Sermon for Epiphany 3, Year A
January 23, 2011
Andrew and Simon Peter, and the Zebedee brothers are all invited to leave their familiar fishing work and start a different kind of fishing.
Those two sets of Galilean brothers take to the road with Jesus, and follow him as he tells about the good news of God’s reign, feeds and heals people. That’s what Isaiah calls shining light on those who have lived in darkness.
What has brought healing and light to this congregation? I don’t know many of the details, but at some point you decided that fishing nets with instructions only in English weren’t terribly effective any more. You left those nets behind, or at least some of them, and picked up some new ones, with instructions in Spanish. You noticed that the kinds of fish had changed, and that different methods were required.
Jesus asks us to let go of the old tools and pick up new ones along the way. We’re supposed to go out there and discover people who need good news and light in the midst of darkness, not just wait here for fish to swim within reach of our nets.
The word we heard this morning is filled with images of water and light – the water of baptism, the waters of fishing, and the seaside highway that Isaiah insists is going to be glorious. Light drives out the darkness, forces the retreat of gloom for those in anguish, and sends Jesus to Capernaum by the sea, bringing light to the coastlands.
Where else do we hear about light and darkness, waters of various kinds but in the beginning of creation, when God creates light and separates waters. All of these images are about new creation – the new thing God is doing in the midst of building a beloved community of those who fish for people, bringing good news, and healing.
Baptism is about new creation and being children of light. It’s an active, involved, ongoing creation in which we take part. It involves change and movement and travel, both getting out of our own way and encountering the vast diversity of God’s creation. Follow Jesus, and see the world! Follow Jesus, and truly see where the darkness is, where light and healing are needed! Following Jesus is about new birth and bringing into the light.
Yet none of us can produce light all alone, out of nothing. We can reflect it, and we can transform it, and we can produce light from stored up energy, but ultimately we depend on another source. Baptism invites us to connect with that source of light, and then share it with a world in need of it. Our task is to become collectors of light.
If you were a fisherman, what kinds of net would you need to catch light? Think about plants – they’re designed to harvest light and turn it into carbohydrates. That’s basically where all our food comes from. We would soon starve without the light of the sun and plants to transform the light. Those light-harvesting plants also give us lumber and paper, and they’re the source of the coal and oil and natural gas that let us put the sun’s energy to work in other ways: housing, transportation, literature – clothing, too – and the energy to run computers, and airplanes, cell phones and organs. Raw material for guitars and food for dancers. What did Jesus mean when he said he was the light of the world? It has something to do with light being the life of the world.
Jesus goes to Capernaum by the sea in order to bring light into the lives of those who dwell in darkness. He calls those four brothers to follow him, to share in his work of lighting the world. Our baptism means the same thing – time to join the body of light-bringers, giving life to the world. When Jesus says, “repent, the kingdom of heaven has come near” it doesn’t mean to be sad or depressed. It’s an invitation to turn around and face the light. We’re meant to be like sunflowers, that face the sun all during the day, continually turning to face it directly so they can take full advantage of the sunlight. During the night they turn some more, so that at the first rays of dawn, they’re oriented directly toward the rising sun. We’re supposed to do the same, leaning toward the source of life, depending on the holy one at work in our midst, and when the night seems darkest, to keep turning in expectation of the dawn.
We’re being invited to become transformers of light, rather than just light sinks, so that the light of Christ can heal and light up the world.
May we all be like sunflowers!