The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Sermon - January 22, 2017
Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:18-23  
Sermon Title:
ďFishing for PeopleĒ

The Rev. Robert Vodra

     There are times in which the Biblical stories do not match up exactly.  Last week, if you were here, you heard the story of John the Baptist who sees Jesus and says ďThere is the lamb of God.Ē  Simon Peter and his brother Andrew follow Jesus.  This week, by the start of Chapter 4 in the book of Matthew, just before the passage we read this week, we hear that John the Baptist has been arrested.  Therefore John could not announce Jesus to Andrew and Simon, Jesus rather finds them fishing and says follow me.  At the start of the sermon last week I said that the book of John is not one of the synoptic gospels, it tells a very different story than the other three gospels, or at least tells the story of Jesus from a different set of eyes. 

     And this is the problem we start to run into if we look at the Bible as a history book.  As Christians we sometimes forget that our text, the Bible is not the only thing that was written a few thousand years ago.  People wrote stories, people wrote letters, people wrote speeches.  Some people wrote history.

     I mentioned a few weeks ago about the killing of the innocents, which is where Herod orders all the males babies killed, Mary, Joseph and Jesus escape off to Egypt and live there until Herod dies.  It is possible that they did go to Egypt, but no other stories of that time tell about lots of babies being killed.  That is probably something that someone would have made a reference to, so maybe it served a purpose but was not written as a historical fact. 

     If I was going to write a history of the Vodraís in the United States, well it would be kind of slim.  There are bits of history we know, around 1840 we know that someone with the last name of Vodra lived in upstate New York.  We know that there was a Vodra who was killed in Gettyburg.  We know that eventually there were a bunch of Vodraís in California, but by around 1950 most, or perhaps all had migrated East.  So someone writing a gospel story might know that Simon and Andrew were the first two disciples, but how did Jesus find them and recruit them?  They were fishermen, so maybe they were fishing.  Was that before or after John the Baptist was arrested?  Sometimes you have to fill in the blanks with what makes sense. 

     So many of the Biblical stories I do not read as historical facts.  There is no way that we can go back and know when and how these first two disciples were called.  But I like this version because it makes sense to me.

     It was just an ordinary day.  Simon Peter and his brother Andrew got up, and went off to go fishing, not for fun, but that was the way they made their living.  There was always something that had to be done, even if the weather was not right for fishing, you might spend your day mending the nets, or doing something to your boat.  And, in the midst of that ordinary, Jesus walks into their lives. 

     Donít we all have a lot of ordinary days.  Many days for me, nothing spectacular happens.  My alarm goes off, I get up and wake up the kids.  They come down and eat breakfast as I am taking a shower, once I am dressed we are in the car and off to school.  After dropping them off I come back to the house.  Somedays I have something that I have to do, maybe go to the dentist, or drop off books at the library.  Maybe run to the store to pick up a few things.  Often I will have a sermon to write, or a bulletin to put together, or maybe write a fathom article.  Normally will check e-mail and respond to any of those I need to.  Collinís bus comes by at 2:33.  I know that because I have an alarm set on my phone to go off at 2:31, this gives me 2 minutes to get up, save whatever I am working on, put on my shoes and coat and walk outside.  Collin has a snack and just about that time Glenn walks in.  He walks home from school, and is old enough that I donít have to meet him anywhere.  The boys do their homework, maybe play a video game or something else fun.  A few nights a week we have Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, sometimes we drive down to Marlborough, sometimes they have skiing or piano lessons.  It is ordinary. 

     And it was through ordinary events that I felt my call to ministry.  I think that I have shared a few of those events over the past year.  I worked at a church summer camp for several years.  Most of those days were cleaning, mowing lawns, washing dishes, teaching pottery, working in the kitchen, and counseling for kids.  Of course they were good times, but there was no light from heaven or clap of thunder, just ordinary days.  When I went to college I had the opportunity to attend a work camp with a bunch of kids from Connecticut.  Truth be told, I was a warm male body over the age of 18.  We built a room onto a house, built part of a barn that was used for used clothing sales, we hauled hay for animals.  Again it was a good time, but pounding nails, had done it before and have done it since. 

