Sunday’s Sermon: Drop It!

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  • Some of you have met our dog, Jessi.
    • For those who haven’t had that particular delight yet … describe Jessi –> part German shepherd/part Australian shepherd, ~50 lbs., 7 yrs. old, very sweet dog
    • One of Jessi’s favorite things to do is play fetch.
      • Doesn’t matter what she’s “fetching” – stick, toy, ball
      • Entertaining BUT – one annoying habit when she plays = struggle to actually drop object in question
        • Describe way she tries to drop it
          • Rolls around in her mouth
          • Half-drop just to snatch it back up again
          • It’s almost like she can’t decide whether or not to drop the ball. Or that she’s so worried that someone (or something!) else will snatch it that she can’t bring herself to part with it. Crazy dog.
        • Biggest downside to this method of “playing fetch” = how sloppy and drooly “fetch item” becomes –> Because of that indecision and anxiety, Jessi sort of ends up ruining the game of fetch for herself.
          • Not many people want to play very long with a soaking wet tennis ball – loses playmates
          • Can’t tolerate the anxiety for long – only makes it a few throws before she goes off and lays down somewhere else to protect her toy
    • And you know, sometimes I think our approach to God’s call is a lot like the way Jessi plays fetch. We hear God’s call, and we want to follow it … but we have trouble letting go of the things that hold us back.
      • Held back because of indecision
        • Should we or shouldn’t we?
        • When should we?
        • How should we?
      • Held back because of anxiety
        • How exactly is following going to fit into neat-and-tidy 5-year … 10-year … 20-year plan for our lives?
        • What will following do to our relationships? Careers? Finances?
    • And sometimes, like Jessi, we need guidance. We need someone to tell us to “drop it!” That’s the part that our Scriptures play for us this morning.
  • Gospel readinghear the call: As [Jesus] walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” … As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them.[1]
    • Notice how simple that call is in and of itself. “Follow.” “Come.” –> simplicity masks radical nature of this call
      • Historian: Rabbis did not seek out students, but were sought out by applicants. Here, all the initiative is with Jesus … Jesus comes to [the brothers]; they do not come to him. He sees them; they do not see him. He speaks; they do not.[2] –> Even at this – the very beginning of his ministry – Jesus is bucking tradition.
    • Also see immediacy of the call in this story – responses of both pairs of brothers in the text: Immediately, [Simon and Andrew] left their nets and followed him. … Immediately [James and John] left the boat and their father, and followed him.[3] –> We’re given no hint of hesitation or apprehension. They heard. They followed. At this point, don’t you just wish you could hear Jesus’ voice in this story? I can only imagine the tone – layered with strength, intimacy, invitation, and promise. It must have been to make these grown men respond in this way.
      • Scholar highlights just how abrupt this decision to follow is: These men have never seen Jesus before, have seen no miracles, heard no teachings. No explanation has been given them. They are not told why they should follow Jesus, what following him will mean, or where the path will lead them. We are met here with Jesus’ first miracle, the miracle of his powerful word that creates following, that makes disciples.[4]
      • See how utter and whole-hearted their response is in Gr. – their leaving, when text says “left” (nets, boats, father) = connotations of utter disconnection, abandon –> This response is serious. It’s intense. And what we find so baffling is how instantaneous it is! Imagine what that must have been like for Simon, Andrew, James, and John. There they were in their boats, doing exactly what they did every day – fishing and minding their own business. Then, out of the blue, this stranger called to them from the shore: “Come! Follow!” And they just dropped what they were doing and went!
  • Now, I don’t know about you, but a response like this raises a bit of anxiety within me!
    • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m type A. I’m a planner. I like my lists. I like knowing what my options are, having contingency plans, being as prepared as possible.
      • E.g. – how I pack when we’re going somewhere
        • Picture of Peter’s bag vs. my bag for NC trip (see above!)
        • 10 times worse with the boys now – can’t go anywhere without at least 3 different bags!
    • I can’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of these fishermen as they dropped everything and followed. Weren’t they worried? Weren’t they afraid? Weren’t they apprehensive? Weren’t they concerned about the lives they were leaving behind?
      • Scholar: The fishermen are already at work, already doing something useful and important, thus they are not looking for a new life. Jesus’ call does not fill an obvious vacuum or meet an obvious need in their lives, but, like the call of prophets in the Hebrew Bible, it is intrusive and disruptive, calling them away from work and family.[5]
  • Where OT Scripture comes in
    • First, simultaneously acknowledges existence of that fear and the assurance that God is bigger than those fears: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?[6] –> sounds like self-convincing to me – If the psalmist is asking about fear like that, I don’t think he or she is just asking out of the blue. I think that fear already exists.
