Thursday, September 17, 2009

leaving our nets to follow Jesus

16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 18At once they left their nets and followed him. _Mark 1:16-20

19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

In the film ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ the main character Douglas Hall is part of a team of three that create a virtual computer world. He can download his brain waves into a computer-generated character in that world and live there for a period. The created world is Los Angeles in the 1920’s, a movie exploring the frontier of digital technology and virtual reality goes back to a time and place where film, an older form of virtual reality, was being pioneered. The characters in this virtual world have no comprehension of anything beyond themselves, they don’t realise they are created they don’t recognise their creator as he steps in amongst them. One of the characters in the virtual world finds out that he is in a computer programme and tests this crazy idea by trying to drive out of the city. He finds as he drives past the city limits and out into what he thinks is the Californian desert that the whole landscape begins to disappear that at its edges the computer does not have enough power to generate a full programme anymore that his reality becomes made up of a series of green lines the net that computers use as the basis for their graphics. The picture on the cover of the order of service sheet is from the poster of the movie and depicts that scene. His world made up of these nets is challenged when the creator steps into it and he is changed.

The fisherman on the shores of the Sea of Galilee also live in a world and reality made of up nets and into that world of nets Jesus walks and because of this close encounter of the Jesus kind it totally changes. “Jesus words come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men’ not only calls them to leave the physical nets that feature in their lives, but also like in the film ‘the thirteenth floor’ it calls them to leave the very nets that are the basic structure and fabric of their existence and follow Jesus.

It affected their net worth. These are not just some poor fishermen eking out an existence, we know that the Sea of Galilee was known through out the roman world for its abundant fish stocks and there was a thriving export market in salted fish. In Mark 10 Peter’s words ‘Lord we have given up everything to follow you’ is not an idle boast they had given up a lot. James and John were in the prosperous family business, they hired other fishermen to work for them. To follow Jesus meant to leave this behind. It meant that their priority was no longer going to be hauling in the fish and the money but hauling in other people into God’s kingdom. Now the way that there was always a boat around when Jesus needed to cross the lake shows that they didn’t totally abandon what they had and we have the example of Paul who was able to support his missionary endeavours by being a tent maker. But to follow Jesus means leaving the priorities we have in our materialistic world and put Jesus and his kingdom first. In Luke’s gospel the measure of the depth of our discipleship was how it reached in the depth of our wallets.

It affected their networks. For James and John to answer Jesus call they left their father in the boat with the hired help and followed Jesus. Networks are the way we talk about the relationships we have that give us meaning and purpose in life. To follow Jesus means changing those networks of relationships.

Leonard Sweet, uses the idea of a network of right relationships to express what it means to follow Jesus. He actually uses the more “in” word Matrix. Being a follower of Jesus is about having a matrix of right relationships: a right relationship with God, God’s word, fellow believers, others outside our faith, with God’s creation, with material things and the spirit world and at the heart of those things is having a right relationship with Jesus.

At the heart of this new network is being caught up in Jesus. To be a fisher of men first you’ve got to be caught. Follow me is an invitation to a relationship with Jesus, its knowing and being known by him. It’s an invitation to intimacy and being loved, but also to a being a follower and a learner (a disciple) letting someone else lead. Jesus says to his disciples ‘You know I no longer call you servants but friends’ But that was still the friends of the king, the royal king who loves us and values us but is still the boss.

Net worth and networks are like the strands that weave together to make our safety net in life. They are the things that make us feel safe and we can fall back on. You see this in the disciples lives, in that after Jesus death Peter says to his fellow disciples “hey lets go fishing”. We see it in that phenomenon of our time ‘the boomerang generation’ adult children returning home to mum and dad when things don’t work out as they planned. But following Jesus calls us out from our safety nets, to follow with only the ever-loving arms beneath us around us.

Come and follow me meant that their basic network was changed. Not just their relationship network but what they did as well. They put aside their nets and Jesus said that they would become fishers of men. Jesus used their identity as fishermen to invite them into this new endeavour. They wouldn’t cast their net for fish but to follow Jesus means to do what Jesus does. To follow Jesus is to do network where people are gathered into the kingdom of God.

In the movie poster for ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ there is a man before a door leading into the light. It’s a way into a new reality beyond the nets that make up his life in the virtual world. The words of Jesus ‘come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men’ is an invitation that does reach down to the very fabric of our reality, A door that Jesus invites us to go through.

Jesus said ‘come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. And they left their nets and followed him. What nets do you need to leave? What fresh challenge do these words have for you? What doors do they open?

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