Fairhaven Sermon 1-21-2024

Fairhaven Sermon 1-21-2024

This week's sermon begins with a personal story about a skiing trip, used as a metaphor for the difference between participating in an activity and embodying an identity. The preacher contrasts their experiences of skiing and running cross-country in high school to illustrate this point. While skiing was just an activity, running shaped their identity, influencing their body, diet, daily routines, friendships, and goals. This idea of identity transformation is then connected to the call story in Mark's Gospel, where Jesus invites his first disciples to follow him and become 'fishers of men.'

The sermon delves into the nuances of Jesus’ invitation to Simon, Andrew, James, and John. It emphasizes the transformative nature of Jesus' call, contrasting it with casual participation in an activity. The preacher critiques common translations of the Bible, suggesting that they miss the depth of Jesus' invitation to a changed identity, rather than a new skill. The sermon reflects on how the disciples immediately left their nets, symbolizing their livelihoods and identities, to follow Jesus. This abrupt change represents a complete transformation, not just a new activity or hobby. The preacher then invites the congregation to reflect on their own call to discipleship, questioning whether their faith is a mere hobby or a transformative journey. The sermon concludes by challenging the congregation to embrace Jesus' call to a life-changing journey, transforming their identities and leading them to unexpected places.


Two weeks ago, we took a day and we went skiing in New York for Stormie's birthday. It was a nice trip. I like being out in the mountains. It's nice to get out of town for a little bit.

And we got lucky. The snow ended up falling perfectly for the second half of our day out. So we could ski through fresh, powdery snow rather than just like the ice that had been building up there. I did not put as many hours in as Stormie did.

She was out there until like 8.30 or something. But I did ski. And I only hurt myself once.

Not nearly as badly as my attempt last year. It was a little more significant last year. I didn't hit anybody else, which was a much bigger deal because I did that a couple times last year. So I've improved.

And all that to say, I skied about as well as I'd hoped to ski. But one thing is still true, and that is that I am not a skier. I am just one who has skied. Recently, or relatedly, whenever I was in high school, I ran cross-country where you cover like 10 miles a day out on the road.

You know, at that time I could run a 16-some minute 5K, which is unimaginable to me now. Back then I ran, but I was not just a person who ran. I was a runner. There's a big difference between doing something as an action or even as a hobby and it being your identity.

There's something that changes when a thing becomes your identity. There's a shift that happens that isn't even really about how often or how well you do the thing or whatever, but somehow it's come to define you on the inside in a deeper sort of way. So again, thinking back to my running career, I was a runner even when I was not in that moment literally running. It shaped my body for years.

I mean, it kept me skinny and probably underweight throughout high school. I was never built like a runner, but it kept me skinny. Accordingly, it shaped the way that I'd eat. I would eat a lot.

It shaped how I would use my days. I'd practice in summertime. It'd be every weekday at sunrise. After school through fall and many days in the winter and spring.

We'd have single school meets on Wednesday afternoons and then the big races on Saturday mornings where we'd go travel and race dozens of schools. And exercises every day over time during those summer and fall months. They'd be aimed in such a way that we'd hit our peak rate at the most important time, which would be in a regionals, districts. So the time, those months of the year were shaped around getting to this moment.

And of course, it shaped who my friends were because I spent so much time there. You know, you spend 10 miles on the road every day with the same guys, half delirious from heat and dehydration and effort. You know, that builds some relationships as you talk with the same people between, you know, catching your breath every single day. And so today, speaking of making friends on the road, we arrive at the first call story in Mark's gospel.

And that is of Simon, who is renamed Peter by Jesus later, and Andrew, and then secondly, James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. So Jesus has taken up the torch that John the Baptist, his cousin, passed upon being arrested. John's been arrested essentially for sedition against the governor, against the local rulers. And John has been saying out through the countryside, you know, he's been baptizing people at the river, saying, prepare the way of the Lord.

And he's proclaimed that the kingdom of God is coming. He's telling people to repent. The CEB, which Flo read from today, I think helpfully renders repent as change your hearts and lives. You know, they emphasize to hear that repentance is not just like feeling bad about something.

It's an action. It's change your hearts and lives. But now with John gone, Jesus enters the scene. So the one that John said was coming, the one who John baptized in the Jordan, now he's begun his ministry to the people of God.

And the message changes a little bit from John's. So John's was preparation. You know, watch out. It's coming.

It's coming. It's coming. And Jesus switches to the present tense. He says, now is the time.

Here is God's kingdom. Change your hearts and lives and trust this good news. Do all of this now. But Jesus also is not going to be a lone prophet.

He's not shouting just by himself on the corners or in the wilderness. John wasn't either, but Jesus especially is in a ministry among people. And so Jesus decides very early in his ministry, he's going to pull together a team to follow him, to do the work of the kingdom, to spread the news that the kingdom has come to all the world. He's going to get 12 people together, and you can really multiply your effect with 12 people preaching, going out healing, casting out demons instead of just one.

So one day, he decides to wander through Galilee. This is the land where he was raised. He was born in Bethlehem, but was raised in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. And he goes to start calling disciples.

And so he heads to the shore of this great lake, the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias, the lake of Genesaret, other places in the Gospels. And he goes to the lake and he walks this rocky beach at dawn. And as the sun's rising in front of them early in the morning, he just sees these two figures out on the surf. And Jesus watches these two men throwing their fishing nets from the shore into the little waves of the lake.

