Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only Start Doing

Epiphany 3 – Year A

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

That’s a pretty tall order. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus stands by the Sea of Galilee and calls out to Peter and Andrew and tells them to leave their nets and follow Him. Now Peter and Andrew are just a couple of guys who fish for a living, regular people like you and me. Jesus is asking them to give up what they know, to step out of their “comfort zone,” to step out of their “bubble.” He asks them to take a risk by leaving behind the “certain” to take a chance on the “uncertain.” It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. And what do these guys do? How do these two average guys respond to Jesus? They do exactly as He asks. They toss their nets aside and join Jesus in spreading the good news of the kingdom of heaven.

Pretty bold move.

Think about it for a minute. What if that were to happen today? Imagine Jesus knocking on front doors right here in the Fan or the West End or the Northside, calling people to drop what they’re doing to follow Him. What if He knocked on your door? Called out for you to drop everything and follow Him – would you do it? Would you walk away from that dinner you’re making, or the case you’re preparing, or the class you’re teaching or the TV show you’re watching, and follow Him? Peter and Andrew did.

Granted, our world today is exponentially more complex and fast-paced than the world of Jesus’s day. There’s more stuff going on. Life is just more complicated. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, Jesus is asking us – a bunch of ordinary people living our everyday lives, minding our own business – to follow Him, to help him spread the good news.

Before Peter and Andrew and James and John could do that, they first had to be caught by Jesus – He went fishing for them. Once they were “in the fold,” so to speak, they were responsible for spreading Jesus’s message and drawing others in. Like these four fishermen, we – as members of one Christian body – have been caught by Jesus, taken into the fold. And our responsibility, in turn, is to take the good news given to us and pass it on to others: to spread the message of love found in the Gospel.

But there are problems. In today’s epistle reading from Corinthians, Paul warns that there should be no divisions among us; that we should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. We must be unified in our ministry.

Too often, though, we aren’t unified. In Youth Group, we have just a few cardinal rules, and one of those rules is “No sub – grouping!!!” When we get together on Sunday evenings, we try to do things as a whole group, together for one purpose, rather than break away to answer our cell phones, or pair off into private, exclusive conversations.

But if you look at the church on a global scale, there’s a lot of sub-grouping going on right now. There isn’t a single unified Christian Church. Instead, we highlight our differences by categorizing ourselves: Episcopalians, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians…the list just goes on. We claim that we are one body in Christ, all inclusive – but we really prefer our own brand of Christianity best. Even within our own denomination, social and cultural issues can place such a strain on relationships that we sometimes lose sight of what’s really important, what we’re really supposed to be doing.

How can we – as a parish and as individuals – become more unified in our ministry? One of the best answers is right over our heads.

“BE YE DOERS OF THE WORD AND NOT HEARERS ONLY.”

St. James’s words hang up there above our altar in big gold letters for us to read every time we come into the church. It’s a constant reminder of how we should be living out the message of God’s love.

“BE YE DOERS OF THE WORD AND NOT HEARERS ONLY.”

But here’s the hard question: Am I really a “doer”? Are you? Are we living out the Word, the message of love? Ask yourself: Am I doing something to fulfill that mission, or do I tend to enjoy God within my comfort zone?

At its core, God’s message is simple: God loves ALL of us, and it doesn’t matter who we are or what we do. What grades we make or what color we are, how rich or how poor, how smart or not – smart, how attractive or unattractive.

But saying that – acknowledging that – isn’t enough. We have to live it.

We come to church on Sunday morning proclaiming that we are One Body in Christ. But that means nothing, that means nothing – if our actions don’t back that statement up. In other words, we can talk the talk…but can we walk the walk? What kind of hypocrites are we if we show up on Sunday just to go through the motions? To sit in the pews, listen to the sermon, enjoy the music from the choir…and then leave all of that at the door when we return to our daily lives? Instead, we have to take those things with us, carry those things with us, and put them back out into the world.

We live the Gospel by being respectful, treating others as we would like to be treated, loving others as we would like for them to love us. I’m not just talking about loving the people it’s easy to love, like our parents, our brothers, our sisters and friends, but finding a way to love everybody. Even the people that we don’t want to love. The losers. The geeks. The jocks. The bullies. The uncool and the too-cool. The people we disagree with. The people who just annoy us. Even our sworn enemies. Living the love of God doesn’t have to happen in loud proclamations or sweeping, grandiose gestures. Just a steady accumulation of little random acts of kindness and acceptance each day.

The first step toward being successful in spreading God’s message of love is inclusion. Drawing in those people who are on the margins. Let me pose this question: When was the last time you invited a friend to come with you to church? Or to Youth Group? Or to anywhere we go? Do we go out of our way to include people? Or are we too afraid to step out of what’s comfortable, to risk being “not cool” or just being told NO? Think about the shy kid in your English or Science class, the one that everybody whispers about and laughs at behind her back. Or that lonely guy at work, the one that people ignore in the hopes they won’t get stuck talking to him. All of us can probably think of at least one person like that in our lives. When was the last time you made an effort to reach out to those people, to make them feel wanted, to make them feel loved, to make them feel human?

For better or for worse, God doesn’t speak to us from heaven in a loud, booming, voice. At least not to me anyway. He speaks through us, through you and through me, in the way we interact with one another. Our words and actions have the capability to serve as the mouthpiece of God if only we will let them.

We can’t allow ourselves to get too comfortable in our own worlds, our own bubbles. If we do, what’s going to happen when Jesus knocks on our front door, calling to us and asking us to drop our nets and follow Him? Do we call back, “No thanks, I’ve got some other stuff to do” or “I don’t think so, not today,” or “Sorry, I’m just too busy.” If we were Peter and Andrew, would we keep on fishing and pretend like we couldn’t hear? Or maybe we would react the same way that we do when we’re confronted by uncomfortable sights or uncomfortable people on the street: we stick our hands in our pockets and put our heads down and keep walking, hoping we can hurry past.

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

Drop your nets.

Allow yourself to filled with the Spirit and Love of Christ.

Reach out to those around you and live the Word of God the way Jesus has called us to do.

AMEN.