“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
Today’s Gospel tells us about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. This is the Jesus we know. Before this point, Jesus is mostly hidden. Now He starts to peak out at us from history. Now we can share in the stories that were told about Him among the earliest generations of believers.
I was at a meeting in January. The holidays were just over. We were sitting around our dining room table. We were all mostly in my age vicinity. And there was talk about becoming the senior generation in our families.
Parents had passed and we had taken their spots. An old New England Yankee and an African-American woman both shared the news that they had become the keepers of their family stories as they gathered for Christmas celebrations. Younger family members turned to them to hear about the old days.
Something similar happens with the Gospel stories. We’re not told first person accounts in the Gospels. The generation that witnessed Jesus, they preached. They didn’t write. They told stories about Jesus. And those stories became sacred.
We can see this playing out when we look at Paul’s Letters as an example of those first-generation Christian leaders.
One of the members in Corinth is a woman church-leader by the name of Chloe. She warns Paul in a letter that divisions are forming in the community. Paul writes back to the church to deal with the problem.
What we don’t see written are Paul’s stories about Jesus. Paul, of course, preached Jesus to all of these cities and towns around the Mediterranean. What he preached, built those churches, but we don’t have any record of what he said because he didn’t write, he preached - in person.
That’s what those first-generation Christian leaders did. They preached. That’s what Linda read for us from Paul: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel ...”
This is why the first Gospel wasn’t written until about 40 years after the life of Jesus. Second and third generation Christians were worried that the stories would be lost. That no one would be able to sit down and tell them any longer.
So they put quill to parchment and they began to write down the stories they had heard about Jesus. Their intention, however, was still to preach. They weren’t only telling stories about fishing in Russell or sitting around a dining room table to share facts. They were telling these stories to introduce people to Jesus.
This is why it isn’t as important that there are differences among the Gospels. What’s important is why they tell their stories.
If you were here last Sunday, you may remember that Andrew was the first called disciple in John’s Gospel. He was standing beside John the Baptist and when the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Son of God and the Lamb of God, Andrew started to follow Jesus. That is most definitely not the story we heard just minutes ago from Matthew.
It doesn’t mean one is right and the other wrong. It means they’re telling different stories for different reasons. This is where the truth of the Gospels lies. It’s in their message. Paul, in today’s reading, calls this message the “power of God.”
We see this “power of God” at work in today’s Gospel story of the calling of the two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew, and James and John. At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, all we know is that Jesus has returned to Galilee from His time with John the Baptist.
But Jesus doesn’t return home to Nazareth. He is no longer the carpenter. Instead, Jesus relocates to Capernaum, a small fishing village at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. This probably means that Jesus knows no one and no one knows Him.
And He starts to talk. No other signs of power beside His presence and His words.
He walks along the shore. There must have been many people out working that day, but the story tells us that Jesus approaches only two sets of brothers in particular and for reasons only known to Jesus. Then something unexplainable happens. Jesus asks them to follow Him – and they do.
Think about this. A stranger walks by and says, “Follow me,” and the story tells us they did. Why in the world would they? Yet they leave everything behind and follow Jesus.
At least when John told this story, as we heard last Sunday, Andrew was looking for something. He was already out in the desert with John the Baptist. But today, the two sets of brothers are at work, like they are every day except the Sabbath. Why did they leave everything and follow Jesus?
Well, the simple answer is we don’t know, but the story gets us thinking. We heard Paul say today that the message is “foolishness” to some, but that same message is “the power of God” to others.
There had to be something shared that was more powerful than only the words themselves, and the same must be true about the sacred stories that continue to ask us still to get ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Today we didn’t only hear a story about Peter and Andrew, James and John, we heard a story meant just for us, just for you and for me. Will we follow Jesus? Will we let our lives be interrupted by Jesus? In other words, will we let Him make a difference in how we live?
[American philosopher William James - we have to experience the religious revelation directly.]
We started off this morning’s worship Service with a moment of silence for the victims of the Holocaust. The example is extreme, but there were a lot of Christians who helped or tolerated the Holocaust. They may have gone to church on Sunday and then watched the trains arrive in Auschwitz on Monday, unloading thousands of people, but no trains ever leaving with people. But they did nothing. Church and Christ were confined to a box on Sunday mornings.
Let’s finish our Service with the prayer that we will hear Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, that we will let Him interrupt and even change our lives, and that these stories we continue to share will fill us with the “power of God” so that we live as church not only in this building on Sunday mornings, but every day in every way.
For this may we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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