… They forsook all and followed Him. (Luke 5:11)
These are the words that Luke uses in today’s Gospel reading to describe the action the apostles took after Jesus called them to follow Him. Unlike the other Gospel writers, Luke uses this simple scene to describe what happened. They put out into a boat and go fishing. A very simple task that would change the lives of these men in a most amazing way. I often wonder if they had known what was to face them would they have gotten into that boat on that day. After all they had been out all night fishing and caught nothing. Jesus simply tells them to put out into the deep and cast your nets. That is what he is asking each one of us, to put out into the deep and cast your net. We see them men at this point change from fishermen to men fishers. They will change the world and they will change in a most radical way.The end of the Gospel passage says that they forsook all and followed Him. Discipleship has a cost and we must be willing to pay that cost if we are truly going to follow Him. We must forsake all. This does not mean that we must divest ourselves of all our worldly possessions in order to follow Jesus as a true disciple, no we must surrender our and divest ourselves of our will, our will to do only what we want to do and turn toward the other. The other person and the other situation. Jesus is calling each of us to a radical change in our lives and all we need to do is answer yes.
Greed runs rampant in our society. Greed is defined as the desire to acquire wealth or possessions beyond the needs of the individual and at the detriment of others. In other words I want it and I am going to do whatever I can to get it regardless of the cost. There is also an awareness that the needs of others are being denied but we push on anyway to get what we want. Greed is the extreme form of desire, especially when one desires things for the sake of owning them.
This past week we have seen the fallout of a nation of greedy people. People who live beyond their means and are told day in and day out that they need more. We need more, more money, more food, more oil, a bigger house, a bigger car, more, more, more! When does it end and who pays the price in the end. If we hope to acquire goods at the detriment of others we have fallen into the trap of greed. In the final analysis of all of this we need to ask what this is doing to other people. The stock market falls and the ripple is felt all across the world. Our very safety has been called into question as all of the talking heads say that a country is only as safe as the economy is strong. More and more people will be making the decision this winter to either eat or heat their house. To go see the doctor or buy food. And this did not just happen overnight, we did not wake up last week and suddenly discover that we have a problem with the economy it has been coming for years.
All last week the pendants and spin doctors have been trying to tell us why this has happened, what caused all of this to go haywire? Simply put and not one of them is willing to say this, but simply put it is greed. Greed and turning away from the holy has put us in this position. You cannot serve God and mammon is a true statement but lately mammon has been running us. Most of us live paycheck to paycheck with nothing put aside for a rainy day. I did not live through the great depression but I understand it was pretty bad. The worse thing that could happen to a nation. I am not saying that that is what we face now I am not an economist, I am an optimist.
The New York Times ran an editorial the other day saying that Wall Street is turning toward the church in these desperate times. Well all I have to say in response to that is what took you so long? Where have you been? We have been waiting for you with open arms. Now I am not saying that if we turn toward Jesus all will be well, in fact it can be just the opposite. Look again at our friends in that boat. In a few short years their leader will be dead and they will be on the run. They will be hunted down and all but one of them will become martyrs for the faith. They went from simple fishermen to world leaders in a few short years and took on the government of an empire that would eventually collapse as they all do. The Godless fall and the Godlike survive! These twelve men changed the world for all of eternity and they did as poor folks not as the rich. Judas fell because of Greed and nothing more than that. He sold Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. Judas was the church treasurer and all he cared about was himself. And he paid the ultimate price he gave up the kingdom of God for the kingdom of mammon.
Jesus is not asking that we give up all we have and follow Him. He only wants 10 percent of what you have and he wants you to keep the other 90 percent but we only need what we need. How many pairs of shoes do we need? How many cars do we need? Maybe this year instead of going to the Caribbean or some other vacation spot we can go to the Gulf Coast and help rebuild someone’s house. We do not even need to go that far we have needs right here on our own community. Remember greed is the acquisition of goods at the detriment of others, and knowing that others needs are there and we do nothing about it. Why are we storing up treasures? Who are we trying to impress? What tare we trying to do?
I recently taught a class on death at Nichols College. I asked each of the students to think about how they wish to be remembered when they are gone. What is it that we want people to remember about us? A hundred years from now when people sit around and talk about us what do you want them to say? Do we want them to say wow he had some great stuff! Or do we want them to comment on how generous we were and how we helped our fellow human being live at the level of dignity that we each deserve. How do we wish to be remembered the choice is ours, we control that and no one else.
We are called to act, we are called to put out into the deep and to cast our nets over the side. The side of the boat is right outside that door. Outside that door is a world that is hurting a world of uncertainty a world of scared people hoping for a miracle. Cast your net into that water. Reach your hand down and help pull up that net. Reach out to your fellow man and help him. We all have the capacity to do it we just need to do it.
We, like the apostles in today’s story have been working all night. We have been working here in this community for 85 years and we are all tired. Here comes Jesus and asks us to push out into the deep, out of our comfort zone, to think of someone other than ourselves and cast our net over the side. He took simple, uneducated fishermen and made them great people that changed the world and continue to change the world to this day. It all began with a simple answer to a simple question. Will you follow me? Jesus is asking that of each one of us today, He is asking that we follow Him and change the world. But we cannot change the world if we do not change ourselves. Change is scary but change is necessary.
Push out into the deep! Cast your net over the side! Forsake all! And follow Him!