The Bible is full of beginnings, the very first words of our Holy Book speak of beginnings for the word Genesis means beginning. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, then came the beginning of the human race, and after the great flood a new beginning. Abraham answers God's call to go, leave his home and begin anew.
The Bible presents us with beginnings over and over again until at the very end a holy city comes down from heaven and its name is the New Jerusalem, a place to begin, the start of what will be forever new.
Our church liturgical calendar circles with beginnings and endings then beginning again. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, the long season of Pentecost then back to where we started at Advent again.
Some of the beginnings in the Bible are referred to as "call stories." These are stories of how someone is invited by God to begin something new and unexpected. God calls this person to begin, not only to begin but to persist so that another beginning can take place.
Our Gospel story this morning opens with the ending of John the Baptist's ministry as he is arrested and taken off to jail after which Jesus left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea of Galilee. In this new place of Gentiles Jesus calls his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, inviting them to "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." A short distance down the beach he came upon two other fishermen, the brothers James and John mending their nets with their father Zebedee. He called out to them also, immediately they left behind all that had been so familiar; the water, the boats, their father, their livelihood and a beginning takes place.
Jesus shows up at the shore of the sea. Had they met him before or maybe heard something about him? These were young men perhaps yearning for something new, an adventure maybe. So when Jesus approaches and calls them by name they don't hesitate for a minute, they go, just drop their nets and go.
Most rabbis would wait for disciples to come to them. Not Jesus, he goes out and finds his own. He doesn't seek out the best and the brightest he goes down to the sea and interrupts these fisher folk at their work. Do these four young men, Peter, Andrew, James and John have any idea of the cost of this adventure? Probably not yet there was something about Jesus, how he looked at them and spoke to them for they were willing to risk everything. Jesus knew nothing about these men, as far as we know, yet he throws caution to the wind and they were the first to be invited to "Follow me."
The Bible tells us of this beginning for the four fishermen, called out from their familiar occupation about which they are very knowledgeable in order to fish for people about which they know very little. Yet they go. Peter never could have imagined that he would end up with a huge church in Rome dedicated to his memory, or Andrew would not suppose that whole countries, Scotland, Greece, and Russia would regard him as their patron saint. Nor did they have any idea that both of them would be crucified as their master was. No, they only saw him and that was enough. In him, as Paul said, "all the treasures of glory and pain are hidden." And then there were the remarkable healings that drew people to Jesus, for these were also signs of the new things God was doing through him.
This past week the McCleary Timberland library hosted an evening presentation by Lindy Cameron as she shared her story of a 500 mile journey walking across northern Spain. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the Way of St. James, where millions of pilgrims have journeyed is an ancient road which had been used by the Romans since before the birth of Christianity. It is much more than a very long walk. Lindy said, "The Camino became a whisper in the back of my mind while planning a trip to Scotland." She made the pilgrimage in 2011, a time in her life when she was wading through personal challenges. She embarked upon this journey alone but found she was never truly without others. Along the way she met many who became like family to her. What began as a whisper in her mind became a physically challenging, life affirming, spiritually enriching discovery of herself It has been said God’s hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago. This long arduous trek may be only the beginning of many new personal opportunities calling out to Lindy.
Have you ever been called, invited or led toward something to which you have yearned? Or have you been called to places you never intended to go? Have there been new opportunities opened for you at just the right time and place? Might they have been God whispering to you?
I believe in a God whose desire for all people is goodness and this goodness calls out to us to serve others, to be a blessing to others, by which we are in turn blessed. Christ comes to us and chooses us and sends us out to be the next new beginning in the world. AMEN