They were fishermen,
not learned scholars
I can smell the salt air, hear
the waves crashing upon the shore, and watch the
seagulls diving for scraps of clams and fish. I'm a
Jersey seashore girl from little up. My Dad, too, lived
for the moments he could be by the sea. He was a
draftsman for New York Ship in the days surrounding WWII
designing hatch covers for aircraft carriers. But his
weekends and vacations were meant for fishing.
We lived half a block from the
beach during the days when sand dunes with grasses
waving in the hot summer breeze bordered the ocean. When
the tide was right in the predawn hours, Dad would take
his surf casting gear and stand for hours watching for
the tug on the line. He and mom would take his boat out
onto the bay or ocean for the entire day or night and
bring home huge messes of fish to scale and clean and
give to the neighbors. There's nothing like eating fish
freshly caught that very day. The best thing dad brought
home was what he called a weakey - or weak mouthed bass.
There's a picture of me standing next to him holding a
fish bigger than me.
Dad taught me how to read the
tide schedule, watch for the phases of the moon. He took
me to the docks as they unloaded the catch in their huge
nets. I got to recognize the fishermen and knew the
names of their vessels.
At home by the sea - no less
than many of the disciples. A place of refuge, a place
of hard work, personal value, sustenance. A place to be
in awe of God's power and majesty. And a place to meet
Jesus face to face.
Jesus, crucified, died and was
buried. Yet, this was the third time he appeared to them
alive. They were out of hiding. Returned to their trade.
The nets they had left a few short years ago now
dragging the ocean's currents in hopes of a catch. Jesus
Can you imagine how inadequate
they must have felt? How unprepared for the journey that
lay ahead of them? These are fishermen, not learned
scholars. They knew nothing of government except taxes.
What did they have to do with politics and institutional
religion unless it entered their world? They knew how to
pray and they no doubt knew the Torah and a brief
history of their people. Beyond that, what need did they
have for philosophy and the arts? Their manner was
uncultured. They probably had told off color jokes, sang
lusty songs, and wrestled on the beach in the down
moments. They worked hard, played hard, and slept with
the sound of the waves. Yet, they had followed him,
watched him, listened to him. They had been awed by the
miracles, and not a little frightened, lost and confused
by the events of the last few weeks. It was easier to go
back to what was familiar and stable while they tried to
make sense of it all. And Jesus came and made himself
known in the ordinary everyday moments of their lives.
Have you ever felt inadequate
and unsuited to a task before you? When high school
yearbooks came out, were you voted most likely to
succeed? Or did you feel like the most unlikely person
to ever be recognized? How many of you remember what it
is like to start a new job? You look at the
qualifications listed in the advertisement and think -
not me. Then you start a new position…how many weeks and
months is it before you feel like you're an old hand and
can do the job instinctively? Perhaps you feel as if
your past activities or maybe even your current life
makes you poorly qualified to fulfill the life Christ
asks you to lead.
Well, I'd like to ask you to
consider the folks that we read about in the Bible…the
ones we hear Jesus calling to be his followers. We've
already talked about the hand full of fishermen. Then
isn't there a tax collector? A man known for earning his
living by charging high interest rates. Someone who is
hated by both the government that uses him and the
people he gouges. He lives on the fringes of society
because of his strong armed way of dealing with things.
Few friends no doubt. Then there's a zealot, a rebel who
knows his way around all the back alleys of the city.
He's got contacts in all walks of life, a fiery
personality that probably flared up at any hint of
injustice and made conversations more than exciting.
We've got a doctor whose knowledge of health practices
and healing skills came in handy when Jesus wasn't
around. Then throw in a few women almost stoned for
adultery and a bunch of poverty stricken, previously
physically challenged people. Jesus had called them too.
And then there's Paul, a man
highly educated, not only as a Pharisee, but also in
Hellenistic philosophy. We hear that he studied at the
feet of Gamaliel, one of the most famous rabbis in
Jewish history. He knew every dot and tittle of the law,
Jewish, Greek and Roman, could argue and debate his way
out of most any situation. He was an ardent, passionate
follower of his faith and one willing to hunt down,
persecute and murder those whose belief system
threatened everything he had come to know and believe.
Can you imagine how frightened the Christians were of
him? Could you sit next to a known murderer and not be
nervous? Yet, Jesus called him, too.
Now just imagine all these folks
sitting together in a room as leaders of this growing
band of believers trying to come to some kind of
consensus on the direction they should take? Can you
imagine the personality conflicts that went on? We know
of many of the difficulties they had pulling together.
We can read about them in the New Testament. And, yet,
Jesus called every one of them to serve him.
Conflicts arise in whatever
group we belong to, wherever we are in the world.
Whether we are government officials sitting in senate,
diplomats serving the World Council of Churches or
members of a small congregation nestled at the foot of
the Catoctin Mountains.
Yet, we are called through these
doors. It's a glorious feeling to know that God knows
everything about us and wants us here. It amazes me how
God enters our lives at places that seem most ordinary
to those around us and yet extraordinary for us. Jesus
walked by the seaside and saw his disciples with empty
nets - and filled them to overflowing. He touched the
hands and faces of people who had not been held for
years because of their diseases and infirmities. He
walked under a tree and saw a lonely man sitting in the
branches and invited himself over for dinner. He knocked
Saul off his horse and blinded him just to get his
attention. Jesus looked into the eyes of sinners - and
And, then brought them together
to become his body, to be his church. The beautiful
thing about Jesus is he calls us into his service
because of our strengths not our weaknesses. Jesus does
not reject us because of our shortcomings, our
personality style, or the way we wear our hair. We can
be zealous evangelists or shy quiet bookworms. We can be
the rough, clumsy proverbial bull in the china shop, or
the detailed, organized perfectionist. We can be day
dreamers with creative imaginations, or a practical,
cautious accountants. We are all called, needed and
wanted - not only in the kingdom to come, but in the
body of Christ.
There isn't a single, famous,
effective leader in all of history that did not have
some flaw. And, it is amazing that no matter how awesome
the work accomplished, human tabloids of every
generation seek out and reveal that flaw, tearing down
the good attempting to destroy the person and their
And, yet, Christ lift ups,
upholds and directs a person's gifts. He sends them
where they will be most effective. Who but a zealous man
like Paul could have accomplished the witness to the
non-Jewish world that he did? Who but Jesus' very own
brother could have held together the Christians in
Jerusalem during the time of Roman persecution? Who but
women who had known love could have inspired young
mothers to keep the faith when their babies were
starving? Who but a tax collector could have aided Paul
with his vast collection for the poor in Jerusalem. Who
but those who had been crippled could have been
compassionate to the multitude of physically disabled
who populated the Middle East?
Who but you can do the things
you do as uniquely and effectively as you do? I met a
woman on Monday who completely lost her hearing as an
adult but you'd never know it. Does she long to hear
again? You bet she does. But she didn't allow her
weakness to hinder her ability to serve Jesus. Her
tenacity helped her develop a non-deaf voice. She
learned to read lips extremely well. She came to speak
to our conference of pastors to help us understand the
needs of the disabled. And she was extremely motivating.
You are the body of Christ. This
congregation and every one of its members is loved by
God. You are called to help others take their strengths
and develop their weaknesses and shortcomings into
assets so that we may go forward with the ministry of
reconciliation and witness to God's redeeming love.
sermons by Pastor Joan