Sermon from Sunday 22 January

Making faith filled nets and the power of faithful, disciplined prayer


Reading(s): Isaiah 9:1-4, Matthew 4:12-23. This sermon was given by Vanessa Lawrence at St Mark’s and All Saints.

In our readings today, we reach the point in the gospel where Jesus steps up a gear in his ministry. With the news of the arrest of his cousin John, he leaves Nazareth and goes to Galilee, setting up home in Capernaum – the lands of deep darkness on which Isaiah prophesies that the light will shine.

And here is Jesus, that light, shining in the darkness. He begins by calling ordinary people, Peter and Andrew, James and John, going about their everyday lives, working with their nets, casting and mending. And then Jesus comes along and their lives change forever. I wonder what it was that they found so compelling about Jesus that made them want to follow him - I wonder what it is that you find so compelling about Jesus that makes you want to follow him? What is the difference that it makes in your life each and every day to follow Christ?

And sometimes we are called to step up a gear, to reevaluate where we are going and what we are doing. To raise our game.

I have been challenged this week to raise my game by the news of the Bishop’s recommendations for allowing the blessing of same sex marriages in church. I wonder what your thoughts are on this? For me, it is a step in the right direction, but we still need to raise our game further, to look towards equal marriage. I was in a meeting yesterday of some priests, and one spoke about her daughter who is gay, and wanting to get married next year. This priest spoke of her sadness at not being able to marry her daughter in church, and the fact that we are losing whole generations of young and not so young people who simply feel that we are excluding people.

And yet, Jesus tells the disciples, I will make you fish for people. He doesn’t say, I will make you fishers of the right kind of people, the ones who look like us, and live like us and think like us. Jesus doesn’t discriminate. He simply wants to step up a gear, to shine that light on everyone who turns to him. He asks us to cast our nets far and wide, to let everyone be covered by the enormity of God’s love for us.

James and John were mending nets, the nets were broken and needed attention. Do our fishing nets require some attention too? We will not be able to cover people with that net of love unless our personal relationship with God is growing and blossoming, unless our prayers are regular and disciplined, unless our own lives reflect the love of God to all whom we meet.

Our nets might need some attention in other ways too. Perhaps we need to be challenged by our thinking and our reflecting. Do we need to think further about the issue of same sex marriage in the church and where God is leading us in that? Our job is to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, to direct us to the people God is preparing to hear the message of unconditional love and grace – the love that challenges us, sustains us and transforms us. How do we as individuals and as a church respond to that particularly around same sex relationships, how do we make sure that everyone is welcome, loved and has a place in our community? It’s through listening to the Spirit that we can know how to share that Good News of unconditional love.

Jesus calls his disciples to ‘come after me’ and he calls us too to come after, to imitate him in calling others. You may be thinking that that’s an impossible task, but it literally says in the Bible that nothing is impossible with God! And so we begin by praying. Have you ever done any prayer experiments? It would be fun challenge to try! Ask God to bring into your mind 5 people who perhaps don’t come to church, or used to come but have stopped. Commit to praying for them every day, and see what happens. Never underestimate the power of faithful, disciplined prayer. God does amazing work through our weakness, our fear and the very little we feel we can offer.

Together with the Spirit, through prayer, service, love and getting stuck into our community we can make strong, faith filled nets that can cover us all with that unconditional love and light of God.