Thursday, 24 January 2008

They Left Their Nets at Once.

Galilee Docks today.

Here is a copy of my sermon for this Sunday, for those who are interested. The usual rules apply, a bottle of Gin if given verbatim, half a bottle for cribbing the general gist, a miniature for a quote.

They left their nets at once, and followed Him.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

I went to a village, in Derbyshire a few weeks ago to pick something up. It is a village which was attached to an open-cast colliery, now, of course, shut down. We often hear of wonderful stories about pit towns and villages which have rejuvenated themselves and found a new lease of life, although all too often this new life comes from either unskilled, unlocalised industry like call centres which could be moved away as soon as cheaper labour becomes available elsewhere, or because estate agents suddenly discover that land is cheap and that the village is close enough to somewhere nice as to fall into the commuter belt.

Anyway, neither of these things had happened in this village. It was derelict, the older generation unable to leave, the younger generation desperate to leave. The shops were outnumbered by counselling services and drop in centres and most of the houses were boarded up and abandoned. To make matters worse, the village was almost impossible to find, and down a long, dark dead end. The council were doing their best to move people out, but some had come back, dispossessed, unable to go anywhere else.

This was the state of the people we encounter in our first reading. A people moved from their outlying land, the land destroyed, made barren, then a remnant return, despairing and, like all people who put on a hard nosed, unfriendly front, secretly afraid and looking for validation. Looking for acceptance. They are called out of this darkness by the only way which anyone can truly be pulled out of despair, by the Lord. They realised, as we must, that life is only truly fulfilled and lived if lived in God, and lived by following his commandments. Those wonderful words were addressed to them ‘the people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light, on those who live in the land of shadow, a light has shone!’ There is a calling to the people of God, get up, and follow me. Follow the light of the world.

This sense of calling has been and is at the centre of our faith ever since. Today’s Gospel starts with Jesus taking up His own call, once He heard that John was dead, he went to Capernaum and began preaching, beginning His ministry, the light of the world’s shutters begin to open and the light of truth begins to shine. The light begins to burn for those who live in the land of the shadow of death, for us and for all time, a light was sparked, born in one who was obedient to his calling, whose calling led Him to death.

Soon after, he went to the Sea of Galilee. It is worth knowing that Galilee was a major fish exporting economy, the Captain Birdseye of the first Century. These were no small boats on a sandy shore such as I look at longingly in holiday brochures but a great, industrious port full of activity and bustle, so it says something that a man came, said to four men with good, stable jobs and a comfortable existence ‘come, follow me’ and they went. Note that, they went. And note that Jesus did not have to shout, or cajole, or offer bribes. And that they did not call the police. They just went, men whose time had come and who recognised that their calling was in the here and now, not in the future. The light was then born in them, as well. Their life was becoming fulfilled, by living in the Lord. They chose community life with Christ over family life and comforts and in so doing, they co founded with Christ, the closest thing to a Church that He is a part of. A community of people, living in the light, whose time has come. Christ did not need followers then, at that time, but later they inherited His whole ministry which He opened up for them to see, to share with Him and to make mistakes and bring souls to God in. As they walked with Him after this calling and gathered others, they set the perfect example of Church for us, they left their nets and followed Him, walking with Christ to death, which we still do, in the sure and certain knowledge of eternal life with Him.

Paul knew about this. He had to leave His nets and follow Christ. His calling was also instant, as he journeyed to Damascus and a lot of bad Theology is wasted on debating Paul’s thought patterns, because it was not he who learnt how to guide the early Church, but God who gave him all he needed in revelation, when that bolt of light struck him and he fell to the floor. That, common sense, compassion and never putting himself above anybody else nor letting anyone else put themselves above others. As we heard in today’s second reading I am not for Paul, or Nigel or Martyn, but for Christ and for Him alone, journeying alongside Him keeping His flame burning.

So we are all here for this. We have all been called to this Church, at this time not through our own will, but the will of God, to take up our own mission and to see the light which is born in us. To be that light to those who walk in the darkness and who see the valley of the shadow of death without the bright light of immortality at the end, which we should see. Whether we are here, in a destitute mining village, by the Galilee docks or standing at the foot of the cross, watching the light of the world die, we should remember that we are the Church, we are the descendents of the Apostles, to whom the calm, sure voice of Christ, which is full of love but also expectation, says ‘come with me, for your time is now, my words are yours.’ His calling is immediate and sure. Leave your nets, abandon that which is not of God, and follow Him.

This light which burns within you, fed by the Holy Eucharist, anointed by sacred oil and validated by the Church, represents the future, final salvation of humanity, socially, politically and spiritually, through the Kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ. And like Him and the Apostles, who carried that light, we must expect that we will get burnt occasionally as well, as befits those who bear the light. If we do not follow our calling then who will give light to those who dwell in the shadow of death? Who will comfort those who walk in darkness? Who will show that life is only, fully worth living, has truth and meaning if lived in Christ?

They left their nets at once, and followed Him.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.