are grafted into the Promises of God. When we dare to break down all cultural barriers and boundaries in our inviting and bringing to Christ and his church, the Kingdom of God, which knows no barriers and boundaries, breaks into this world.
So, let’s join in prayer, that each of us, this day, hear anew Jesus invitation to all, to each of us. Let us pray that our response to His invitation resets our lives; our priorities, our worldview, our relationships. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit this day re-sets and renews our life of inviting and bringing others to Christ and His church. Let us respond to the Spirit by thinking of friends, relatives, associates at work and play as well as neighbors who aren’t in the life in Christ. Share with them what CUMC has meant to you in your journey; share with them you’re a work in progress, not someone fully arrived in the faith; bring them with you to this loving, accepting place to become a pilgrim. Bring them, like Andrew did! Our Lord will be pleased and in his time some of them will respond and the Bible says all of the angels in heaven will rejoice.
Discussion Questions for January 22: Inviting
Share with your group about a time when circumstances beyond your control “reset” your life.
Share with your group when you sensed Jesus inviting you to follow him.
Share with your group a commitment you’re willing to make regarding following Christ more closely in this new year.
Share with your group a commitment to share the invitation of christ and bring others to him (as Andrew did,) through his body, the church.