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My name is Samuel.
I am a fisherman from the village of Capernaum.
I happen to be the younger brother of Simon and Andrew.
You may have heard of them, but you have probably not heard of me.
There are many us, of course, the siblings and cousins of the first disciples of Jesus.
Though our names are not known, we are very much a part of what happened in Galilee
in what is now known as “the first century” anno domini,
in the year of our Lord, Jesus the Christ.
Before he came, the men of my family were all fishermen.
Our father had been a fisherman, and his father before him.
For generations, my family had provided fish for the village and the surrounding community.
Growing up in Capernaum, you might say I worshipped my older brothers.
I watched everything Simon and Andrew did; I learned from their every move.
Simon, whom Jesus called Peter, the Rock, was passionate.
Our mother said he wore his emotions on his sleeve.
Simon often spoke before he thought, which could get him in trouble with our father,
but Simon was as strong as a rock, and bold, and a loyal friend to many.
Andrew was younger than Simon, closer to my age.
Andrew and I had been very close. Andrew was good to me; he was good to everyone.
Andrew was not as outspoken as Simon, but Andrew was bright, and steady, and sure.
Andrew always had Simon’s back, always made sure that Simon had whatever he needed.
You have heard the story about Simon and Andrew dropping their fishing nets one day
in order to follow the rabbi from Nazareth?
Well, what you have not heard is that it was me, Samuel, who had to pick up those nets!
When my older brothers left, my younger cousin, Nathaniel, and I had to take father’s boat
out on the sea every day.
When their close friends, James and John, took off with them, they left their father, Zebedee,
and a few hired men sitting there in the boat next to us, with un-mended nets.
We were not pleased.
The rest of us had to finish the work for the day.
The rest of us had to get up the next day and the day after, and go fishing without our leaders,
without my big brothers, or James and John.
We had to supply the village with a basic staple of our lives,
and ensure that our families had food enough to eat and enough to buy bread!
When my brothers left, I was just 14 years old!
My village had recently celebrated my becoming a man,
but I quickly realized that I was not as mature as I thought I was.
When my brothers took off on their pious pilgrimage, I had to grow up fast.
Providing for my family was a heavy responsibility.
I was resentful for what Simon and Andrew had done to me.
What were they thinking when they dropped the nets and left!?
Who was this rabbi? Why would he disrupt our lives so?
Why would my brothers leave everything that was familiar to them to go and “fish for people”?
What does that even mean?
And why did they have to leave me and Nathaniel to do all the work?
I was not there that day in the synagogue, the first day everyone in our village heard Jesus teach.
It had just been a few days since my brothers had left me and Nathaniel and old Zebedee
at the shore, left us to carry on without them.
So, on that Sabbath day, I was still mad, and I was really tired.
I went for a walk in the hills to visit my friend, Micah, who lived among the olive trees.
Micah and I talked and napped in the shade of his trees instead of going to synagogue that day.
Our synagogue in Capernaum, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee,
stood on the main road connecting our village and all of the east to the great sea.
We have a large synagogue for our region,
and often, visiting rabbis would read and interpret the Torah.
Most of them were boring.
My friends and I would daydream while the old rabbis spoke,
or make drawings in the sand with our fingers.
Everything they said and did at synagogue seemed so old, so traditional,
like nothing had changed in 500 years.
When I returned to my village near dark, everyone was talking excitedly.
People in the streets were talking about what had happened at synagogue,
about this Jesus of Nazareth, and what he had said and did.
Everyone seemed amazed.
They said that when he spoke, everyone was astounded at his authority.
They said he seemed to know all the Scriptures,
and there seemed to be no limits to his wisdom and understanding.
I heard all of this as I walked down the narrow lane past the synagogue
and on just a little way further to my home,
but I wanted no part of this Jesus.
Jesus had called my brothers to follow him, to drop their nets, and they did.
And when they went with him, they left me and our boats behind.
Surely, they will get over this soon, I thought.
Surely, they will be back on the beach in the next morning or so.
Surely, this Jesus will just pass through and not come our way again.
When I arrived at our home, down near the shore,
dozens of people had gathered near my front door.
This Jesus had invited himself to dinner at my home.
Had no one told him that our “Nanee” was ill, that she had been in bed for days with a fever?
Had he no respect for the sick? Why could he not go to someone else’s house?
As I pushed through the people standing outside the door,
I noticed the strange man who had lived on the edge of our village for years.
The beggar who would shout obscenities at everyone who passed by was now sitting quietly,
just outside my front door, like some lonesome child.
As I stepped inside, I saw the cousin of James and John,
the one who never came out of the back room of their house.
They had carried his awkward body into our front room, and set him before the feet of Jesus,
whose hands were laid upon him in prayer.
I looked up and saw “Nanee” attending to our guests.
She was healthy again, with no sign of fever.
The young woman who lived near the market was there.
When my brothers and I brought our baskets of fish to market, she always averted her eyes.
She always looked frightened. But there she was, in my home,
sitting next to Jesus, smiling, looking around the room at everyone.
The sad old widow from down the lane was sitting next to her, holding her hand,
looking very much at peace.
The lame boy who lay on a mat all day near well, watching people come and go,
was now standing behind Jesus, hopping back and forth on his legs,
with his hands on Jesus’ shoulders.
That evening, it seemed everyone in the village brought their ill to our house.
They took their turns crowding into our small front room.
Any who needed some kind of healing or release from some evil spirit was there that night,
hoping to see the One whom they believed could help them.
