A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (9:1-4)
There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
Psalm (27:1, 5-13)
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? *
the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?
5 One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; *
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;
6 To behold the fair beauty of the Lord *
and to seek him in his temple.
7 For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter; *
he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling
and set me high upon a rock.
8 Even now he lifts up my head *
above my enemies round about me.
9 Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation
with sounds of great gladness; *
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
10 Hearken to my voice, O Lord, when I call;*
have mercy on me and answer me.
11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”*
Your face, Lord, will I seek.
12 Hide not your face from me,*
nor turn away your servant in displeasure.
13 You have been my helper; cast me not away;*
do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.
A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1:10-18)
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew (4:12-23)
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—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.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 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. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 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. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
“So, you’ve got a big test coming up on Friday. I guess you’ll be doing some extra studying for it this week.”
“Well, yeah. But there’s this guy in my class, and he’s got a way to figure out what’s going to be on the test. His brother had the same teacher two years ago, and he told him that all you have to do is know these six things, and you should do fine, because that’s all she ever asks.”
“Or I suppose you could study.”
“And there’s this girl in one of my other classes who can figure out the questions that any teacher is going to ask. There’s an app for that. All you have to do is download it and then enter the information on your smart phone, and that takes only about maybe an hour or so.”
“Or you could study.”
‘And it’s a fact – two different people heard about it — that you can learn stuff even while you sleep without having to do anything. Since this is a Spanish test, I’m going to listen to this Spanish-language radio station on my phone while I sleep. I’ll keep the volume down. It won’t keep me awake, but I can learn some of it all night long without having to do all that boring work.”
“Or you could study.”
Some students spend a lot of time and effort trying to avoid what they really need to be doing: in this case, studying. They come up with all sorts of gimmicks and schemes – just about anything but the one thing that they know they need to do. But then, don’t we adults sometimes do the same?
In today’s gospel reading, we heard Matthew’s account of Jesus calling his first disciples: Peter and Andrew. He invites them to follow him and tells them that they will now be fishing for people. They, and the others who will join them, will be charged to go out and tell people about God’s vision for the world, what Jesus called “the kingdom of God,” and then invite them to join the community of his followers.
It’s basically the same charge that we have been given in baptism. We, too, have been commissioned by God to go out and tell others about what God is doing in the world today and to invite them simply to “Come and see,” as Jesus put it in last Sunday’s gospel account: simply to come and visit us at St. Mark’s Church. Just come and see. It sounds easy enough, but like young people avoiding the studying they need to do, we come up with all sorts of other things to do instead.
“I’ve got an idea: maybe we could organize a gigantic gathering of all the Episcopalians in the diocese, maybe get a really prominent person to join us, somebody like the Archbishop of Canterbury. Then our youth could anoint us and commission us to go out and tell people about God and invite them to join us.”
“Yeah, or we could just do it, since that’s what we’re supposed to be doing anyway.”
“Or we could declare a grandiose goal of having maybe 100,000 Episcopalians in the diocese in five years – without having any real plans for making that happen, of course.”
“Or we could just invite people one at a time.”
“Or maybe we could pay a consulting company a lot of money to come up with some catchy ads to post on billboards and to print on cards that we can leave in church pews to amuse those who are already here anyway.”
“Or we could just invite people one at a time.”
“Or…” “Or…” “Or…” I’m sure that, if we try, we can come up with dozens of other clever-sounding gimmicks and schemes to avoid the one thing that we know we need to be doing: fishing for people, simply inviting people one or two at a time.
In our tradition, we’re not going to go out knocking on doors and testifying to complete strangers about our faith. But we all have many opportunities, if we look for them, simply to tell somebody we know about St. Mark’s Church and about what it means to us and simply to invite them to join us: to come and see.
There are stories in the Acts of the Apostles about great, mass conversions involving thousands of people, but that’s not how things happen today. A company for which I once worked used to use an eagle as its corporate symbol, and they liked to refer to their top employees as “eagles.” Their recruiting slogan was “Eagles don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.”
I think the same is true with those people to whom we are sent. When Jesus called his followers, he didn’t start a giant advertising campaign, hoping that large crowds would respond. He called people one or two at a time, just as he did with Peter and Andrew in today’s gospel reading. Then later, he called two other brothers, James and John. Jesus didn’t do anything dramatic or flashy. He simply invited them, and then he told them of his intent to have them go out and fish for people.
Later this morning, we will be electing members of this parish to serve in leadership positions for the coming year. Maybe this would be a good opportunity for us to recommit ourselves to do the job for which we were elected, for which we were chosen and commissioned in baptism: the work of telling people whom we know about this church and simply inviting them to come and see.