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“Come, Follow Me” from 1/24/10

As I begin I want to ask a quick question; how many of you have either grown up watching the Transformers cartoon or have seen the movies? Now there’s a tag-line that goes with the show, what is it? “More than meets the eye.” Say that with me. Keep that in mind during this message this morning.

Have you ever wondered what it is you could fully venture to be and what this life is all about? Sure you have. I can’t imagine there’s a single person that hasn’t pondered these exact questions at least once, even multiple times. Each of us is in a certain place right now, but all of us long and dream about what the future could hold. Is there more to life than what I can see, where I work, or what I know? Sure, many of us have heard and possibly believed the sayings, I can be anything I want to be, or anything I put my mind to. We are very resilient people and quite capable of all sorts of things, but is that really completely true? Is what we can be really that broad and all-encompassing; or is it something more precise and specific to certain things about, within, and around each one of us? Is there really more than meets the eye about each one of us and this world as well. If these latter things are true, how can we come to know and see the more in us and also all this world? These are the questions that fill my mind in regards to our Scripture passage for this morning. I think we can learn a few things about these questions from it. Let’s pray before entering in…

The Scripture passage we are going to look at is Matthew 4:18-22, which is the calling of the first disciples. It goes like this…

The Calling of the First Disciples (from memory)
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said (pause, add energy), “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

So what does this passage have to do with the questions I brought up just prior to reading it? Well, we have to go a little deeper into it, but bear with me. Here we have two different sets of brothers, each of them fishermen by trade, and Jesus, who presents an interesting offer to them that none of them can resist. Why is this the case? These men weren’t just giving up a hobby in their lives, as fishing can be for many people. They left their jobs, their livelihoods, what they knew and were experts at; in many ways, who they were. All to follow this person who approached them with a specific calling on the sea shore? We know how important jobs are in America today. Often our jobs connotate our status, our worth, who we are, and our wellbeing. These disciples walked away from all that instantly after encountering Jesus. What in the world came over these fishermen?

Well, it appears to me that there must be something in the way Jesus approached them and the line he says to them that inspired such a response. We do interesting things because of inspiration in our lives. We might cut our hair or dress a certain way, take up certain hobbies, decide to get in better shape, write a book or song, paint a picture, even follow a particular long-time dream. As someone who aspires to be a pastor, I am constantly seeking inspiration for what I say and do in basically everything. How do I know what’s true inspiration, and therefore is worthy of a response like these first disciples gave?

Dreams + Vision = Inspiration:
Well, to answer that in the fullest sense could be a whole other sermon in itself, even multiple. The Bible has a lot to say about how to decipher truth. But in looking at the phrase, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” I believe it points to some essential elements of inspiration itself. Now, the two terms I am going to use here may not be the words you would choose, but they go along well with a few things I want to bring in. What I believe happened here is that Jesus met these disciples in their dreams (their longings, wonderings, curiosities, and the like) and gave them a vision (a clear picture and motivation, something captivating and alluring). Jesus takes them from only dreaming/wondering whether there is more to life or more to them and he gives them a vision. Inspiration needs both. Our dreams can only get us so far, but when coupled with a vision they can come to life. Mike Singletary, who is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers said this earlier this past season during a news conference: “When I look around (the NFL) I am amazed by how many people have a dream and how few have a vision. The difference is that a dream [often] ends up passive accommodating disappointment. A vision, [however,] captures the imagination.” He then goes on to say basically that, a vision consumes you and you can’t get away from it, can’t escape it, until you live it through. This is what Jesus gave these first disciples and we can see it in what he said to them.

1) Fishermen à Fishers of Men:
Let’s first take a look at the word-play between “fishermen” and “fishers of men.” Jesus could see that these sets of brothers were fishermen. They were out on a lake, in boats, were casting and preparing their nets, and there may have even been more things that tipped him off to this reality of them as well. But let’s look at the words he uses to call them. They are already fishermen, but he says he’ll make them “fishers of men.” It seems to me like he’s wanting to take them from something they already are and make them into something more from that very thing. Remember the phrase, “More than meets the eye?” What else is true of fishermen that we can’t necessarily tell from the surface? Well, I am only a novice fisherman with still a lot to learn, but here are some things that come to mind from the experience I have. One, fishing takes a lot of preparation and diligence. It’s essential for a fisherman/person to have the boat, poles, nets, bait, gas, etc all ready or he/she won’t be as successful as they could be on the lake. This can take hours (I know, for I have watched quite a few times while my father-in-law has gotten this all ready). Secondly, fishing takes skill. You can’t expect to just drop your line in or some nets and instantly have a catch (my father-in-law often jokes that there’s a reason it’s called fishing and not catching). No, you have to be patient, know some technique to holding and using your equipment, and understand certain things about the fish you’re trying to catch and the water you’re fishing in. Lastly, I’d say fishing, at least as a trade or profession, takes courage. You might be thinking, what’s so courageous about sitting in a boat in the middle of the lake for hours upon hours? Well, a couple obvious things are that the water and the weather are not always predictable. Also, I would say fishing takes a lot of faith. Think about it. You never know what kind of catch you’ll bring back at the end of the day, and one must remain patient in a particular place and time or they might give up and move on too soon and miss a catch they could have had (Seriously, if you are not a patient person fishing is probably not for you). Similarly, you could say this is a lot like farming. In farming you are up against things you cannot control in regards to the quantity of your crops and harvest. It takes courage to have faith, to be dependent upon something outside yourself for provision.