And he did. This Jesus of Nazareth helped them all.
Jesus listened to their problems. He called them by name.
He laid his hands on them and with authority, he spoke to them and healed them.
I do not know how this happened. I cannot explain it.
I can only tell you that at my front door that evening,
they came before Jesus bound by what ailed them, and they left our home as free people.
The ill and the deranged, the troubled and the fearful,
went home that night changed, different, whole again.
. I tried to stay awake, but at some point in the evening,
my eyes grew heavy and I fell asleep on my mat in the back room.
The next morning, I awoke to a commotion.
Simon and Andrew were speaking excitedly with one another.
Jesus had left, they said.
He had rolled up the pallet they gave him to sleep upon and left before daylight.
“Come”, Andrew beckoned to me. “Let’s find him at once!”
Rubbing my eyes and tying on my sandals, I got up to join them in the search.
I had never seen my brothers so anxious,
except when trying to haul in a whole net full of fish.
They ran and shouted and got the whole village involved in the search.
I was the one who found him, down by the sea, not far from our boats, sitting upon a rock.
It appeared that he was praying, face turned toward the heavens
as the sun rose in the east over the sea and illuminated the bright mountain cliffs to the west.
When I told him that everyone in the village was looking for him,
that my brothers wanted him to come immediately back to our home, to have some breakfast,
he looked at me, and smiled, and said, “Shalom, my friend.
Samuel, I know that you have taken on quite a burden for your family,
but the Father and I have called your brothers to become fishers of people.
We must go now to the other villages and preach for them also, for this is why I have come.
Your brothers and I must be about the work of the kingdom.”
No matter how much we prevailed upon him to stay in Capernaum,
to teach in our synagogue, he told us that it was time to go on to other villages,
to proclaim the message there as well.
For many, many months after that time, my brothers followed Jesus all over our region
and even up to Jerusalem several times.
They relied fully on the hospitality of strangers; they never settled for long in one place,
though they did return often to visit us in Capernaum.
After Jesus called me by name, after he gave me his peace, I felt differently about my situation.
My anger and resentment had faded, for I had seen what he had done for my village.
Wherever Jesus went in those days, many would draw near to him,
to hear him speak and to be healed by him.
Jesus gave our people healing and hope.
He gave sight to the blind and opened deaf ears.
He came not simply to heal or cast out demons,
but to proclaim a message, to that the kingdom of God had come near in him,
that the scriptures of old had been fulfilled in him.
He was incredibly patient, and tremendously compassionate,
and at times had strong words for the leaders who did not seem to care for the people.
He called everyone to genuine repentance, to turn our lives around and follow his ways,
to trust our lives with him and to pray to the One whom he called “Abba”, “Father”.
He taught us to love the Father with all our heart, mind, and soul,
and to love one another, even our enemies, he said.
That last part was perhaps the most difficult.
Our enemies, those who resist the ways of love and peace and faithfulness,
killed Jesus, they nailed him to a tree. But he would not stay dead.
After his resurrection and ascension,
my brothers, Simon and Andrew, became leaders of the Way.
Peter became known for his passionate preaching, and Andrew for his effective organizing.
Then, as their influence grew, our enemies killed my brothers as well.
But still we carry on. We carry on the good news that we have heard and received
and we share it with all who will listen.
I still hold those nets that my brothers dropped so long ago.
I still get up every morning, sail my boat, and cast my nets upon the sea,
in order to feed my family and many in my community.
But in all my affairs, in all my decisions, in all my relationships,
I seek to do what would be pleasing to my Lord, Jesus of Nazareth.
And, just as many others in many far places, my village gathers on the first day of every week,
the day on which he was raised, and we worship him. We break bread and offer prayers.
We read the ancient scriptures and tell over and over again the stories of Jesus.
The stories remind us of his power and authority, and encourage us in every new trial.
We pray for our families to be strong and for our people to be well.
We pray for the fish to be abundant and for the crops to grow.
And we pray that one day the love of Jesus will conquer all evil,
that, one day, all nations will come to know that love.
We pray that all peoples may come to know his shalom, the same shalom that he shared with me
when he called me by name that bright morning so long ago.
May the peace of Jesus of Nazareth, the peace that passes all understanding,
be with you always. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
February 4, 2018
Eerdman, Charles. The Gospel of Mark. Westminster Press, 1917.
Perkins, Pheme. The New Interpreter’s Bible. Volume VIII. Abingdon Press, 1995.
Williamson, Lamar. Interpretation: Mark. John Knox Press, 1983.
Allysen Schaaf graduated from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Christian Education. Prior to that she received a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Rev. Dr. Todd Speed has served Decatur Presbyterian Church since August, 2007 and has been an integral part of the Decatur community ever since. As a part of his personal calling and service, Dr. Speed regularly serves on local non-profit or education-related boards, has led or co-led over 20 mission trips in various cultural contexts, and has participated in learning seminars on five continents.
Rev. Alexandra Rodgers was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She grew up in a large Presbyterian church where she and her family were very involved. Alex has a degree in interdisciplinary studies from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master of divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas.
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Worship is the heartbeat of Decatur Presbyterian Church, the most important hour of the week. In worship, we offer praise, receive forgiveness, listen to God's Word, pray for the needs of the world, and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.
The mission of DPC is to share Jesus Christ's love for the world.
Founded in 1825, Decatur Presbyterian Church has contributed in numerous ways to the cultural development of Decatur over nearly two centuries, transforming Decatur from a tiny frontier settlement to building the foundations of the city we live in today.
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