‘And immediately they left their nets and followed him.’ Words that are both inspirational and a little unsettling.
Why unsettling? Well, because it all seems so sudden and I wonder would I have done the same? I’d like to hope so but I know too my caution, my need of security and love.
Now of course, I can explain a bit the style adopted by the Gospel. I know it was written with urgency and that the word ‘immediately’ occurs 40 times in the book.
But would I leave everything I knew and follow Jesus? So, it’s one of those reading I need to live with, a challenge to my sometimes over cautious heart.
But I find some consolation in the reading from the letter to the Hebrews, not so much in terms of content more context.
For here are words with less urgency than those of Mark but are also about following Jesus.
The words of the letter can seem strange read in isolation so it’s sometimes helpful to remember that this book was likely written for priests of the temple.
For there were priests like the fishermen who had encountered the Lord and wanted to follow him. And so the writer is helping them.
Priests of course were important people who led the worship in the temple. Experts in the rather blood thirsty business of animal sacrifice. Offering ‘blood that was not their own’ as today’s reading put it to God.
And this language of sacrifice became that which helped them make sense of who Jesus was, describing him as the one who ‘has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.’
It can sound very strange to us but as I’ve said I’m not so interested this morning in the content more the context. The context that the priests were having to re-learn who they were.
And it’s this sense of re-learning that draws the two readings together for me.
For though in the Gospel there is a sense of the immediacy of everything, something that should challenge us as they ‘left their nets and followed him’. They too had to re-learn who they were, if they were to ‘fish for people.’
But, what has all this got to do with us?
And here this sermon takes what might be deemed a strange turn as I turn to Yoda, the small green Jedi-master/teacher in the Star Wars films.
In the movie the Empire Strikes Back, he says to Luke Skywalker, a young man filled with zeal and determination training under Yoda to become a Jedi.
He is frustrated by his lack of progress, by his inability to be who he thinks he should be and Yoda says;
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
That’s what the priests of the temple had to do to make sense of who this Jesus was for them.That’s what the fishermen who left their nets had to do too.
And we are not so different.
And Yoda’s words seem particularly topical as the leaders of the world continue their work in Glasgow trying to imagine a different future for the world.
Trying to unlearn what we have learned, what we have come to depend upon, what we have determined as being normal and allow a new future to emerge.
There are hopeful signs but there is a way to go, whether we are prepared to sacrifice the lifestyle we in the west have lived for so long. Unlearn our dependence on wealth and re-learn when enough is enough.
And each of us has our part to play in addressing the issue of climate change, something we have reflected on a bit at St. Marys recently.
Whether its eating less meat or flying less or recycling etc etc – can we ‘unlearn what we have learned’ about how we live together for the good of all.
Yet Yoda’s words are still strange to us in some ways, why would we unlearn what we have learned?
And yet if we think of recent experience this language isn’t quite so strange to us not least when it came to coming to church.
Just think of those weeks when we could not gather and yet we learned new ways of being together.I was filled with admiration for those who sometimes reluctantly learned new skills.Learned how to use an iPad, or to learn or relearn new skills on a computer or smart TV.
And beyond the church we unlearned some of what we thought important, the running around and busyness that often defined our lives and settled into a better pace. It seems sad to me that some of that has been lost, life seems rather busy again.
But this is more than pandemics for as we think of our own lives, especially as we get older – something that has been in the forefront of my mind lately we do a bit of that ‘unlearning’ as we let go, or at least try to of that we once held important.
Just as the priests in the temple had to do.
Their identity was no longer bound up with the quality of the sacrifice, the words they said and how they said them, instead they were reconciling the old ways of sacrifice with the new way offered by Jesus.
Just as the fishermen worked out in the days that followed their call who they were to be.
So, we do the same, we learn and re-learn through the seasons of our lives. And it’s often those landmark moments in life a birth or a death, a wedding or a birthday that help us contemplate our lives and how we are to live well.These moments that remind us that we need to unlearn what we have learned, for we have sometimes learned that which does not enrich our lives but diminishes it. We must unlearn, to learn again who we are in Christ.
And then perhaps what this journey is preparing us for, and this seems rather apt on the Sunday after we have celebrated All Souls, is for when the invitation comes to let go of this life and be drawn into the next. Maybe then we shall immediately take Jesus’ hand and follow him, I hope so.
So, maybe Yoda was onto something when he said we must unlearn what we have learned.As we think of the fishermen who followed Jesus.Of the priests of the temple who had to make sense of who Jesus was for them.And then also for us as we live our years,because we do sometimes need to let go of some way of being or living and learn something new.
Let’s hope and pray that whatever is before us together we learn to live well.Amen.