Sermon: Epiphany 3 RCL A – “Purpose”

That summer, no one living along the bayou could catch any fish except old Boudreaux. Knowing Boudreaux, the game warden thought something might be up, so he asked him how he did it. Boudreaux told the game warden that he would take him fishing the next day and show him. Once they got to the middle of the lake, Boudreaux took out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it in the water. After the explosion fish started floating to the surface. Boudreaux took out a net and started scooping them up. When he had them all gathered, he looked back at the game warden who was just sitting there with his mouth opened, too stunned to even speak. Finally getting his wits back, he started hollering at Boudreaux, “You can’t fish like that. It is so illegal that I’m hauling you into jail this very moment.” Boudreaux sat there for a moment, then he took out another stick of dynamite, lit it, and handing it to the game warden asked, “You gonna fish or you gonna talk?”

Boudreaux is a bit like that goofy poodle I had that I told you about last week: not a lot going on upstairs, but every now and then, he shows a spark of genius.

Today we read about Peter and some of the other fellas out fishing, but I’m guessing they weren’t prepared for what happened either. How their lives could be so radically changed and so quickly. Perhaps, as they were hauling in the days catch, they were making plans for a family outing following Synagogue on Saturday or thinking how they needed to renegotiate the price of fish due to the increased fishing tax. Whatever they were thinking, I can’t imagine that it included hearing the words, “Follow me,” and then taking off after some itinerant rabbi.

When you consider those events, can you imagine doing the same? The Gospel said that they “immediately” followed him. One second you are a fisherman and the next you are a disciple, crisscrossing the country, living rough, snatching a piece of grain from a field you are passing in order to have something to eat, and going through a pair of sandals every week. Sure you are meeting new people and there are the miracles – my goodness, the miracles – and you listen to teachings that for the first time in your life, allow you to come to an understanding of God. But there’s also the more difficult parts. There are some that hate, truly hate, the rabbi you are following. After a while, there is even talk among some of them that they want to find a way to have him arrested or even put to death, after all, they did try and throw him off the cliff that one time. Then there was the time that you thought you were going to die out on the sea when that great storm came up out of nowhere, and as you huddled in fear, the rabbi slept in peace, and when you cried out to him in your fear, he chastised you, then he spoke to the storm, and the seas were calm. Thinking back on the day you met him and he said, “Follow me,” probably more than once a day, you ask yourself, “What the heck was I thinking?”

Years later, after being a witness to his death and resurrection, you find yourself in prison, awaiting your on execution and in the hours leading up to it, you reflect once again on those first words, “Follow me,” but you no longer wonder about what you were thinking, instead you know within your very soul why you were chosen, why you were called: to serve his purposes. To be a fisher of men and to assist in ushering in the very Kingdom of God.

If you think back on your life, many of you probably remember the time when Jesus spoke those same words, “Follow me,” to you. For many, myself included, we don’t know why we responded as we did, immediately dropping our old life and following him. For me, I don’t remember the date and time, but I remember the moment and I have no way of describing it, yet – in the twinkling of an eye – I stopped everything and followed him.

Like you and like those first disciples, I have seen miracles – oh, yes I have – I have seen lives transformed, and I have begun to learn more deeply about the things of God, but things weren’t always so good and then I stuck with you lot. There are still days that I ask myself, “What the heck were you thinking,” (I also direct that question to God!) but I still remember the moment he said, “Follow me,” and I’m still amazed that he chose me.

What does all this have to do with today? Today, as you know, is our annual meeting. It is the day that we look back on what has been and we look forward to where we believe we are going. In thinking on this process, I was reminded of how we, as individuals and as the church, are so similar to those first disciples and their lives and experiences. Individually and together, we experience times of great joy and great sadness, times of need and times of abundance, faith and doubt. Through faith and knowledge imparted to our souls, we sit on the hillside listening to Jesus teach, we look over his shoulder as he reaches out and brings life where there was death, we see those who love him and those who deride him, we witness his brutal death, and we wait in the upper room for those three days with the other disciples, and then go rushing to the tomb, after Mary Magdalene has told us that he has risen. In all of these ups and downs and ups and downs, we may once again ask, “What was I thinking?” But it is then that we remember: we have been chosen and we have a purpose. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We have been chosen for this time and for this place to be the Church and to be his witnesses. Today, during our meetings, I ask you to remember that all we do – working with finances, developing plans, supporting ministries, in good time and in bad – is because we have been chosen to follow Jesus to be a great light in the darkness. We are the Church and we have all been called to be fishers of men to assist in ushering in the very Kingdom of God.

Let us pray: O Lord, our God, You called Your people to be Your Church. As they gather together in Your Name, may they love, honor, and follow Your Son to eternal life in the Kingdom He promised. Let their worship always be sincere, and help them to find Your saving Love in the Church and its Sacraments. Fill with the Spirit of Christ those whom You call to live in the midst of the world and its concern. Help them by their work on earth to build up Your eternal Kingdom. May they be effective witnesses to the Truth of the Gospel and make Your Church a living presence in the midst of the world. Increase the gifts You have given Your Church that Your faithful people may continue to grow in holiness and in imitation of Your Beloved Son. In His name we pray. Amen.

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