Welcome home! Said the voice through the light flooded open door. Welcome home! Standing in the snow outside the large arched doorway, I was stunned by such a radical welcome- since I had never been here before! Its was January 2009, there was more snow than I had ever seen in my life, my life was a mess, the air travel was anxiety driving, this trip was costing me a fortune and I was told by my priest to go to Boston and meet these Monks who lived in Cambridge because it would be “good” for me. What I felt was good for me was sitting at home in warm vancouver, working away and making money- rather than unpaid vacation- but we agreed to disagree. I wasn’t prepared for this trip, the weather, or what it was I would encounter at the Monastery of St John the Evangelist in Cambridge massachusetts. This welcome home has been a signal of the Kingdom way of life for me these past nine years as I continue to lean into my friendship with these monks in Boston, who point me into the abundant discipleship of Christ. This relationship, this kingdom relationship, remains one of challenge and support, prayer and presence, pattern and life. It is this entry into the Kingdom way of life through a radical relationship of abundant discipleship that our Gospel this morning invites us into.
Moving through today's gospel we encounter Jesus trying to share with us the immediacy of his message. Time is of the essence, and it's still surprising that the people Jesus encounters do not understand that! Even after all that time hearing John the baptist proclaim the nearness of the kingdom, folks kinda just rolled over not giving it much thought. So Jesus goes for the centre point of his people's lives- their livelihood. Jesus is in galilee in this Gospel story, and Andrew and Simon are part of a long history of fishermen on the sea of Galilee. For us today fishing is a past time rather than a way of life, so Jesus is asking a huge amount from the disciples today. He is asking them to see their life and talents as a relationship, rather than a commodity for self preservation. He is asking them to see the Good News that he preaches is dwelling within everything they are and do with who they are today. Jesus is asking us to follow him into relationship, a relationship which is built on the everyday talents we already possess.
As fishers, the economy of Andrew and Simon was very much hand to mouth so for jesus to unpack the kingdom life through commodities the disciples understood is another clear sign from Jesus that what he is asking is already within our abilities. Jesus isn’t asking the disciples to retrain, rather he asks us to reframe the understanding of our everyday world into that of the Kingdom. Follow me, and I will make you fish for people, Jesus says! Is an invitation into relationship with one another and the world around us. Its moving from scarcity to abundance, from fear into joy, death into life. The relationship Jesus invites us into is one which puts our life, skills, and gifts directly at the centre of discipleship, rather than at the outskirts, giving us places like this parish to wrestle with the meaning this way of life gives to us. It is no surprise that churches are designed as glimpses of heaven, this whole structure says something about what we believe. From where our font is, to the altar. Where we read from, Where I preach from. Etched into this structure is the story of us, you and me, in our journey into relationship with Jesus. This parish is the story of you and me seeking Jesus in the radical hospitality of a welcome from God who continually calls us out of our ordinary and into the extraordinary service of others through relationship with him. Jesus asks again today for us to step out in faith, using the talents we have, to stand at and work for the inbreaking of the kingdom in our midst.
Like the disciples fishing for survival, the relationship which dominates us the most in society is money. How we operate, understand, and access society is through money. Our ability to travel, survive, learn, do anything really is one that requires money- just like the disciples needed fish to do anything. Society measures our worth by the money we possess, or don't, which makes money and the discussion of money a very anxious topic. Living in vancouver it can feel overwhelming to think about how we should allocate our resources, there is just never enough. Like the disciples fishing for their livelihoods, its a matter of paying our bills and survival in a city that is becoming more and more expensive, and yet there is a call of the kingdom within our resource of money that asks us to think broader and deeper about what it is we believe in because of what we have been given. As Christians we have a theology or way to understand money and our relationship to it. In our theology of money we believe that everything we have is a gift from God, rather than the product of our own hands. Yes we work for what we get, but the animating force- the push to excel, to learn, to thrive, to achieve, that is God’s gift in our lives. We each have a different circumstance and a different way of expressing our gift- just as the disciples did, but the source remains the same. The money we earn is not ours it's God’s, given to us to steward and use based on his relationship with us. It is this relationship that Jesus calls us into, by asking us to name our relationship with god in our finances, to move us from fishing for survival to fishing for transformation of this world into the Kingdom through a relationship of discipleship.
This is not a matter of some kind of prosperity gospel drivel that suggests God wants us to be rich, so act rich and you’ll get what God wants for you. Nor is it about keeping your vicar employed or about the bills of the parish. We do not have bills, we have ministries which God has supplied and taken care of for these past sixty five years. This is about naming, honouring, and building our relationship with God as stewards of his resources in all aspects of our life. This is about leaning into the challenges of a theology of money that suggest we have enough where we are, and that in that abundance which we have from God, we are asked to make sure others have just as much as we do. It's about reframing our world view of money as an asset to be accumulated, to giving opportunities for others to experience the gift of friendship we have been given by following jesus. It's about you and me going out and fishing for people in a world which is financially anxious, scared, and divided into rich and poor, have and have not, wants over needs, filled and hungry. It's about hearing the immediacy of Jesus’ message afresh this morning to follow him into a relationship that sets us free to be totally who we are, because of how we choose to orient our money, our time, and our lives.
Reorienting our lives into the abundance of God’s gift is hard work, and may feel deeply uncomfortable, but today presents a chance to work through that together. I invite you all to stay for the town hall on this very topic today at 12:30 here in the church, where we will explore our theology of money. We are not alone in this work today. Look around at those next to you, we are these disciples that are being called by name to follow him and lean into a radical relationship of discipleship where you are and have enough in all aspects of your life.
Come and Follow me, jesus says! And I will make you fishers of men! How will you respond?