Come As You Are - There Is Work To Be Done

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

3rd Sunday After Epiphany

Mark 1:14-20

January 21, 2018

“Come as you are – there is work to be done”


            Come as you are – there is work to be done.  Most of us have heard the story of Jesus calling his first four disciples.  We’ve sat in church and heard Matthew or Mark or Luke’s version of Jesus approaching the fishermen as they worked and his call to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  I’m willing to guess every once in a while the thought crossed our minds – “how did they just walk off?”  “How did they leave all they knew and follow this man?”  Was that courageous or was that insanity?

            Before we delve into that part of the story, let’s pause and back up a minute.  Let’s look at the whole story.  Before the events on the shore, Jesus had just spent 40 days and nights fasting in the wilderness and being tempted by the adversary.  He ends this time of trial only to hear that his friend, John the Baptist, has been arrested.  Jesus leaves Nazareth and heads to Galilee.  Matthew tells us that at this point Jesus ministry begins by him proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  Interesting - isn’t that what just got John the Baptist in trouble? 

            So why Galilee?   What was it about Galilee that attracted Jesus?  Why travel there to start his ministry?  Galilee at this point in history was under the political control of  Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great.  Geographically, Galilee was a fertile region whose major industries were farming and fishing, but whose people bore the heavy weight of taxation and oppression by the empire. 

            Jesus – by his proclamation was about to take on the empire – to challenge the old, established ways and those in power.  This was going to be no small feat, yet who does he look to for support – 4 dirty, smelly, fishermen.  Jesus didn’t seek out the well-educated scribes or those experienced with negotiation or problem solving.  Jesus looked to four, simple, hard-working men who knew what it was like to give all that they had in hopes of a glorious bounty.  Fishermen are known to be strong and have endurance.  In certain areas, their work takes them into extreme conditions demanding their time both day and night.  Is this why Jesus turned to Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew and called them to follow him? 

            In the world of fishermen, there are occasions when the catch of the day was miniscule or the nets broke or the storms forced them to return to shore empty-handed.  It took patience and persistence to keep showing up each day and trying again.  Are those the attributes Jesus saw in James and John?  The Gospels don’t share with us what attracted Jesus to these four men, but as we watch their journey, we are reminded that God’s call invites us as we are and through God’s grace we are empowered for the work ahead.  Who we are is enough.  Who Simon Peter, Andrew, John and James were…was enough.  Come as you are – there is work to be done. 

            These past several weeks a group of us have been looking back over 2017 as reports were compiled for today’s Annual Meeting.  I don’t know about you, but as I’ve grown older, I find that a year flies by rather quickly.  As a child time seemed to move much slower.  As we’ve been talking about this past year at All Souls, it’s amazing to think how much change and ministry this community has done.  Think about it for a second.  What were y’all doing a year ago?  What was happening in your lives and in this community just 12 months ago? 

            In my short six months here, I’m amazed at all we’ve experienced.  I think back through that first picnic under the big tree out back at The Atlee House.  I remember Kim leading games and me…having to “safely” guide Harry, this person I barely knew at the time, blindfolded around the property.  I kept praying to not trip him by accident – that would not be how I wanted to start out my time here. I remember talking with different people that day – folks were so welcoming and kind to me.  I remember walking away from that day thinking – “Oh my gosh, this is such a great community.  God, am I ready to serve them in the way they need me?  Do I have what I need to do that?”

            I also remember folks who showed up to the garden to work last summer.  Some were very experienced, and for some, it was their first time.  Regardless of whom they were or what skills they brought, the Garden Team greeted them with open arms and excitement.  I watched as new people learned (including myself) and joined in the excitement as plants grew into a bountiful harvest.  All that hard work fed SO many people in this area – time, sweat, laughter, and devotion made that happen. 

            Our church community is not lacking in ministries of all kinds.  To name a few - CARITAS, Peter Paul Development Halloween Party, Sack Hunger, helping Jeb Stewart Elementary, Vacation Bible School, Worship Team & Choir, and Winterizing Homes also brought people together to share in God’s abundance.  I laughed when I heard someone say, “But I’m not a good cook.”  The response… “Oh, that’s fine.  We need bags of chips or drinks too.”  What an incredible response!!  Instead of being shut down for their lack of cooking skills, they were lifted up for their willingness to join in the work.  How awesome is that?!?!  THAT is inviting people to come as they are.  THAT is teaching others that you don’t have to be perfect or know exactly how to do a job in order to share in the glory of God’s work.  Whether is it organizing & participating with hospitality each week, or helping with all the many details of worship, or taping up plastic on windows so a family doesn’t feel the cold of winter as much, or weeding in the garden, or coming up with lessons so that our children, youth and adults may learn more about our faith, or organizing and joining in a party for the children and families of Richmond, or developing programming for our congregation, or all the many, many, many things this congregation does each year – the message is clear…Come as you are…join in the work…be a part of us…who you are is wonderful and we’re glad you’re here!

            I wonder what those fishermen thought as they saw Jesus approach?  I wonder what went through their minds as they heard his words, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  They clearly had the skillset for their work as fishermen, but to fish for people?  How does one do that?  But as Mark tells us, none of them hesitated.  They stopped their work, lowered their nets, and left all they knew.  Something they saw in Jesus empowered them to answer this call. 

            In the days and weeks to come we will travel with these disciples.  We will learn that though they answered God’s call on that day without hesitation, they too are human.  They will make mistakes, misunderstand Jesus’s teachings, doubt, fear, argue with one another, and even betray.  They were human.  And yet, they said, “yes” to God’s call to them.  They will also be amazed at God’s grace and abundance, know what it’s like to touch someone’s life in good and meaningful ways, learn more than they ever imagined, and grow into who God called them to be. They continued to show up to the work of spreading the news that the kingdom of heaven is near, that the love of God is real, that darkness does not win. 

            What might God be calling you into this year?     What whispers to you?     Today we will reflect about this past year at All Souls and make room to dream of what could be – of where God may be calling us.  The kingdom of heaven is real, and we are all invited to take part.  We are all called to the work of loving one another as Christ loved us and of bringing the light of God’s redeeming love into the world. 

            We are enough for Jesus – even at our smelliest, God invites us and empowers us.  God transforms our weariness and our doubts to shine love and life into the darkest of places.  What we have to give…who we are – is more than enough.  Trust what God sees, and follow Jesus into this new day.  Come as you are, with all your gifts and with all your faults – there is work to be done and we’ll do it together. 

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