Invitation to Follow


I have previously said that this Time After Epiphany is a series of God’s manifestations in Jesus as the Christ and Christ’s ministry. We see these manifestations in various, distinctive ways.

Last week, we heard the story of Jesus calling Nathaniel and a few other men to be disciples. The story was not (necessarily) dramatic… Jesus basically says:
“Hey, I saw you sitting under the fig tree. Come, follow me and do something with your life”.

Today, we have very different call story in our gospel.
Simon (who later will be “Peter”) and Andrew are in their boats fishing. They were fishermen by trade. We also have John and James (Sons of Zebedee) are in their boat mending nets, because they too were fishermen by trade.

Jesus is standing on the shoreline and shouts to them (in their boats) saying “Follow Me”.
We do not get this ‘sense’ in the English, but in the Greek it is a command: “Follow Me”.

It is not so much a question and not so much a pleasant invitation, but it is a ‘forceful’ one.

BUT, in the philosophical writings of the era “to follow” meant “to be in relationship with”. Jesus is not simply telling these men to leave everything behind and follow him to become his little minions. Jesus instead is saying follow me, enter into a relationship with me, and become a partner with me in my mission.

Jesus’ mission is not in our reading today, but it did appear just before this passage.

Jesus’ first sermon preached in his own hometown, but it was not well received. In fact, the hearers chased him out of town. Jesus said that the ‘Day of the Lord’ that was foretold in the Prophets of old was near including proclaiming release to the captives, freeing the prisoners, and saving all people.

As Paul wrote in our 1 Corinthians text today:
Get Ready! The things of this world are passing away. Change is coming. Be Ready!

Last week, we had the story of Samuel being called as a prophet. I spoke about our invitation into vocation, into the use of our gifts and talents to live out our baptismal promises through ALL of our vocations as family members, in our professions, and in our communities.

We have another prophet today, Jonah. We all know Jonah and his story. Although we do consider Jonah a prophet, we also consider the Book of Jonah to be a little bit of a comedy, a little bit of satire that exaggerates the themes throughout the prophets. We can also relate to Jonah.

God comes to Jonah and tells him “I have a job for you”.

Jonah replies, “Hmmm, Nope. (I am) not doing it”.

God: “Oh yes YOU are. You will go to these people you hate and ask them to change their ways, to repent, to (essentially) come to the water to be cleansed, to join in the mission”.

Jonah REALLY does not want to do this. So, he flees from the call/vocation.

Jonah happens to go on a ship with sailors when a BIG storm causes trouble. The sailors discover why and throw Jonah overboard.

Jonah gets swallowed up by a BIG fish. He is spit out on the land.

Jonah concedes “Fine, FINE. I got it. I am here in Nineveh. I have to deliver your

Our text has an approximately eight words sermon, but the original Hebrew is even fewer words. I have yet to be able to preach a sermon in 8 words.

We have this image of Jonah walking with his face down, murmuring the words “forty more days, if you do not repent, you will be destroyed”. It is (almost) as though he hopes no one hears him.

But, the people of Nineveh do hear his words. They repent. They put on sackcloth as a sign of their grief, their mourning, and their desire to be saved through this pleading to God. According to our texts, God changed God’s mind.

After this passage, Jonah is REALLY mad at God for saving Nineveh. Jonah does not like the people in Nineveh, because they were THE enemies of the day.

It is amazing the invitations that we receive throughout the scriptures.

Jonah is invited to minister to the people he despises the most. Although Jonah is resistant, it ultimately happens.

The disciples in our gospel were invited to put aside their nets, their employment, and their families to follow this teacher who called them from the shore.

The disciples willingly gave up everything, not to simply follow Christ becoming his minions but to be in relationship with Jesus the Christ, to be in a relationship with God.
These invitations have been extended to us. We have been extended an invitation that calls us outside of ourselves, calls us outside of our comfort zones in order to live into our baptismal promises of proclaiming the Word, of seeking justice, or loving and serving ALL people.

I was reading a book that noted Jonah’s invitation said “this is your mission if you so choose to accept”. But, that is our invitation: “This (our baptismal vocation) is our mission if we so choose to accept it”.

I invite each of us to say “YES” to that mission and the invitation to follow Christ in his example, his life, and his mission. Amen.

Focus Scriptures: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31; and Mark 1: 14-20.
Originally preached January 21, 2018 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

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