Fishing for People
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.We will sing Hymn 661 in our worship, though we will do so to the easier tune of Amazing Grace rather than the one in the hymnal. The text goes:
They cast their nets in Galilee,I have preached on this scripture passage together with this hymn before saying in part,
just off the hills of brown;
Such happy, simple fisherfolk,
before the Lord came down.
Contented, peaceful fishermen,
before they ever knew
The peace of God that filled their hearts brimful,
and broke them too.
Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
homeless in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
head-down was crucified.
The peace of God, it is no peace,
but strife closed in the sod;
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing—
the marvelous peace of God."
That hymn, They Cast Their Nets in Galilee was written by the Mississippi poet/planter/lawyer, William Alexander Percy. Percy knew a thing or two about unrest. As the First World War raged in Europe, he worked for the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which sought to feed the starving millions cut off from food supplies by the war. When America entered the war, he served in the infantry and rose to the rank of Captain, earning the French Croix de Guerre and a silver star in the process. Percy returned to Mississippi and joined his father, a U.S. Senator in opposing the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in their own town of Greenville. It was during this time that he wrote the poem “His Peace” which gives the text for our Gospel hymn. The war hero Will Percy, who had fancied himself as an idealist, was dismissed as nothing more than a sissy. In the process Percy saw his share of strife closed in the sod.The full text of that sermon is online here: Hope for Fishy People
For Simon and Andrew, James and John, that strife lies ahead of them. The fishermen’s nets were full—if not literally, at least figuratively—when Jesus called the men. Simon and Andrew, James and John did follow Jesus because fishing was not working out for them. All four were assured a decent living if they remained as fishermen. They left their nets to follow Jesus in search of something more.
They did, of course, find much more. It must have been a wild ride to travel with Jesus from the shores of Lake Galilee that day to be present for most every significant event in his ministry. The amazing teaching, the astounding miracles, and standing up to the powerful on behalf of the oppressed. Those four fishermen got everything they bargained for and more. In the words of our hymn, the peace of God filled their hearts “brimful and broke them too.” Jesus’ followers died to everything they had been or wanted to be in order to be born anew as apostles—the ones Jesus sent out into the world with the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Following Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the disciples set out to turn the world upside down.
Labels: Gospel reading