Fourth Sunday After Epiphany
Good morning! I’m here today to tell you my story of what I learned about God from meeting Jesus.
I know I’m an odd choice of speaker for today, since I technically wasn’t there for the story you just heard read from Scripture. But it’s a story that had quite an impact on me and my family.
I am Simon’s mother-in-law. You might know him better as Peter, or as Simon Peter, but when he married my daughter he was just plain Simon. Just an ordinary fisherman. Not a great fisherman, really. But it’s an honest business, and we could have done worse. I mean, sure, he always talked too much, and he didn’t always think before he talked, but he was my daughter’s husband and father to my grandchildren and so … he was family.
People tell me he was very worried about me when I was sick, and stayed by my bedside and even helped care for me. Of course, I don’t remember any of that. I had a very high fever, it’s all kind of a blur. The only thing I remember is the sound of Jesus’ voice and the way his shadow felt as he stood over me, so cool. Between the voice and the shadow I felt better immediately. I was healed, cured, completely better. So I did what any good woman would do: I jumped out of bed and made dinner for everyone. That’s just how I am. I live to serve others, to take care of people.
I was actually hoping that Jesus and his disciples would stay at my house. Maybe make it his ministry headquarters. He did wonderful things in Capernaum, but he could have done so much more. We really needed him and we tried to convince him to stay, but he told us God sent him to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to other cities, too. And he left … and he took my son-in-law with him.
I was so angry when I found out what had happened. It actually took a couple of days for us to figure out what had happened and to get the story from a couple of eyewitnesses, but eventually we pieced it together and it’s the story you just heard: Jesus got into Simon’s boat and did some teaching of the crowds from just offshore. Then he gave Simon some advice on where to put his nets down, and the nets came back so full that that they started to break, and even when they got help from other boats it was so many fish that they started to sink. And then Jesus said something to them and then Simon and his partners, James and John, who were brothers, left everything … the boats, the fish, their families, everything, and left town with Jesus, just like that.
They didn’t stop at home to tell us what they were doing. They didn’t pack for their journey or pick up any supplies. They didn’t take any money with them and they didn’t tell anyone their plans.
They just left.
You can see why I was angry. How could Simon abandon his wife and children like that?
I don’t know how much you all know about the time and place I lived in, but in my world, women without husbands had no hope, no future, and children without fathers were even more vulnerable.
I don’t know how our family managed it, but we did. We did our best, anyway. But I was very angry for a very, very long time. I used to think, maybe it would have been better if Jesus had never come to Capernaum. I probably would have died of that fever, but it would have been better for me to die than for my daughter and her children to suffer as they did when Simon left. I would think that and I would try to wish that I’d never laid eyes on Jesus, that I’d never made dinner for the man who caused my family so much pain.
But even in my most angry days, I couldn’t. I couldn’t wish that I’d never met Jesus. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without meeting him. Not just because he saved my life, either. It was more than that.
Look, let’s be honest: I’m not smart, I’m not beautiful, I’m not rich, or powerful, or talented. By most measures, I’m not worth much, dead or alive. But when Jesus saved my life he reminded me that my life DOES matter. He showed me that my life has meaning and purpose.
I am alive today to live out that purpose: to serve God and to serve people in need. That’s what I’m called to do. And over the years and after a lot of praying about it, I’ve realized that becoming Jesus’ disciple is what Simon was called to do. That was his purpose. His way of serving God and serving others was to be a disciple. And I can’t fault him for that.
Well, that might be overstating it. I’m still angry with him, sometimes. And, to tell you the truth, I’m a little angry with God about it too. I know we’re not supposed to say that but I figure if the writers of the Psalms get to be angry with God, then I get to be angry, too.
I don’t really want to be angry. But it’s hard. I think you probably know what I mean. I think there must be times in your lives when you’ve thought, “God, what are you doing? Why is this happening to me?”
What I learned about God from meeting Jesus is that there’s no easy answer to that question. I learned that serving God and serving others does not mean that your life is going to be perfect or easy. In fact, it’s probably going to be a lot harder than it would have been if you hadn’t followed God’s call.
At least, that’s what it’s been like for me. But, you know, I am so grateful for that call, for that sense of meaning and purpose. My relationship with God is not easy, but it’s worth it. My LIFE is not easy, but it IS worth living. And it is worth something, no matter what the world might try to tell me.
So I say, “Go for it.” All of you. Be fishers of people or be whatever it is that God’s been calling you to be but you’ve been too scared to listen or to follow. Go for it. And may God be with you as you go.