And he walks up to him and says, Come, follow me. And maybe they hesitate for a minute. They don't really know who this guy is. Jesus isn't from here.

But Jesus, standing in front of them, goes on, And I'll show you how to fish for people. And apparently that's good enough for Simon and Andrew. They drop their nets. These are the priceless tools that have kept them and their family fed and housed for as long as they can remember.

This is a family business. This is their livelihood. They drop their nets and they go follow him. Jesus has captivated them, these fishermen, with this image of fishing instead for people.

But here's the thing about this little passage. The CEB, the NRSV, a lot of really otherwise good translations, they miss the real power of what he's saying. So, I'll show you how to fish for people, it says. Well, fishing for people, that almost sounds like a cool skill to have.

Like riding a bicycle or using a yo-yo, right? It's like he's inviting them to be taught something, to try something out. You know, Come, let's fish for people. It's as if he's inviting them to go skiing, if you will. Let's go try it out.

But a more literal translation of what Jesus says here sounds different. A translator named Sarah Rudin, she's a Greek scholar, a Greek translator, she's done a lot of mythology stuff. She recently translated the Gospels, a new version. And she seeks to capture the feeling of the original Greek.

And how she renders these verses is, Come along after me, and I'll turn you into fishers for human beings. David Bentley Hart is another recent translator. And in his new translation, he writes, Come along after me, and I shall make you become fishers of men. It sounds a lot like the King James.

You know that phrase, I'll make you fishers of men, is how the King James puts it, too. Do you hear the difference? Jesus is not inviting them to try out a new kind of fishing. You know, Come, and we can go fish for tilapia. Come, and we can go fish for men.

Like, no, it's not two activities. He's not inviting them to try a new kind of fishing, or to head over to the bunny slope to do a few runs, and then try some more challenging trails. No, I will turn you into fishers for human beings. I shall make you become fishers of men.

Completely different thing. Not like a side activity, not a hobby. You don't become a skier by going skiing. Going out for a jog doesn't turn you into a runner.

Jesus is calling them, right from the beginning, into a transformed identity. And this is, again, why I think it's so good that the CEB translates repent as change your heart and lives. It's like something that you have to keep doing. And what Andrew and Simon are doing, their day-to-day activities and tasks, that's changing.

But more importantly, who they are is changing, too. You were this, and now I'm asking you, I'm making you this instead of that thing. You know, look, while you were still holding your net, you were a fisherman. But once you dropped it and followed me, you became a fisher of men.

And it's amazing when you think about it, that this invitation at the lake shore caused them to follow him, rather than scare him away. You know, it seems like it would almost be a little bit easier if he invited them to, Come, give it a try for a few days, see how you like this, and then go back if it doesn't work for you. Follow me, I want to show you something. Right? That's an easier sell.

But they go. They drop their nets, they don't go back and give a word to their family or friends, they don't say goodbye. They drop their nets on the beach, and they go. And so I wonder if you can think back to when you first noticed Jesus calling you, on the lake shore of your life when you were just going about your daily business.

And what did he say? Did you think you were picking something up on the side? You know, like when you have some spare time and energy. Or even if you had wanted to soften Jesus' call, was the call loud and clear for you? Change your heart and life. Come along behind me and I will make you become a fisher of human beings. Jesus' call is fundamentally transformational.

To become a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, which Simon and Andrew decide to hop into, eyes wide open, even if they didn't fully understand, it means that your life is no longer what it was before you dropped the net. Or do you still have your finger just like carefully looped through one of those net strings in case you've got to pick it up again? Again, the life of a disciple, and you and I are disciples, called to be disciples, as much as Andrew and Simon and James and John. We don't have a different title. Just because they were the first, right? Whatever else you are is a secondary identity at best.

Because Jesus has made you become a disciple and a fisher of human beings. One day, someday, a long time ago, maybe, maybe recently, Jesus met you at the lakeshore and invited you to come. Are you still following close behind, continually surprised and in awe and a little bit scared at the places he takes you? Where you'd never go by yourself? Are you still fishing for people, actively inviting new people with your words and your actions to meet the Lord that you've come to know? It's very easy for faith to become a hobby or just like a side interest, something we don't even have to think about outside Sunday mornings. But when Jesus says, Follow me, he has a lot more in mind for you than something you can keep tightly bound in one hour.

Think about all that those four fishermen will see in the coming years with Jesus. When moments before they arrive, all they expect to do is live a quiet life, reeling in tilapia every day for the next four decades or so. That's what they thought. Instead, they get to invite the world into God's kingdom.

They get to be transformed, changed in heart and life by knowing God face to face. They get to share the good news that the Savior has come with people who are in desperate need of salvation, of love, of liberation. So do we. This is what we're here for now.

This is who we are now. I had a realization a few days ago, you know, that I haven't really done anything that particularly scares me or takes me somewhere I wouldn't otherwise go in following Jesus, not for a while. And I have felt convicted by this call story on the beach here. I need to change that.

Jesus is constantly inviting us into places where we wouldn't otherwise choose to go. And maybe you can say the same thing if you take a moment to be honest with yourself and God about it. Have you been taken anywhere remotely uncomfortable or different or off a path that you would choose for yourself any time recently because Jesus is calling you there? So picture yourself this morning on the shore of the sea. And this stranger approaches.

He's putting his hand out and wears this mysterious but warm expression. Come and follow me, he says to you. And I will make you a fisher of people, transforming you to the depths of your soul, leading you to places you never could have imagined on your own. Will you drop your net? Will you decide again to go with him? In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.