Peter & Andrew – Laying Down Our Nets
A Summer Family Reunion: Lessons from our Faith Ancestors
First Baptist Church Laurens
June 10, 2018
When I visited the Fields family in Alaska last summer one of the things I learned was that they fish for salmon in their section of the Bay of Alaska in the same manner that the disciples fished the Sea of Galilee. They, like the disciples, are net fishermen. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it, but, a fishing net is the central tool of their trade and a big part of every day.
They set the net in the water, they check the net multiple times a day to see if any fish have been caught, they untangle nets and they mend them. The net is their rod and reel, their tackle box and their bait all rolled into one. It really is the key symbol of their lives as commercial fisherman.
So, when Matthew tells us that Peter and Andrew laid down their nets and followed Jesus, it is not a way of saying that they gave up their hobby, or did away with a trivial part of their lives. Instead, it is a way of saying that they gave up their livelihood, the only way of life that they knew and the place where they felt some degree of safety and security. They didn’t just give up part of their life, they gave it all up. As fisherman, the act of laying down their nets, symbolized this.
In some ways, we could say that there is a strong connection between our kinfolk Adam and Eve at the very beginning of Genesis and our kinfolk Peter and Andrew at the very beginning of the Gospels in that both of their stories have a focus on giving up control. As we discussed last week, Adam and Eve in their temptation to push God to the side, remind us that we are all tempted to try to be the Lord of our own lives rather than allowing God to play that role. We like to be in control of our lives in general, make our own decisions and live by our own rules.
Peter and Andrew take it a step further, I think. They remind us that in the midst of giving up control or in attempting to follow Jesus, we also wrestle at times with giving Jesus 75% or 80% of our lives while holding back a portion for ourselves. In Peter and Andrew’s case, one of their struggles certainly was their occupation. They could have easily said, “Yes Jesus, we’ll be your followers, we will give you our lives except for when we have to work, when the fish are really running or when we have a big customer who has placed a large order”. “Any other time, we are yours. Lord, we will give you our lives, but, we can’t give you 100% of our professional lives. After all, we still have to make a living. As you know Jesus, our dad owns a large commercial fishing business. Why he even supplies goods to the High Priest. So, you can understand that we can’t just throw all of this away. Can’t you?”
We understand this. We can relate to this. This aspect of Peter and Andrew’s life feels like various aspects of our own lives where we struggle to relinquish ownership. So, when they lay down their nets, it is a way of symbolizing the fact that they did indeed give it all up. They followed Jesus 100%. They held nothing back.
This past Monday night was the Major League Baseball draft. It was the night that professional baseball teams picked outstanding college and high school baseball prospects to play for their organizations. Honestly, I have never paid a lot of attention to the Major League Baseball draft, but, I learned something this week about the timing of this yearly event that I found interesting.
Most professional sports have their drafts during the off season which is to say after high schools and colleges have ended their seasons and thus the draft serves as a natural transition from one level to the next. The Major League Baseball draft, however, takes place right in the middle of the college baseball playoffs. This means that Monday night, many fine college players were selected to play for professional teams right in the middle of their quest to lead their college teams to a national championship. In fact, a few players were drafted to play on professional teams while their college teams were actually playing games and while they were literally on the field in uniform.
In essence, for two of three weeks, these players feel like they are on two teams. They are now in the midst of signing with the team with whom they will play professionally and that will pay them lots of money while still trying to give their best to the college team that has helped mold them into the stars they have become.
All of these players, I have no doubt, will struggle with the balance. They will either find it hard to give any attention to their new professional team for a few more weeks or they will be at less than their best with their college team at the most crucial of times. It is virtually impossible to give ones best to two different teams.
It is true in life too. Being on two teams at the same time is challenging. It is virtually impossible to give oneself completely to both. We have to be all in with one or all in with the other.
And, yet, what are we as Peter and Andrew’s kin to do with this? For the truth is that as we follow Jesus, most of us are not going to do so by walking away from our family, our town or our jobs. Our call is to give Jesus our all while continuing to live our normal daily lives. Yet, isn’t this a contradiction? And, if not, how do we do it?How do we live with one foot in Laurens and one foot in the kingdom of God?
First, let me say that it isn’t easy. Just as we said last week that giving God control isn’t easy, living with one foot in the Kingdom and one foot in our daily community lives isn’t easy. And, it wasn’t easy for Peter & Andrew either. After all, remember that after Jesus’ crucifixion, when the disciples felt that Jesus’ life was over and they didn’t know what to do next, they immediately returned to fishing. This life they had known before had never completely left them, it had continued to tug at them. So, when uncertainty came, they immediately went back to what they knew best.
I think this is a reminder from our ancestors that the tug is always there. It is always a balance, always a tightrope, always a challenge.
Having said that, where Peter and Andrew also help us is by reminding us that the best thing we can do in the balance between Kingdom and community is to make the Kingdom our first priority not our second one. This is the continual challenge they faced. To prioritize this relationship they had with Jesus over occupations, other interests, political parties or even over family.
This is the place that we most often fail too. We reverse the two. We make our lives our top priority and our life in God’s service and to God’s Kingdom second. If we don’t do this in most areas of life, we do it in some – our professional, our recreational, our financial or our family’s life. We satisfy these needs or priorities first and those of the Kingdom second.
And, let me say this – if we have children and particularly if we have teens, we teach them to do the same. Not by what we say or by what we suggest are our priorities but by what we demonstrate with our lives.
We all have a net – some area of our lives that we don’t want to hand over. In some cases we have several nets or areas that we want to keep exempt from our service to God. Yet, whether we are at 50%, 60% or 90% it doesn’t matter. The question is can we lay the rest down?
Again, we are not saying that we completely walk away from these areas of our lives like the disciples did. We are simply saying that we will do our best in these areas to allow our commitment to God, the church and the Kingdom to have first priority.
We had an interesting experience this week. Callie, Caleb, Ann Marie and I visited an old fashioned magic shop while we were out of town for a few days. The store had books of magic tricks for sale. But, it also sold actual ticks that you could buy such as card tricks, tricks with steel rings, tricks with currency, and countless others though I never saw a rabbit that you could pull out of a hat.
I really liked the younger guy who ran the shop. And, what I found most interesting was that he not only shared with customers about the various magic tricks they were looking to purchase, but, he would also gladly take a sample of the trick and demonstrate that it worked and give some general since of how it worked.
Ours is not a talked about faith – it is a demonstrated, lived out faith. It does little good to claim the Lordship of Christ while giving other things our first priority in our daily behavior and actions.
I know it is hard. I am in the struggle with you every day as were our ancestors – Adam, Eve, Peter and Andrew. Yet they remind us this morning that to call Jesus Lord means to call him Lord of all of our lives not just some – even of the hard parts to lay down or hand over. Amen.