So what am I getting at here then? Well, I believe Jesus could see the outwardly things that made these people fishermen, but I think he also knew these more inwardly things about their character and person as well. This is exactly what he calls them out of (fishermen) in order to guide them into what they could be in him (fishers of men). This is exactly how Jesus calls you and me. Jesus sees us for who we are, where we are, and where we’ve come from and he calls us out of that, using these particularities about us to lead us into what we can become. He even knows more about us than we do. This is why much of what he will call and guide you into seems beyond your abilities. We must trust and follow and he will get us there (lead the way). Two verses that speak to much of what I’ve already said are 1) Jeremiah 1:5—“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Now, God may have appointed you and set you apart for a different purpose than being a prophet specifically, but I Corinthians 12:4-6 (NRSV) says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”

“Get in the Game” – Call Story:
To give you another example, I’ll tell you a little bit of how this sort of thing has worked out in my own life. 6-7 years ago now I was sitting in church one morning when my pastor began to pray to close the message he had just given. I connected very deeply with the message that morning and during this prayer a peculiar thing happened to me. While my eyes were shut I suddenly began having a vision. For whatever reason I found myself looking down upon a younger version of myself while sitting on the bench during a basketball game waiting eagerly to be called into the game. To my surprise, what did I see next? Out of the corner of my eye came a hand bigger than any hand I had ever known before. It pointed in my direction and did this (flick your wrist)… signaling me into the game. The instant this occurred I was deeply stirred in my heart. I knew something magnificent had taken place. I didn’t know exactly what entering into the game would entail, but I couldn’t resist the call. How is this similar to the call these first disciples received? Well, if you knew more about me you’d know that I’ve spent most of my life being a sports-aholic. The way God called me that day connected very deeply within me to certain elements of who I am and longings and loves that I’ve had most all my life. In that moment of this vision Jesus met me right in my longings and long-time loves and said, “I can take who you are as an athlete and make you into what I know you can be” (even if you don’t know what that is yourself). This vision also touched on other certain longings within me as well. One being, I’ve always longed to be in the game, to be a part of what was going on and involved (whether that meant basketball, baseball, whatever). I longed to be given a chance and believed in. I believe these disciples came face-to-face with these things as well when Jesus called them from fishermen to fishers of men. Jesus called them to be a part of something and believed in their abilities. We’ll talk about this more in my second point. These things connected with who these disciples were, both outwardly and deep within and they knew they had to follow. If you are wondering what it is you could be in Christ in this life, I believe this is exactly how he’ll tell you. He may come to you in a vision, or through His Word, or a song, or another person. Whichever way he comes to you he will approach you and connect with you in a manner that reaches right into who you are and have longings for (in your gifts, passions, and many things you already know and do). You most likely won’t fully understand the extent of it all, but you will be captivated to follow.

2) A Call/Invitation to be a Part of Something Bigger Than Ourselves:
A second thing then that I believe is so inspiring within this passage can be seen in the first words Jesus says to these disciples, “Come, follow me.” What’s in this short, little phrase? Well, what I see is a call to be a part of something. Isn’t this something we all desire? I mean, look at how we align ourselves with certain people, athletes, teams, musicians, actors or actresses, etc. We make ourselves a part of them. I often think it’s funny how I will include myself in team’s I love in that instead of referring to them as them, I often say “we” as if I am on the team as well. We long to be a part of who and what they are. This touches on our desire to not only be more than who we are on our own, but also be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This reality can be seen pretty clearly even in my little daughter who is close to a year old now. She is often pretty content on her own, but there’s something about her that loves to be involved, at least in some way, in everything that me and my wife are doing. Those moments she is content on her own is when one of us is close by. If we go into another room, she’s quick to get on her hands and knees and come join us; or scream and wail until we return. The funniest part is when my wife and I are trying to have a conversation around the house. The more we talk the more she makes noises like she’s trying to contribute to the conversation. This just goes to show that even at the youngest of ages we desire to be included in this life. We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Look how captivated we can become about certain movies or stories. We desire to know that there is a greater story being played out in our midst and that we have a part in it. This helps us to know that we matter. It gives us peace to know that we are in on something together with others, and that something/one else is responsible for ordering our everyday lives. Lastly, it involves us in a compelling adventure; one that unfolds more and more along the way and goes on forever.

