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 sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 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. (Matthew 4:18-22, NRSV)
Sunday we will continue our series entitled In this New Year with the account in Matthew of the calling of four of Jesus’ disciples: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus said to these fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” They answered Jesus calling by following him, and when they began following Jesus, they left their boats and their nets and all the other fishing equipment. In the case of James and John, they left their father, Zebedee.
It’s clear that following means leaving. One cannot follow anyone or anything and stay put. To follow means to leave! Some of Jesus’ hardest words had to do with this reality, as we will see on Sunday.
Even Jesus’ image of being born again—born from above—is a “leaving” image. In John 3:5, Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” To be born means to leave the safety and security and warmth of the mother’s womb.
Do you like that reality? It’s a difficult one for us, because there are some things we don’t want to leave, we’re afraid to leave, or we can’t imagine life without them. What are we willing to leave? The reality that following means leaving can be difficult to hear and even more difficult to accept.
So, here is the question to ponder as we approach this fourth Sunday in this New Year: What are You Leaving Behind in this New Year?
Early in the Methodist movement John Wesley adapted a covenant service dating back to the 1600’s for the use of Methodists. At the heart of that service is a covenant prayer that says:
Let me be your servant, under your command. I will no longer be my own. I will give up myself to your will in all things. Lord, make me what you will. I put myself fully into your hands: put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and with a willing heart give it all to your pleasure and disposal. I do here covenant with you, O Christ, to take my lot with you as it may fall.
That can be a difficult prayer to pray because the prayer says we are willing to leave in order to follow. But, there is another side to leaving. Not only is it difficult, but it is freeing. Not only is it challenging, but it is life-giving.
So, if following Jesus means leaving, what does Jesus call us to leave? We’ll consider that together on Sunday in the sanctuary services at 9:30 and 11:00. I look forward to seeing you then!
Grace and Peace,