      • See acknowledgement of apprehension later, too: Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.[7] –> speaks to deep-seated fear: If I drop everything to follow, how will I be provided for?
        • Emotionally –> leaving support network behind
        • Physically –> leaving source of earning living behind
        • Heb. also touches on root of that anxiety – day of “trouble” = evil, misery, disaster, harm, illness –> Basically, the Hebrew word that’s translated as “trouble” covers anything and everything unpleasant. When we’re not sure what’s going to happen, sometimes our minds go a little crazy.
          • Play out all the different unpleasant scenarios – all the ways what we’re doing/planning could go wrong
          • And more often than not, isn’t it this fear of the unknown that keeps us from following? It’s like Jessi’s inability to drop that slobbery ball. When she drops it part of the way and then immediately scoops it up again, she’s unable or unwilling to trust that things will work out. What if the ball is never thrown again? What if it disappears? What if she never has any fun every again? Sure, questions like this sound ridiculous when we say them in the context of a dog’s thoughts about a ball … but are they that much more founded when we say them ourselves?
            • What if God doesn’t catch me?
            • What if God doesn’t know what’s going on?
            • What if … what if … what if?
            • Scholar: That things go badly is well established. That things might go badly is the well-spring of worry. … The trouble we face today is compounded by the uncertainty of tomorrow.[8]
    • Surely the first disciples that Jesus called that day on the beaches of the Sea of Galilee had questions of some sort. And yet, they followed. For this reason, I can hear rest of this morning’s psalm being the fishermen’s prayer.
      • Clearly hear desire to heed call – text: “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek.[9]
      • Also hear reassurance in face of all those fearful questions – text: [God] will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me … I will sing and make melody to the Lord.[10] –> Praise, rejoicing, and reassurance in the face of fear.
  • Now, that’s all well and good for the disciples who lived thousands of years ago and had Jesus right there in front of them. But what about us? What does this sort of radical, drop-everything following look like for us?
    • Sometimes difficult to discern
      • E.g.: searching for a call – somewhere Peter and I would both be able to practice our vocations à It would’ve been easy for either one of us to say, “I’ve got a job here, so you have to come with me.” But we had to drop our anxieties and worries and follow God … even if that following sometimes meant standing still and waiting.
    • Main element of radical, drop-everything following = making faith the priority
      • Not just something we do now and again
      • Not just something that takes up a few hours Sunday mornings
      • THE priority. Is it what we measure our lives against? Do we make our decisions based on our faith? Do we use our time based on our faith? Does our faith affect everything we do, everything we say, every choice we make?
        • Difficult to drop the things that get in the way sometimes
          • Faith priority vs. society’s priorities
            • E.g.: encroachment of other Sunday morning events
    • And we also have to think about what this kind of radical following looks like in the church. As a congregation, what are we hanging on to out of anxiety? Where and how is God calling us to follow? Like the psalmist, can we set aside our fear and step out rejoicing instead?
  • Rodger Nishioka’s story – Wild Kingdom
    • Only time they could watch TV during dinner – “Wild Kingdom” (dad’s favorite) –> episode with elephant seals in Argentina –> mother and newborn baby seal get separated on beach –> Rodger worried they’d never find each other –> narrator explains mother/baby imprinting on each other at birth
      • Rodger: This fascinated me, especially when Dad turned to me and said, “You know, that’s how it is with God. We are imprinted with a memory of God, and God is imprinted with a memory of us, and even if it takes a lifetime, we will find each other.”[11]
    • That morning on the beach, it was that kind of voice – that kind of call – that Simon, Andrew, James, and John heard. They heard a call that resonated deep in their souls. They heard a call that was so inspiring, so compelling that they just had to drop everything and follow. There wasn’t anything special about the words that were said. There was no grand plan laid out to convince them to go. The power … the pull … the miracle lay solely in the one issuing the call – the same call that is issued to us today. And Jesus said, “Follow me.” Amen.


[1] Mt 4:18-29, 21.

[2] M. Eugene Boring. “The Gospel of Matthew: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 8. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 169.

[3] Mt 4:20, 22 (emphasis added).

[4] Boring, 169.

[5] Boring, 171.

[6] Ps 27:1.

[7] Ps 27:9.

[8] Andrew Nagy-Benson. “Third Sunday after the Epiphany – Psalm 27:1, 4-9 – Homiletical Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 273.

[9] Ps 27:8.

[10] Ps 27:5-6.

[11] Rodger Nishioka. “Third Sunday after the Epiphany – Matthew 4:12-23 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 284, 286.

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