Living into One’s Full Potential:
Lastly then, there is one more thing I want to point out that occurred to me when I put the previous two things together…, Jesus calls us, making us more than who we are on our own along the way (“fishermen”–“fishers of men”), and all the while inviting us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves…, This is how we live into our full potentials! In Jesus we can be all we were made to be. Why? Because he sees and knows us for who we are both inside and out and knows exactly what we can become. We can’t get there on our own. It’s like being mentored or apprenticed; or in this case, discipled. That’s how we often live into more than who we are already on our own; by someone showing/teaching us the way. One essential characteristic in our leader/mentor/discipler though is that he/she must be deeply rooted (have a firm foundation, be very familiar) in the greater story we seek to be a part of. You can’t get any more deeply rooted than Jesus. He’s what all this life is about and ultimately points to. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” There’s no better person to align ourselves with to guide us into all there is and all we can be than Jesus. As an example, now I don’t particularly like the reality of what I am about to talk about (I don’t know if we have any Viking fans here? I am a Packer fan), but look at Sydney Rice or Percy Harvin. Here we have two young, up-and-coming NFL stars wide receivers, but much of the reason they lived more into their full potentials this past season is because they had Brett Favre leading and throwing the ball to them. Brett Favre has deep roots in football. He’s been around and knows how to bring the best out of the other players around him. Another example could be Michael Jordan back in his day or Peyton Manning. The difference in regards to Jesus Christ is that he is deeply rooted in everything in this life, for the Bible says, “Through him all things were made.”

So before closing then, I thought this would be a good place to work in some of my own story and an update of where things are for each of you. As I already shared, I received that vision 6-7 years ago calling me into the game. That experience (like the disciples left their trade, livelihoods, what they knew, etc) caused me to alter my course in life that was heading towards sports-medicine and enter ministry and seminary. Going on from there I spent my first year in seminary among many of you folks as I interned here to begin my journey. I left you with much to learn and discover yet but since then I have had a couple other internship experiences, Gotten married, officially joined the RCA as a pastoral candidate, had a child, graduated from seminary this last may, and I stand here before you today believing that I have a job to become senior pastor of a small town church in central Iowa. My wife and I have been communicating with this church since earlier this past fall and the decision has pretty much been made that I am the person they believe should be their next pastor. Right now we are scheduled to visit there yet again two weeks from and I could receive the official call as early as Monday evening, March 22nd. After that we imagine we could possibly move in late April, meaning I would start the first week of May. Throughout all of this I believe I can attest to that God has a plan, a specific purpose for me, and is faithful to carry it through and lead me along the path. It definitely hasn’t been easy to follow and I have often been quite unsure about where it’s leading on many occasions. God always has a way of getting me to where he wants me to be, though, and I’ve definitely learned a great deal along the way.

Conclusion – Relate to “Field of Dreams” movie:
In closing then, it came to my attention that much of the message I have given here today relates quite well with one of my favorite movies which just happens to be based quite close to where we could be moving to very soon in Iowa (Dyersville). Who here has seen the movie, Field of Dreams? Now this is a fictional movie but see if you are familiar with these connection in it. The main character (Ray) is called out of something he already was (a farmer); in connection with something that connected with deep longings within him (baseball); into something bigger than himself that he played a part in (the unfolding saga); that ends with the fulfillment of maybe his deepest longing within him from the very beginning (reconciliation with his father). That reminds me some of our own story and our need for reconciliation with our Heavenly Father. To state a few quotes that say a little more…, before the story begins Ray says, “Until I heard the voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.” Connects with how the first disciples were inspired to step out from who they were and their livelihoods to follow Jesus’ call. A second one is when James Earl Jones’ character says near the end, “The one constant in all of America is baseball… It reminds us of what was all once good, and can be again.” This might be true about baseball in America, but Jesus is the one constant in all of history and it’s through him that we are reminded of all that once was in the beginning and can be again. In him we align ourselves with the central being of the bigger story of all of history and what is to come and become a part of something bigger than ourselves. Finally, in the end, there is a small discourse between Ray and his father whom he longed to be reunited/reconciled with ever since they had separated on bad terms. This reminds me of us in how our sin separates us from God. The father here asks the son, Ray, “Is this heaven?” To which Ray answers, “No, it’s Iowa.” When we are fully reconciled with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ His Son we may be moved to ask, “Is this heaven?” But the answer we’ll hear is, “Yes, my child, welcome home.” This will be the point where our initial story comes to a close, but it’ll only be the beginning of the rest of eternity.