Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Two passages from scripture today asking us questions about the investment of our time. How do we invest our lives? Where do we put our value, our time, our effort? In the first scripture reading, we saw the story of Jonah finally sharing the good news of God’s forgiveness if the wicked Ninevites will repent. The Ninevites are, at least according to scripture, horrible people. They have been investing in oppression and violence and their wickedness has risen to God’s attention. Jonah’s story mirrors theirs as he has invested in what righteousness is supposed to look like and believes he is the arbiter of who deserves it. God gives Nineveh a chance to repent and change their ways. God also gives Jonah an opportunity to see that God’s grace is bigger than Jonah’s moralistic view.
Then we see Jesus on the shoreline asking the disciples to consider entrusting it all to Jesus and his path. These disciples have probably never known anything else besides fishing. It had probably been in their families for generations. And then Jesus comes along and offers them a chance to invest in turning the world upside down with a revolution of love and justice. To change from feeding only their families to feeding thousands.
This question is before us today. What are we investing our lives in? Do we need to repent from investing in life stealing ways or are we being called to deepen the path of love and justice by following Jesus more closely?
The Ninevites had invested in wickedness. Jonah had invested in self-righteousness. The disciples were invested in their livelihood. I, personally, am invested in comfort. I love being comfortable. As the pandemic raged on and I learned that I could wear sweatpants and slippers everyday, I was actually kind of glad. As I was able to spend more and more time at home, I became used to not having to look presentable or being able to grab a snack at all times. So much so that when I would go to the grocery store I would actually feel a little angry at having to put on real pants. Now these sillier examples are part of a larger truth as well. I have had this investment in comfort for a long time and the pandemic has allowed me to double down. If I can avoid conflict or pain, I am on board. If it is difficult and challenging then maybe I will pass for something a little easier. How am I investing my life?
But that pesky little Jesus has bigger plans for me and God has bigger plans for this world then wickedness, and self-righteousness, and squeaking out a living. And that is where we hear the call of repentance. Turn away from the death dealing forces in this world and instead turn towards life and abundance. Nineveh, stop hurting your neighbors. Jonah, open your heart to God’s vision of grace and forgiveness. Disciples come and join Jesus in loving action in our world. Dexter, get your butt off the couch.
Holy and beloved church, how do you want to invest your life? I find myself inspired day to day by the investments our church family makes. I was thinking back to my first day working at Longview Pres. I walked into the doors and peeked into the sanctuary. But I did not see static pews or empty seats. Instead I saw people busily moving the furniture around and setting up a grocery store style food bank through the FISH program. I remember some of the difficult decisions at the beginning of the pandemic and the most pressing one was how can we keep FISH going safely. Even during the revitalization assessment that our church took this Fall, the number one ministry that people were invested in and cared about was FISH. I believe this is because our church shares a vision with Jesus of the beloved community coming together in love and justice, sharing all things in need. Our church wants to invest in the ways of love and justice.
In God’s radical world filled with love and grace and justice, which Jesus proclaims is near to us, how will we live? Will we stay attached to violent systems, to our own self-righteousness, to our comfort? Or will we repent and move toward Jesus’ radical call of invitation and welcome. Will we live into our church’s motto of “seeking Christ’s way and welcoming all”? Because the kindom of God is near. It is near. Will we continue to invest in the world of materialism and militarization that MLK calls out? Or will we enter into God’s work in our lives, our families, our work, and our community? The kindom of God is here. How will we invest our lives?