Preached in the Parish of the North Peace, January 21, 2023.
Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men.
This promise Jesus makes to these two pairs of brothers labouring on the sea of Galilee. This promise that instead of being fishers of fish he would make them fishers of men. If we come and follow Jesus we should expect, we should hope, that on some level we will also become fishers of men, that through us he will catch up and claim others into his kingdom.
For from the Apostles called the good news about Jesus’s death and resurrection went out and gathered peoples to praise God and trust in Jesus’s name. They went out into Greece and Asia Minor, out into India and Egypt, they trusted this message to Ethiopians and Armenians who went on to become fishers of men themselves. In time this hope overthrew the pagan superstition of Rome. Its not for nothing that when Attila the Hun marches on Rome he meets not an Emperor but Pope Leo the Great in 461.
And this goes on, for this hope is brought out by adventures and martyrs to the tribes, to the Lombards and the Francs, to the Slavs and the Kievan Rus, to the Angles and the Celts. For every nation God came and lived as one of us, to gather us, to unite us to himself in his suffering and in his victory.
You too are called to point, to point to the hope upon which your eternity hangs. You must love those God places in your life, and use words in season. At times this may require apologetics, being willing to share why you find the faith you have found to be compelling and true, moving reason based objections to the faith by listening and thinking, slowly and clearly. Some are gifted in this, I will admit when facing this I have to be careful because I know I can turn mean and condescending in such opportunities. Do not do that, offer the truth upon which your hope rests. Sometimes, more often, this means sharing your inmost heart, sharing your story, and Jesus story, and what he is meant for you in trial and in joy, why you trust him. I remember one little old woman, Pat Radcliffe, inviting me to supper when I was 18 or 19, just to share with me how she had heard the good news at Jesus at a bible camp, how she had given her life to him then, how he prepared for her a godly husband, prepared for her a way to use her gifts to help the weak, prepared for her friends to encourage her and taught her to worship even in pain, how he had strengthened her heart and made her courageous, made her loving, made her want to be holy. She shared her trust that he had died for and was preparing a place for her in the kingdom of heaven. I had gone to church for years and years by then. That conversation saved my soul. Always be ready to give the reason for the hope that is in you St. Peter tells us.
Its become fashionable to say “always preach the gospel, if necessary use words”. And certainly our lives should be framed such that we are pointing to the Jesus we love and hope in. But use words, people cannot read your mind, you need to tell them how desperately you cling to the cross; how liberating this is. And when you share you point them to Christianity, to the Catholic fellowship of all believers. I love Anglicanism, but you do not point to Anglicanism, you point to Jesus.
Even from the early days in Corinth there were divisions among the Christians at church, divisions even in their identity. They clung to whoever baptized them. Paul is adamant that they cling instead to Jesus, that they seek unity in the body, that they love one another and seek to discern the truth in humility together.
We should actively pray for the unity of the church. The reformation was pivotal for restoring the purity of the church’s teaching. The reformation was a travesty for ripping asunder the seamless cloak of Christ. Unity and Truth, these are the two hopes of Jesus as he prays for the church in the hours before his death. They should be our prayer now, that Calvinists, Lutherans, Zwinglians and Anglicans may be united in closeness to the power of the Word of God and the Gospel. For the apostles were sent out to preach the gospel, not in eloquent wisdom so that the cross of Christ might be emptied of its power, but foolishly, awkwardly, humanly, empowered by the Holy Spirit breathed out from God made flesh. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, and as you share it it will be heard as foolishness by many, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.
May such power be at work on us. May such power go forth from us and gather men and women in a unity around the truth of Christ crucified for us.
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