Somewhere in the Poconos, a land surveyor one day drops by a house of a person named Will and announces that he has some bad news, “I discovered that your house isn’t in New Jersey,” he says, “It’s actually in Pennsylvania. Will lets out a sigh of relief. “That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time,” he says. “I was just telling my wife this morning that I don’t think I can take another winter in New Jersey.”
Now, somewhere in the Sea of Galilee, a carpenter dropped by one day and said to two fishermen, “Come after me.” And at once they left their nets, their families and followed Him. Further along, he saw the sons of Zebedee mending their nets. He called them and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed Him.
“Follow me,” Jesus said to the fishermen. Follow Him and his examples. Follow Him and his way of life. Follow him and his way of loving.
But, why them? If Jesus wanted His Gospel preached to all nations, why did he choose fishermen? Fishermen are not known to be preachers or speakers. They are known to be tellers of fish tales.
Maybe, it is because fishermen have the gifts of patience, perseverance and presence.
Patience, which is the offspring of love, is fundamental to any human relationship. The test of love happens when our patience gets tested by the person we love. Jesus chose these fishermen because he knew they would be patient with the people they would encounter. People will not listen to them. They will ignore and criticize their teachings. But, as God is patient with people he love, so should they be, so should we be—fishermen of 2014.
Perseverance, which is related to the virtue of hope, is also important to any human endeavor. Never quit in your work, Jesus must have told them. Your nets may be torn down and you feel dismayed and disappointed because you did not have the catch you expected, therefore mend your nets. Repair your church, as St. Francis was told. Persevere and hope for what is best, because that is the Christian way of life.
Finally, the gift of presence. Preaching God’s word does not just require eloquence and verbosity, not just the right words and the right expressions to the right tone of voice. But, preaching demands presence in what one is preaching, presence in what one believes, presence in illustrating and explaining the words of God.
We are all called to be preachers, to be fishers of men, because we have to be present to each other. How many families have been broken because their parents were not there when their children needed them? How many churches have been divided because their leaders were not in touch with reality, with not responding to the signs of the times? And how many of us have been disappointed with our own individual relationships because we failed to be present?
Today Jesus says to us, “Follow me. You are important. Come as you are. Bring whatever gifts and talents you have and use them in my name. Bring your excitement and brokenness and I will channel them in the right direction. Bring your commitment and I will show you a place where you can make a difference. Bring your hope and your love and watch them change lives.
To us and to people of every race and class, to us and to people of every land and language and indeed to all of creation, Jesus says, “Follow me.” That is not call to trail along behind Jesus without any intent to share our lives. Rather, it is a call to be patient as Jesus is patient, to be persevering and hopeful as Jesus is, and to be present where we are most needed.
We can take another winter in New Jersey, because it is here right now that we are asked to be present.
26 January 2014