Sermon

Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany – January 23, 2011

The Rev. Peggy E. Tuttle, Interim Rector – Annual Meeting to follow 10 A.M. Service

Isaiah 9:1-4 – Psalm 27:1, 5-13 – 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 – Matthew 4:12-23

The Church Center in New York City is known simply as “815” which is the street number on 2nd Ave. where the building is located.  Within those walls are just some of the offices of those whose ministry is to the whole church, others are located throughout the country.  The Presiding Bishop, Kathryn Jeffords Shori, has her office at 815 and has access to an apartment on the top floor of that building.  Not a plush Park Ave apartment but one sufficient for the needs of our PB.

It is at 815 where on every desk, or cubicle, or work station hangs a sign the PB believes to be what God is calling the Church to do and be. It is entitled, “The Five Marks of Mission of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.”

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Bishop Kathryn is directing the Episcopal Church away from politically driven topics which divide us and she is directing us back to doing ministry, the reason God has called us into being so that the “whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works…”

The Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota has presented his 3Ms:  Mission, Ministry and Management as he shares with all of us his desire for us to network with one another, to share our ministry resources, to learn from one another, to teach one another, to minister in a world hungry for something more than empty promises, catchy sound bites and mean spirited accusations.

A net of another kind is the focus for Bishop Prior’s Lenten challenge.  It’s called, “Nets for Life,” a mission project whereby we partner with Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation and the Episcopal Relief & Development.

The goal is to purchase one net for each Episcopalian in Minnesota — that’s nearly 20,000 nets that will help eliminate malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

We are all being called back into ministry as Paul writes in I Corinthians that we may “be united in the same mind and the same purpose” and that is to “proclaim the gospel…” for it is in working together that we can see the marvelous things God is doing amongst us.

It was just one year ago that you celebrated the ten year rectorship of the beloved Frank Wilson, who took many by surprise with his decision to retire.  His departure, and the fact that you have had to suffer through interim changes, have not made this time particularly easy.  Some of you have fared better than others while some remain anxious as we wait. Wait for the Holy Spirit to do her work within the community of candidates so that the “one”, the right one, will hear the call to be your next rector.

Paul writes in Philippians (4:6) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

The net was thrown wide, the catch was plentiful and now the Search Committee is sorting through the list of candidates on your behalf and the spirit of the Lord will move over those troubled waters, calm will overcome and the one left in the net will be the one!!

In today’s Gospel Jesus is walking along the beach when he sees two fishermen who are not in their boats but standing in the water throwing out these huge nets hoping for a good catch. All they want is enough fish to sell at market and maybe take a few home for supper.

Jesus simply says to them, “Follow me …” and immediately they leave everything and follow him.

They leave behind their boats but not the desire to seek the unknown of the sea.  They leave behind their fishing nets but not the challenge of a risky business.  They leave behind the crashing of waves, but not the ebb and flow of the water’s rocking rhythm.

Isn’t fishing a risky business? To contend with the weather, the seasons, the market prices for fish, the vagaries of the market which dictate which fish is the gourmet fish for today?  Is it tuna, or tilapia, or salmon, or trout or walleye or Coho?  (I know, I know, you purists out there are saying, “Hey, she’s mixing fresh water fish with salt water fish with farmed fish and Pacific Ocean fish with fish from the Atlantic Ocean and any one of the 10,000 Minnesota lakes.  Well, I’m trying to make a point.  Fishing for a living is quite different from the fishing people do for sun.)

Professional fishing is a dangerous business.  Whether you take a cod boat out of Gloucester, Mass or a guided boat from Mexico, Florida, Alaska or Hawaii, it is an unpredictable business.  Fishing is worldwide.  24,000 fishermen die every year.

Professional fishermen are hearty.  They are risk takers.  They depend on the unknown and risk all they have for the sake of catching fish.  Enough fish, the right kind of fish, healthy fish, fish that can last until they get back to port.  What are they thinking, these fishermen?!  Isn’t it risky enough to fish for a living?

Maybe that’s why Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John.  Jesus knew these men were hardy and capable.  These were men who knew patience as they waited, yet, could spring into action when needed.

In the movie, “The Perfect Storm,” Billy Tyne is the captain of a fishing boat.  He is highly competitive and has been badly stung by a string of poor outings.  His crew is hardly back in port when he tells them he’s going out again, even though it’s October and the weather can turn ugly.  It is 1991, and the “Andrea Gail” leaves Gloucester, Mass. and heads for the fishing grounds of the North Atlantic.  Five crewman join him: young Bobby, newly in love; Murph, a devoted father recently divorced; Sully, a guy Murph despises; Bugsy, who’s finally met a woman who likes him; and Alfred, a quiet Jamaican.  They catch little, so they sail east.  Two weeks later, an event takes place that had never occurred previously in recorded history.  A confluence of weather conditions combines to form a killer storm in the North Atlantic.  Tyne ignores the storm warnings behind him.  Finally, the fish bite, but the ice machine fails.  Should they head home through the storm of the century, or wait it out and lose their catch?  And Billy Tyne’s sword-fishing boat is caught in this Perfect Storm.

Fearful, their women waited.  Billy and his crew were hearty men, men of brute strength. The crew was committed to their captain and the people back home whom they loved.

They were professional fishermen.  These were the kinds of men Jesus called as his disciples:

  • Men who knew how to combat the perils of the sea, the changing winds and roiling seas.
  • Men who could change course if needed.
  • Men who had been tried.
  • Men who knew failure and men who knew success.

Jesus called fishermen because what lay ahead of them was going to be rough waters, unpredictable winds and difficult sailing.  They would be faced with life threatening choices and Jesus knew they had to be strong of character and body.  And they were.

We will follow where we are called.  We will seek out where God is leading us.  It is a time of transition, transition from the known to the unknown.

What strikes me most about the Gospel of Matthew is that he writes, “they left everything and followed him”.  They left whatever it was they were doing and they followed him.  And traveling with them, Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the Gospels.

I am here to tell you that there is good news for St. John’s as well.  We will leave where we have been and follow where we are called.  We will seek out where God is leading us.  We will travel this way together, respecting each other, serving Christ in one another.

Our guide and teacher is God in Christ who passionately searches us out to know us and comes to know us in order to love and lead us.  Faithfully, let us follow.

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