     When I went to seminary I was honestly a bit discouraged.  One of the big things we did the first year was talk about our call to ministry.  And there were some stories.  A woman who survived cancer, felt that God was calling her to something more, and she decided that was the ministry.  A man who had a degree in law, but after practicing a few years had his wife file for divorce.  His health was failing, and he realized that if he continued on the same path he was on, not only would he lose his family, he might die from his working and eating habits.  And my class, upon entering seminary, was full of these stories.  And then I get asked why I feel called to ministry. 

     It was not really a single mountain top experience, it was many small things.  Those specific interactions I had with ministers and youth and adults.  It was my Sunday School teachers.  It was waking up in some really amazing locations and remembering in that early morning beauty that God was there.  It was watching a sunset, or watching the tide come in and go out along the coast. 

     It was those moments within the ordinary in which I met Jesus.  And that is why I appreciate this story.  You see, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were not off on retreat someplace, they didnít hike off to a mountain, spend a day in silence, or any of that.  They were doing exactly the same thing they did the day before.  They got up and were having a normal day, an ordinary day, when Jesus walked into their lives, and changed their lifeís direction. 

     And I think, more often than not, that is how it happens, but we often fail to recognize it.  Do you all remember the snow we got on Tuesday night into Wednesday?  Normally in January, in New Hampshire, those storms all kind of run together.  Tuesday was a normal day for me, an ordinary day.  On Wednesday at 5:00 am I got an automated call from the school informing me that they would be starting two hours late.  Actually I got a call on my home phone, then my cell phone, and then Keri called to say that she also got a call on her cell phone, she was working in Granite City, Illinois this week, that is central time.  She was less happy with a 4 am call than I was about a 5 am call.  But she called to make sure I had gotten the message.  Now wide awake, and Collin now wide awake, I got up, got a big cup of coffee and started to get ready for a fairly ordinary day.  Shower, get out the snow blower, start clearing the driveway. 

     I dropped the kids off, and then started home.  I passed a spruce tree and it looked like a clay Christmas tree ornament.  Each of its branches weighed down with bright white snow.  When I got home, I realized that every branch had snow on it.  The trees were all white, not just the evergreens, but even the oaks and maples had snow on each branch.  And it was still snowing lightly.  I went out to look at it, and it was perfect, as though all the snow was carefully placed.  It was also warm, almost 32 degrees, so I could stand outside to admire the beauty.  Normally I curse the snow.  Oh, it serves a purpose, and it is good for skiing, but sure would be nice if it didnít cover the roads and mess up schedules.  But in that moment, I felt like God was putting a show on for me.  When we look around, we start to see God in all sorts of ordinary places.

     Once a month, on the third Thursday I gather with others who are doing interim ministry.  None of us make it every month, but there are normally 10-15 of us.  If you ever ask a minister how things are going in their church they will say great.  We donít lie, there are normally great things that happen in every church.  But as we go around it is a confidential time in which we can bring up the good and the bad in our churches.  We can talk about things that we donít know how to deal with, we can ask questions of those who might have more experience about something we are seeing.  And to be honest with you, you are really a good church, not sure how some of these ministers work in some churches.  But I think that Jesus is also sitting in that room.  When we share our stories, Jesus listens.  And in the words of those around the tables I hear Jesus.  In the midst of our normal, we see Jesus. 

     It often is not in our searching that we find Jesus, it is in the ordinary.  Now Andrew and Simon Peter did something pretty amazing, they dropped their nets and followed Jesus.  For most of us it is not that easy.  We are attached to our ordinary, and it is easier to look away.  It is easier to not see Godís beauty in a snowy morning.  It is easier to stay away from my meeting or just go looking for practical solutions. 

     As you go through your ordinary this week, I ask you to look for God.  When I look, I see God often, when I donít look, I see more of the ordinary.  Just as Andrew and Simon Peter did, look for Jesus and donít be afraid to follow when you are called.