Rev. George Miller Jan 23, 2011
Matthew 4:12-25 “One Boat, One Christ”
Greetings and good morning. It is good and an honor to be back here, at Emmanuel UCC, a congregation made up of people from different backgrounds and levels of belief, much like the ones at Matthew’s church.
It’s been said that Matthew composed his Gospel for a trail-blazing group of folk who were stepping into a unique situation. They were Jews who had left the synagogue so they could create something new, something called a church.
These were new, un-chartered waters, which came with no by-laws or maps. Matthew wrote this Gospel as a way to help them navigate through whatever trials and tribulations they may face.
So when Matthew places the disciples in a boat, it can be read as symbolic of the church. When the disciples face stormy seas, it becomes an allegory of how the church faces rough times.
If we are to take Matthew’s lead and see our church as a boat, the USS Emmanuel if you will, it means that Jesus Christ is our captain and that we all part of the crew.
Before today’s message, let’s do a review. Last week, Tracy Miller preached on Mark 4 and gave a personal message about peace and being still in the midst of life’s storms.
Two week’s ago, Rev. Bert Lawrence preached from Genesis 2 in which humans are created to be partners and helpmates to one another and to God.
Three weeks ago I shared how the Bible often uses water to represent chaos. I preached from Psalm 147 with its images of snow, frost and hail to show how God melts the waters of chaos away.
The irony is that a few days later I was in Chattanooga in which there was ice on the parking lot; Nashville which had 6 inches of snow, and I drove through St. Louis during rush hour when a gentle rain turned into flakes of snow.
I literally spent my vacation in the cold, watery, winter chaos, and my new car got wet and dirty, in which no amount of shoe stomping could prevent snow and slush from getting onto my car carpets.
And it was just a few weeks ago we were in the Christmas season, anticipating how God was going to do something new. We lit Advent candles to illuminate us with the themes of hope and peace, joy and love.
Each of these candles stood out against the darkness of winter, pointing us towards the light of Jesus Christ, the means through which God did and is doing something new.
Now I just shared eight weeks of information to tie it into today’s reading and the fact that soon we will be installing new church leaders into their elected positions.
And today’s reading from Matthew is perfect for where we have come from and where we are going.
This text seems straightforward, but don’t let it fool you, for it is ripe with chaos. It starts with stark news- John the Baptist has been arrested. Already a dark cloud of chaos hovers.
Next we are told Jesus leaves home to live in Capernaum, a place where the Israelites were first attacked before the exile fully kicked in.
It is in these shadows of John’s arrest and a place rooted in a chaotic history that Jesus begins to proclaim the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus walks along the sea. Simon and Andrew are casting their nets; James and John, mending theirs. With a simple summons of “Follow me” they leave their stuff behind and follow.
Like you, I’ve wondered how true this story is and why four men would leave everything behind to follow him. Applying the water analogy helps to make some sense.
If water represents chaos and uncertainty, what does it mean to say that Jesus walked alongside it?
And how do you think Simon and Andrew felt about making their living off of it? How certain was their livelihood and how much job security could they have had?
How many storms did they weather through, how many dangers had they faced? How many nets had that cast that came back empty?
And James and John- they weren’t even fishing. They were mending their nets. Think about that: no one mends their nets if they are having a successful day.
If business is booming you’d be too busy hauling in catch after catch. You don’t have time to sit to sew or crochet; you do that the start or the end of the day.
Can you now start to see the imagery and reality of what they were facing?
James and John are stuck mending broken, imperfect nets. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t so hard for them to walk away from their boats and to follow a man who promised he’d make something of them.
Of course, leaving the sea did not mean leaving behind all forms of chaos, for chaos comes to them. As Jesus teaches and proclaims the good news people start to appear with all different kinds of chaos: diseases and pains, demons and paralysis.
No doubt, this scripture is ripe with darkness and doom, chaos and brokenness. But light enters in as Jesus comes offering something new.
So, how does all this information I just bombarded you with come together? Because today’s reading gives us a glimpse of what it means to be followers of Jesus, what it means to be helpmates to one another and how to be church.
The church is not called from a place of calm and certainty, but it is called from the very reality of life.
That although our lives are filled with conflict and chaos, it is often from those places that God through Christ is calling us.
It may seem as if we spent much of our lives casting out or trying to mend what is broken, but through Jesus we have an opportunity to move together, transformed by Jesus’ call.
We are called from our relationships; we are called from our vocations, our economics and our own family histories.
We are called from our dark places and waters of chaos to move forward as something more then captains of our own destiny;
we get to become helpmates on Christ’s Ship, playing our own part in the preaching, teaching and healing that so clearly marks Jesus’ ministry.
A ministry that’s not just about belief, or service, but a ministry that coexists aside chaos and shows how can we affect the mind, soul and body of those we come across.
And that is good to hear today.
We are called to be followers of Christ and helpmates to one another. If indeed the church can be compared to a boat, let it continue to be one in which Jesus is our captain, pointing us towards the Kingdom of God in which something new is always happening.
May we find ways to exist in the presence of chaos and uncertainty. May our Council Members be humble enough to lay aside that which is broken and that which does not work, to follow Jesus’ lead into the community and lives of the people.
May our leaders find ways to continue the spirit of hope and peace, joy and love from the Christmas Season.
May they be fearless in facing the waters of chaos. May they allow Jesus to direct us through those waters, so that we can continue to teach, proclaim and do the Kingdom work that brings healing to a community that can be so often torn apart by sickness and pain, demons and paralysis.
As partners and helpmates, may we all stay focused, allowing our church be a boat for all to find safety and assurance, with Jesus Christ as our captain and our guide.
Blessings to the Spirit that first moved across the waters, to God who calls us to be as One and to Jesus who shows us how that is done.
Amen and amen.