When I was twelve years old, playing outside at my school, a woman approached me who was in the school teaching religious ed. I remember to this day it was a sunny day, with a fresh breeze. It may have been April. The lady greeted me and said “Hey! I am one of the religion teachers here. She asked me if I was interested in participating in a summer camp. 6 days, lots of kids, lots of fun. I said, yes, I am! That sounds amazing. I also said, “well, my mom probably won’t let me. We don’t have money for that kind of thing.” She smiled, saying “Just think about it. Finances will not be in the way. They can contact me. My phone number is right on this brochure here. And, if you ever want to join our kids group during the week, let me know!”
This was a moment of change. On this moment, my life completely changed. Yes, I was able to attend the summer camp. Having had no friends in school, I was so happy to have made friends in summer camp. It was a wonderful experience that ultimately made me “stick” to the church. I began to come to Sunday worship. I registered for confirmation class. And after confirmation, I became a youth leader who worked at Sunday School. Maybe it was the sincere curiosity of the deacon that persuaded me in that moment, or maybe the vision of a place that was not school, a place that I liked. Or perhaps it was the idea of having friends somewhere outside school caught me. But I was caught. And I experienced friendship, fellowship, and I became part of a church in which I felt unity.
Something must have stood out to Simon Peter and Andrew that they just dropped their old fisher nets to follow Jesus. What did they see in Jesus that made them change their lives to drop daily lives, commitments, schedules, to follow him? Maybe it was that their lives were just boring, monotonous. Or it was a more rigid life being fishermen for the Roman Emperor like most fishermen at the time. Being an occupied territory by the Romans, fishermen needed to provide a certain amount of fish to them. Or maybe it was the area they worked: Zebulon and Naphtali – a pretty vacated place, deserted, at the borderlands of the territory of Judea. Or perhaps it is just Jesus’s nature. Something was different about him that they liked. His message to “Turn around toward God. God’s reign is just about here.”
In some ways, we behave like magpies looking at shiny objects. We like things that stand out, that catch our attention. Some people like technology, others like fashion, again others just yet others like cars. They draw our attention to the newest objects. In this case, Simon Peter and Andrew were caught by Jesus’ presence. On certain topics, we are drawn into things that catch our attention: we become fixated on the environment, or racial justice, or partisan politics. And all those things draw our attention. They draw our attention to the next fight, or the ongoing divide in our country. But they also scatter us. They all draw us away from focusing on God. We become attracted to the important issues that need to be addressed. Yet we also get distracted from the truth that all our issues can only be solved in community and relationships.
A fisher’s net is a rope or thread, knotted together at endpoints and in between where the rope intersects with another. Each little knot keeps the net working as a whole. If a knot is missing, the net becomes loose, and it is unusable. You cannot fish with a net that has holes. At the Sea of Galilea, Jesus calls Simon Peter and Andrew: “Follow me. I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they dropped their net to become part of a net themselves. They become the net of Jesus’s ministry.
The people becoming Jesus’s net is a powerful image, especially at a time when we see the ongoing divisions in our country, in our society. These are tumultuous times in which the People unite behind a common goal: to care for each other and others. That goal unites them into this group of people. That does not mean they are not individuals. They are just knotted, and intersected with others. The point is that they become different pieces of one big goal. Again, something about Jesus was so compelling that, apparently, others followed, too. The story continues with James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets, and Jesus called them. “Follow Me.” Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus. They all became the net that fished for people.