As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I shall make you those who catch people." - Matthew 4:18-19
Your comfort, as far as how safe or unsafe you feel seems to be of no concern of Jesus at times. Whether we like something or not, whether we are called to do something that we enjoy, or something that we despise – well, Jesus seems to not really care. For Jesus, comfort can mean complacency, and complacency is not his middle name.
We like the adage – bloom where you are planted, especially when we get to pick the greenness, the lushness of the field, but not when it may mean we are the one thistle among other thistles and thorns. We don’t often want the unfamiliar, the new, the different. We especially don’t want to think that we might be the light of the world called to serve in the darkness. We want to be the light among light, because otherwise, we have no clue what we are doing.
I have zero qualifications. No real marketable skills. Seriously. I come from a family of plumbers. My Great-Grandpa was a plumber. My Grandpa and his brothers were plumbers. My uncle started his own plumbing business even though he has a degree in pastoral studies. My dad worked for the family business for a time. But that gene seemed to skip a generation.
I come from a family of teachers too. My mom has her Ph.D in English Education. My dad was a bi-vocational children’s pastor teaching kindergarten and doing ministry. My stepmom teaches flute. My stepdad was assistant superintendent of the school district I graduated from. As a pastor, I teach but couldn’t get a job teaching.
Add to this that I have zero trade skills. My knack level, if it could be negative, it would be. My job history proves it. I’ve been – a dishwasher, a busboy, a golf cart attendant, a security guard, a custodian, a personal trainer, a facilities supervisor, a track coach, a youth director, a worship leader, a bartender, a waiter, restaurant manager, stay-at-home dad, and you too can be a pastor. Not exactly a tradesman.
Going further. I am a dad, but how many of us can say we are qualified to be parents? Half the time we sit there as dad’s and mom’s and pray to God that our kids don’t turn out to be jerks. That can often be the goal. Because otherwise, it’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation here. Carry and I will agonize over certain decisions because we have no clue what to do half the time. There isn’t an owner’s manual, but somehow, some way, the human race keeps reproducing. And there are fewer jerks than we realize.
As a Lutheran, my qualifications are even worse. I was never confirmed in the Lutheran church. I was baptized, immersed in a hot-tub type baptistry at the age of 15. I am not from Minnesota, which could be a Lutheran qualification depending on who you talk to, but I have lived here longer than California so I have dual-citizenship. Especially since I can track my Minnesota Swedish Lutheran genes through my mother, kind of, but for most of you, your kids have been Lutheran longer than me.
Then don’t get me started on pastor qualifications. How is a sinner qualified to look after sinners except that they are, because its what God has given us to work with.
Or Christian qualifications. How is one qualified to be a Christian, to use that word, except that it includes the only proof of what it is in it’s name – Christ.
This may sound rather depressing, tell me about it, but these are all good things, because look at the disciples here in Matthew 4. We see their call story unfold and we discover that all the qualifications we want to make on people are completely thrown out the window.
Peter and Andrew are fishermen. There standing in the water, their pants hiked up, all wet, casting their nets to get some fish and Jesus comes by and says – You two. Follow me. He didn’t go to the Hebrew school or the Synagogue. He didn’t head down to the temple offices to find recruits. He found two guys, all wet, covered in fish blood and scales, tanned from spending their life doing one thing, and said – I choose you.
James and John – They were helping their pops. Mending the nets. Needing to sow up those holes so that they could do their job. They are occupied. Doing what they have been doing. Doing a good thing out of obligation to their dad – You two, come with me. I choose you.
Those are disciples. Not the Learned, but ones who learn. That’s what it means. Students. Those who have not completed the course but are in the middle of it. In other words – YOU.
Because Jesus doesn’t care about all the crap we care about. He would rather burn your CV, your resume, your letters of recommendation than read them. He takes who he takes because he wants to use them, use you, in the way he wants. He doesn’t want to share the credit as though you were some great candidate for the job. He wants the least qualified so that people don’t say look at him, or look at her, but instead – If God can use them, can He use me?
How often it is that we are minding our own business. Working at something. A job. A task. A hobby. An amusement. And what do we hear coming to us out of left field. “Leave the nets. Follow me.” Interrupting our day. Getting in the way of our rhythm and God has the audacity to ask us to do something we don’t even know if we can do, but there comes Jesus – you, follow me.
Or thrust ourselves into a good place. A place where we are doing something good for someone. Maybe doing something absolutely necessary, then Jesus steps in to pull us away from fixing one thing we can. Mending those nets. You – come here. Follow me. A taking of you away from one place where you think you are doing some good, in order to thrust you into another place where Jesus can do you some good.
There isn’t a place to give you the chance to become qualified. To have that seal of approval. To be bonded and certified. For Peter, Andrew, James and John – Jesus didn’t wait for them to be confirmed, or to go through membership class. He grabbed them up and carried them off to have them be placed into an actual experience of the one whom we are baptized into. Whom we deepen our spiritual walk with in confirmation. Whom we walk about bearing the name of – Christ – Christian.
When we pick and choose qualifications we set up walls. We begin to make arbitrary decisions about who can or cannot be a particular participant in a particular thing. We decide – this person is in and that one is out. That one is qualified, but those ones are not. Building a house of cards to be blown over by the wind of the Spirit. To be consumed by the breath of God. We begin, and continue, to add things to Jesus that Jesus has no need for. Thinking that we can assume some righteousness we could never dream of having.
Thus, we scandalize the cross. We make something not the Gospel, the Gospel. And we do it all the time.
You want to know why the cross is relevant? Why Christ dying for you for no reason other than to forgive you, to love you, to give you life out of death, not based on anything you have done but because of his mercy? Any time we decide one person is not as good as us. When we decide one person is less than who we are. When we judge the life of another, all we do is condemn ourselves. All we do is decide that we are the agents of righteousness. That the other person has disqualified themselves because we disagree with them on something.
In Acts 4, Peter and John, these fishermen called by Jesus were before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council. And they defended the fact that they had healed a cripple in Jesus name. And verse 13 says:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John, and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were amazed and took note that they had been with Jesus.
They didn’t take note of their piety or eloquence. They didn’t take note of their personal righteousness. They took note of the fact that these were illiterate fishermen who had been with Jesus. Who had been consumed by this cross that is so foolish because it upsets everything. It turns everything on its head. It tells you that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. While we should be condemned to death, Christ rose to defeat death. While we should be able to make ourselves worthy of all these things, Christ says to you – You are not. But I am, and I am enough for you.
Jesus doesn’t wait for graduations or convenience. He doesn’t wait for you to be just right. He doesn’t wait for a pastor to be perfect, a servant to be ready, a child to be learned. He plucks you from where you think you are perfect and sets you down where he makes you most perfect. Not giving room for you to decide for things, he invades your lives to break the shell of pious indignation, to give to you all things, that people would not look at you as qualified or not, but ones who heard – Follow me – and so you did. Amen