The Foolishness of Discipleship

Matthew 4:12-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 Now when Jesus[a] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”[b]

18 As he 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. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 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. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23 Jesus[c] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news[d] of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Recently on the Book of Faces (Facebook) there has been a ton of ads to buy for your valentine. Most have been in the genre of gifts for women in my case. I don’t know why they are excluding men, I guess they figure I don’t want to shop for myself and yes, they are not being very inclusive. There have been some very nice items from the Danbury Mint collection. I do not believe that I have ever bought anything from there, but who knows? Jewelry seems to be number one, followed by some nice figurines and wall hangings, I think. While I am speaking this out loud the next ad to pop up is men’s shorts and a grill—you just gotta love it.

Our world today is filled with images so fast and in real-time that we have become numb to the information. How fast can you scroll through any social media and what makes you stop and read? Or when watching TV, do you watch live TV anymore and dodge the commercials or is it all streamed and/or coming from your DVR which you can skip the channels?  It drives me crazy when I am watching a couple of ball games and they are both on a commercial break at the same time. The world we live in today is so far removed from the world of just my youth 50 years ago, or the last 100 years. It is almost like we cannot fathom that which we lived in yet alone now if we try to go back to biblical times.

Today’s passages are so intertwined I told Larry G. this week, it’s like the makers of the lectionary really knew what they were doing. Timelines become so fuzzy in the Bible. But just to give you a number, Isaiah was around 700 years older than Jesus, and Jesus’ death occurred about 30 years before Paul’s death. Almost a generation between the death of Jesus and some of Paul’s writings. Why is this important? Well first of all to remind us that the Bible is timeless, writing from one generation to the next can still have relevance even in our world of social media.

Second is that events that occurred in history have a strange way of repeating themselves again. In Isaiah King Uzziah has died and the Assyrians are knocking at the door about to overthrow the Northern Kingdom, which they did. Jesus lives in a land of occupation. Paul is a citizen of Rome and yet is imprisoned by his own government. The message of these three is pretty startling this week.


Jesus call

Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth—who are you gonna follow

Folishness of the cross

Who stands at the foot of the cross?

NPR reported in November, “Alexis Martinez, a Honduran man who traveled with his two young sons to seek asylum in the United States, last saw them holding hands, their faces streaked with tears, bravely walking across the Gateway International Bridge into Texas – alone.

After weeks in a makeshift refugee camp in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, Martinez knew he had to send 5-year-old Benjamin and 7-year-old Osiel without him. Benjamin had contracted bronchial pneumonia, and Martinez couldn’t afford any more antibiotics.

“They were sleeping on the ground, in the cold. These tents are not good for children because the cold goes right through them,” Martinez said in Spanish. “Sometimes you do things not because you’re a bad father, but because you want what’s good for them, and you don’t want to see them suffer.”

Mr. Martinez stands at the foot of the same cross that we do. Are you beginning to see the foolishness of discipleship? How is the kingdom of God at hand right here and now? Where is the darkness and where is the light? Do we really want God’s rule to reign? Does Jesus’ call cause us to radically reorient our lives? To drop all that we see as important and the world all around us?

Our society today would rather inundate us with the Danbury Mint collection, grills and great looking golf shorts. We are living in the lands of Naphtali and Zebulun. We are trying to hold on to our ways while the rest of the world is starving for good news of the kingdom of God. There was a time in my life-time that people wanted the best for one another. They went out of their way to be there for one-another. Not so much the case anymore. We only help if it is convenient and I will either be caught looking good by a selfie or I will get something out of it. The light is still shining but we are casting darkness because we do not want to be fools for the cross.

God’s light will shine. The darkness will be lifted. Jesus and his followers will preach and teach and heal. The rule of God cannot be stopped. However, if we are not responding to Jesus in our midst right now, if we are consumed with lesser gods, expending our energy on infighting, focused on winning petty arguments or increasing our own power and sway, the kingdom of God will feel far off to those most in need of its immediate, unquestionable presence.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus begins with a call to repentance and Paul admonishes the early Christians to be united in the same mind and purpose. Our repentance and our unity matter, not only to Jesus, not only for our own sake, but for the state of God’s creation and all its inhabitants. We cannot fish for people if we remain ensnared in the nets of sin and self-interest.

Following Jesus and fishing for people requires the freedom that comes from repentance and letting go – letting go of our cherished nets, our certain plans, our entrenched expectations, our fears of scarcity and our sole allegiance to our tribe.

May we embrace the foolishness of the cross. May we not take for granted the hope of salvation that it represents. And may we live as a people not of this world, for our citizenship lies in eternity. Amen.

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