Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[k] repent, and believe in the good news.’ As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—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.
Today we reflect on one of these very familiar passages that has perhaps influenced the route your life has taken. It’s an appropriate text when decisions about a commitment to service are sought or after they have been made, as it creates the sense that a new chapter begins. And it comes with many hymn accompaniments. One that immediately comes to mind is Edith Agnew’s when Jesus saw the fishermen in boats upon the sea, he called to them, ‘come leave your nets and follow, follow me.’ Another is the popular hymn by John Bell and Graham Maule, ‘will you come and follow me if I but call your name?’ With familiarity and catchy hymn accompaniments, we can be easily distracted from the directness of the Gospel writer. In all of the words spoken by Jesus there is a clarity and an impression of urgency. There is no sense of ambiguity or a need to read between the lines in the hope that people will understand. When it comes to the fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James and John; what they receive from Jesus is more of an instruction than an invitation. There is no encouragement to follow or hope that they will follow. It is much more direct, which results in an immediate response.
Sometimes we have to say it as it is. We have to have the courage to use words that are clear and direct. However, we have to make sure the time is right, choose them carefully and say them with integrity. This is a passage about activity and action so what works best for you? When you are asked to think about doing something or when you are asked to do something? And what about the words we use as we address God in prayer?
God of grace. Give me the courage to use the words I want to say. Show me how to say them. And make them reflect all that you call me to be and do. Amen
The Rev’d David Scott, Minister Duke Street & Saughtonhall URCs, Edinburgh