There’s an old phrase that gets bandied about at seminaries around the world; it’s supposed to be comforting, especially to the new students or to those who seem to fail over and over. You see, going to seminary or preparing for any kind of ministry, including (if not especially) lay ministry, is a daunting task; who feels worthy of working or speaking on behalf of Jesus, representing the Lord to the world? I remember Bishop Councell, when he was just Fr. George, he was asked by the NJ search committee why he wanted to become a bishop, and he said “I don’t want to be a bishop.” It was that answer that propelled him to the bishopric here, that sense of call but also that sense of unworthiness. Anyway, that old comforting phrase: God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.
In the Gospel lesson we just heard from St. Mark, “Jesus uses the curious phrase alieis anthropon to entice Simon and Andrew to follow him. They would become (fishers of men), “people-fishers,” anglers for human beings. It was a clever way to connect their current occupation with what Jesus had in mind for their future—it was in that sense, if you will forgive the pun, a good “hook” to get the attention of these men. Maybe had they been construction workers, Jesus would have invited them to become builders of human hearts. Maybe had they been real estate agents, he would have invited them to become sellers of kingdom turf. The source of the metaphor is obvious enough–they were fishermen and so Jesus used a fishing metaphor to address them.
“What Simon and Andrew understood from the metaphor is harder to discern. Fishing had been the source of their livelihood up to that time. Was Jesus promising them a more lucrative way to make money? That seems unlikely. Jesus did not look like someone who offered riches. But maybe he did look like someone who offered these men a chance to bring people into that kingdom whose nearness Jesus had been talking about ever since arriving in Galilee. And maybe the thought of reeling folks in to that better place was just intriguing enough as to have been part of what motivated these men to start modeling their lives on the life of the man whom they did not previously know but who (they perceived carried that Kingdom around with him)”1
The one named character we don’t get a bead on was Zebedee. His sons, James and John, were the second pair of fisherman Jesus gathered up from the seashore that day. “Zebedee was a fisherman of the Sea of Galilee, who probably lived in or near Bethsaida, perhaps in Capharnaum; and had some boatmen or hired men. (His wife) Salome was one of the pious women who afterwards followed Christ and “ministered unto him of their substance”. And his brother John (the beloved disciple and author of the gospel that bears his name) was personally known to the high-priest, and must have had wherewithal to provide for (the Virgin Mary after the crucifixion).2
And so Zebedee, who had a really nice life going on, in a single day loses his two sons, the heirs of his business, and watches them walk away with the competition, Simon and Andrew, following an itinerant rabbi who knows where.
In a world in which our superhero movies can reboot themselves every couple of years, where we pay good money for what are called “origin stories”, this doesn’t seem all that great. “Hey honey, or Hey dad, we won’t be home for dinner because this guy we met over at John the Baptist’s swung by and we’re going walking” doesn’t really get the heart pumping.
But it should. It should because, well, Jesus, and the possibility that Jesus might just swing by and pick us up one day and call us to drop everything and follow Him. It should get our hearts pumping because as non-qualified as Simon and Andrew and James and John were to be disciples of Jesus, Jesus chose them anyway, and if He chose them, maybe He might choose us.
Come to think of it, since we are all here, maybe Jesus has already called us to follow Him, already chosen us, as non-qualified as we are, to be His disciples here in Bordentown. We are, in fact, called to follow Jesus here just as literally as those four followed Him back then; to walk in His footsteps, to tell of His love, to pray without ceasing, to bring Christ into a world that needs Him so badly. That might be daunting work, but don’t worry, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.
1Scott Hoezee, This Week