*As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — 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.*
If God came to you tonight and said, “I want you to go to Mosul, Iraq and tell those people to straighten out or I’m going to really come down hard on them,” what would be your response?
Mosul, currently under the control of the so-called Islamic State, is apparently the site of the ancient city of Nineveh, the city to which God sent Jonah to deliver the message of God’s anger and judgment. Jonah, having some measure of common sense, but lacking an ear – or the courage - for God’s persistent call, headed in the opposite direction and got swallowed by a fish, where he spent a few (likely really) uncomfortable days before the fish spat him onto dry land. Finally, Jonah decided that following God’s order was preferable to living in a fish. But even when he did obey his orders, things didn’t work out exactly the way he thought they should. God, as always, had other plans.
Jesus, on the other hand, called out to two men fishing in the Sea of Galilee. They might have been equally tired of hanging around fish, but more likely, they understood the clarity of God’s challenging call better than Jonah managed to do. Either way of responding, God’s call to us, God’s children, can be a deeply challenging one; God is a surprise, not an anesthetic. God finally invites us to resolve our fears by looking right at them; to stare them down. And looking closely at the lesson Jonah learned, we find that one of our greater fears might be that God loves all of us more than we think God should. For some of us, including Jonah, this is really, really irritating.
Tomorrow at our blessed church, we will welcome four new members. These are people who have decided to cast their nets formally with this worshipping community. It’s a holy act, and one that is always a cause for celebration. Together, our plan, insofar as we have one, is to go fishing, rather than to run away and get swallowed by a fish.
But whether you are a “formal” member or not, you are welcome. Always. As one of us. We hope and trust that you know that.