Seaside With Jesus: Life Interrupted -- Matthew 4:18-22
How many of us truly like interruptions, interruptions in our activities, our plans, or our lives? Maybe you’ve just sat down to lunch or supper…maybe you’ve settled down to watch your favorite television show…maybe you and your spouse are having the first time alone you’ve had all week…or maybe you’ve just settled down for a mid-afternoon nap. Suddenly you get a knock at the door, your telephone rings, or, nowadays, you get a series of text alerts. You stop what you are doing only to find out you’ve been interrupted by a telemarketer, a door-to-door solicitor, or the pastor. Or maybe you’re that pastor working on a Saturday morning enjoying your pizer while working on the sermon and your wife keeps showing you humorous Facebook videos that their aunt is posting (and not one of them is illustrating worthy for that Sunday’s sermon).
Some of those kinds of interruptions are almost expected, and while, possibly aggravating or annoying, aren’t that bad. Sometimes interruptions are good news. Sometimes the knock on the door is a neighbor bringing by a piece of pineapple upside down cake…sometimes the phone call is on loved one just wanting to check in…sometimes text is an old friend who just happens to be in town and would like to catch up.
Then there are those interruptions in life that are definitely not celebrated…they are downright dreaded.
Imagine being a pastor in a conference…not just any conference, a conflict resolution conference. Imagine the phone ringing and looking down to see that it is the school calling. You have to quietly excuse yourself from the table to go out and find out what’s going on, because the school never goes. Is there something wrong with your child? Did they get hurt? Are they sick? You answer the phone and find yourself talking to the assistant principal, who is informing you that you need to get there as soon as possible (meaning you need to leave your conflict-resolution continuing education conference) because your child is being suspended from school for fighting.
Maybe its nothing as ironic with a touch of humor in retrospect. Maybe the interruption is downright serious. Maybe it is an injury at work or while doing things around the house. Maybe it is sudden abdominal or chest pain. Maybe it is waking up and finding your legs going numb. Maybe it is a call from the doctor after your physical letting you know that the results of your blood-work have come in, and the doctor needs to see you in her office as soon as possible. Maybe that text is can you come back to the hospice house, something’s changed. Maybe the phone call is your mom letting you know that great-aunt Susie has passed. Maybe you open up the door to the knock to see blue lights flashing and and officer says, “can you come with me, there’s been an accident.”
These interruptions have the potential, whether the annoying, good, or disastrous kind to be life-altering. In fact, any life-interruption can be life-altering. In this morning’s reading, we see a life-interruption that is just not life-altering, but in the end, turns out to be world altering.
Peter and his brother Andrew were out in the Sea of Galilee, they weren’t recreational fishermen, it was their livelihood. They, along with their competitors, James and John, sons of Zebedee, were fishermen by trade. Their families for as long as they could remember had always been fishermen. While they weren’t smart enough to become rabbis, they knew stuff those rabbis did not. They knew when to fish, they knew how to fish. They knew what fish could be caught in which season. They knew which fish would sell at the market and which fish were suitable for nothing other than refuse. They knew if not for their intelligence, those rabbis who had dismissed them from learning, would not have fish to eat.
So here they are Peter and Andrew casting their nets to catch fish…James and John working with their dad to repair their nets, hopefully following an abundant catch that ripped the net…and here walks one of those rabbi. They had not studied under him, they had likely not even met him before. Word about him had begun to travel through the area. He had settled in Capernaum, and it seemed he had taken up the teachings of John the Baptist, calling people to repent for God’s Kingdom was about to arrive. There were whisperings of healings and exorcisms…but they had not witnessed anything, had just heard the murmuring of the town gossips.
What was he coming out here for? What reason did he have to venture down the beach? They knew he was an unusual sort. Was he coming out to join the likes of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Scribes and the sort to make sure that they were following the letter of the Law? Was he there to make sure that they only kept the kosher fish and threw back the shrimp, crabs, and lobsters? What interruption was he brining to their day?
He didn’t say anything about their catch. He didn’t even look at it. This rabbi called Jesus simply looked them in the eyes and spoke ten simple words to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” “Follow me….”. What kind of interruption was this? They were busy working. They didn’t have time to go traipsing off after some rabbi…they had already been dismissed from schooling. They had family businesses to run. There’s no way they could entertain this notion. You can just imagine the look on their families’ faces when Simon and Andrew…when James and John…dropped what they were doing, came ashore, and walked off with Jesus.
I’ve been there…twice, neither time, though, was on a boat. The first time I was at a Conference Youth Event, ACS, that they hold at Methodist University in Fayetteville about this time of year each year. I had attended, as I did each year, already knowing what I planned to do. I was going to teach. I was going to apply to Appalachian State or UNC Wilmington, receive my teaching degree, and teach middle school science. Suddenly, without warning, during one of our evening sessions, I heard, “I want you to teach, just not middle school science. I want you to teach my people.” I responded. I added Methodist College to my list of schools, was accepted, and pursued the ministry—well, until I wanted to take my life back, and I walked away. I decided instead that I was going to teach in day care—and went from day care to working with developmentally disabled adults, first as a health care tech, then, having been accepted and NC Central to work on a lateral-entry teaching degree, to work as what would now be referred to as an EC teacher. This time the interruption was not as pleasant. It was hernia surgery—giving me six weeks of bed rest to spend working on a sermon I had been asked to offer for laity Sunday at my home church—a sermon on servanthood, a sermon on going where God called, a sermon during which I heard God say, “are you listening?” By the next day, having interrupted Anita at work to ask her what she thought, I was reapplying to divinity school and talking to the district superintendent about re-entering the ministry.
God interrupting…God using interruptions…all for the good and glory of His Kingdom. Now don’t get me wrong…since I have talked about all kinds of interruptions…I do not think that God causes a single one of those negative interruptions—the illnesses, the injuries, the accidents, the natural disasters, the deaths…God doesn’t work that way. We live in a fallen and broken world…a world that God is redeeming, a world that God will one day restore to its Edenlike origins, but a broken world right now, nonetheless. Bad things happen. Sometimes they happen because of choices we make, choices of our own free will…other times they happen because of someone else exercising their free will…other times they simply happen because it is part of the world we live in and these fragile vessels we inhabit break. Yet we worship a God that can take any one of those interruptions—good, bad, or indifferent and use them to bless us, but most importantly use them bring glory and honor to His Name. That is why Paul says to give thanks in all circumstances[i], because God can and will use anything to be a blessing. If you happen to already have one of my business cards, or when you do get one, you will find on the inside Romans 8:28—what I have claimed as my “life-verse.” For those of you who don’t know what Romans 8:28 says, it reads, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Not in a few things…not in some things…not even in many things…but in all things, God works for the good…
God will take any interruption and turn it into a blessing…and for those interruptions He specifically brings into our lives, we need to be ready to have our lives forever changed by what He calls us to do in building His Kingdom. Just look to Simon, also called Peter and Andrew, just look to James and John…Peter, James, and John becoming part of Jesus’ “inner circle,” (his three closest three friends). They were minding their own business…they were actually minding the family business…and Jesus came and interrupted their lives…and as they took their place among the Twelve…they became the ones through whom Jesus began changing the world. Did they desert Jesus during the trial? Yes. Did they have to be told by the women that Jesus had been raised from the dead? Yes. And yet they are the ones through whom, from Acts on, God began building His church. Why? Because when Jesus came alongside the seashore and interrupted their lives—He said follow me…and they IMMEDIATELY embraced that interruption, dropped their nets, walked away from the family business, and followed him.
They embraced their interruption and God changed the world. What might God do with us, if we embrace Him when an interruption comes into our lives?
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.