Las Vegas Lazy

January 27, 2008

Matthew 4:18-22

18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.


His name is Simon Lezama. He is a thin, fit, 27-year-old man, in perfect health. What is surprising about Lezama is that he rides an electric “mobility scooter” all around Las Vegas. He is taking a vacation, and because of the miles of gambling and gluttony that stretch out before him, he has decided to fork over $40 a day to rent an electric wheelchair.

It was all the walking,” he explained. “Now I can drink and drive, be responsible and save my feet.” [Hennessey, Kathleen. “Vegas visitors are indulging in exercise avoidance.” USA Today, May 25-28, 2007. 2A]. That strikes me as just lazy, Las Vegas Lazy, tooling along from casino to casino in a wheelchair.

Marcel Maritz runs the scooter rental company that caters to Las Vegas visitors, and he is seeing the number of able-bodied renters growing every year. “We’re seeing more and more young people just for the fact that the Strip has gotten so big, the hotels are so large,” he says. Most of his business still comes from the elderly, or disabled, but the young and the fit now make up about 5% of his clientele.

These young folks do not want to walk to the casinos, hotels, shopping malls, spas, bars, and restaurants — not if they can ride along, drink in hand, controlling their wheelchair with a joystick. But that has to be the essence of laziness.

Of course, mobility scooters are a great idea for those that need them. I have seen several around York. For those folks who cannot use their feet or legs, or have difficultly walking, these scooters may literally be a lifesaver, but somehow it seems wrong to me for a young and fit person to rent a mobile wheelchair just because they are too slothful to walk on their own two feet.

These lethargic Las Vegas louts provide an excellent contrast to Simon Peter in today’s passage from Matthew 4. Jesus is on the go as he begins his ministry, leaving Nazareth and making his home in Simon’s town of Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:13). There Jesus hits the road — without a “mobility scooter” — and begins to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (v. 17). Everything Jesus says and does is energetic in this passage, even his announcement of the kingdom coming and breaking into our lives. He insists that the kingdom of heaven is not a passive place, but is God’s active, powerful, world-changing reign.

There is certainly nothing lazy about Jesus. As Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, he sees two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew. They are working as fishermen, casting a net into the sea, and Jesus says to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (vv. 18-19).

Notice that his initial invitation is not “listen to me,” “believe in me,” or “bow down to me.” It is “follow me.” Discipleship is a spiritual walk with Jesus. It is a faithful following of the Lord.

And immediately Peter and Andrew left their nets and walked with Jesus (v. 20).

Moving on down the road, Jesus sees two more brothers, James and John, who are in a boat with their father, mending their nets. He calls to them in the same way, and they leave both their boat and their father, and follow Jesus on foot (vv. 21-22).

As we read the gospels, we are struck by how much time Jesus spent walking. he is on the slopes of Mount Hermon, which is on the northern border of Palestine. He is in Capernaum. He is in Jericho, down near the Dead Sea. He is in Jerusalem. It must have required some doing to keep up with him.

Today, to follow Jesus is to accept his invitation with passion and purpose, and to set a course in his direction. This does not mean literally walking; It is a spiritual journey, but it does demand the investment of your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. You cannot be “Las Vegas Lazy” as a follower of Jesus — you’ve got to put energy into this endeavor, and make your discipleship dynamic.

So let us be more like Simon Peter and less like Simon Lezama. Let us respond to the call of Christ with energetic, faithful following.

What does active discipleship look like? Let us take an example. You may be thinking that old people cannot have much energy and enthusiasm. Well we are not supposed to call them “old people,” are we? They are “Senior Citizens” or “Golden Agers,” or some such euphemism. In any case, you may be thinking that this energetic discipleship stuff is more for youngsters, surely not for “golden agers.”

But you have not heard about Walter Hart, who last year at the age of 88 earned his Eagle Scout rank. Hart had joined the Cub Scouts in 1928 in Massachusetts and had earned 23 merit badges as a Boy Scout, two more than needed to qualify for his Eagle Scout badge. He was all set to receive it when World War II broke out. As he was going through some memorabilia last year, he found the documents and realized that he had never claimed his badge. So he got to work to get it. Scout officials say that he might be the oldest person to be awarded the Eagle Scout ranking. And of all Boy Scouts, only 5% achieve this rank. So Walter Hart at age 88 did what 95% of all Boy Scouts never do. The next time someone says you are too old to do something, you might remember old Walter.

Of course, young people also can be active disciples for Christ. They just need a vision and a challenge. Teenagers are “great at seeing needs around them, and excited to do something that concretely meets the needs they see.” That is what Anne Marie Earley says. She works for YouthWorks! Inc. which is a youth mission organization with 75 sites in the United States, Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico.

People of any age can be vital active disciples. Faithful following is being done in churches that are reaching out to young adults in their 20s and 30s. One of these is a congregation in Minneapolis called Spirit Garage — the “church with the really big door.” Its pastor for five years was Pamela Fickensher, a woman who learned an important lesson about ministry there: It’s important to show your scars.

One thing you need to know about Pamela is that she is passionate about mountain biking. As a result, she knows a lot about falling down and getting up again. One summer she hardly ever wore shorts because her legs were so nicked up with scabs and scrapes. But still, she was proud of those scars because they meant that she was “out there.”

The lesson from this kind of dynamic discipleship is that scars often create authentic community. Faithful followers of Christ push their limits, and they are honest with each other when they fall down and bang themselves up. “To a lot of people,” says Pamela, “being authentic means that our brokenness is evident. There is no smooth polish or veneer put on our failings as individuals or as a community.” [Fickensher, Pamela. “Off-road ministry.” Christian Century, March 6, 2007, 21.]

Active disciples fall down and get back up. They acquire some scars in the process, but as they show those scars, the disciples grow closer together.

Let’s return to our passage from Matthew, and dig into the challenge that Jesus lays before his disciples: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (v. 19).

When we follow Jesus, we fish for people — not with hooks, not with nets, not with anything tricky. We are not trying to manipulate people or coerce people. Instead, we attract people with the magnetic power of God’s work in our lives. When people see what God has been doing for us, they naturally want to walk along with us, following Jesus.

Most people are not interested in abstract theology. But they are interested in how our faith impacts our life. Personal experience is what catches people. Thus, we need to talk about how and where God is at work in our lives. Biblical scholarship and theological propositions are not going to get the job done. We also have to be willing to give some personal testimony. Think of Simon Peter, a few chapters later in Matthew, stepping out of the boat and walking toward Jesus on the water. He became frightened by the strong wind and began to sink, and it looked like he was going to go under until Jesus reached out and saved him (14:28-33). What a story, What a testimony. Peter told that story over and over for the rest of his life.

When fishing for people, personal experience is what catches them, hooks them. If they don’t see us walking with Jesus, then they are not going to be inspired to follow Jesus themselves.

So what is your personal testimony? First of all, we should say that your testimony is not something the preacher can give you. It is not a planned program for sharing the gospel. Your testimony is your walk and your talk about your life in Christ.

This reminds of a young man I used to know before I was in the ministry. I was going to college and working the midnight shift. During the breaks, we would sit around and talk about religion. I was always asking my coworker questions about what he believed. And he would say, “The priest says this or the priest says that.” In frustration, I finally replied, “I don’t care what the priest says. What do you think? What do you believe?” I was asking him for his personal testimony. I was trying to drag it out of him, and he pretty much would not give it to me. He preferred to quote someone else, rather than saying, “Here is what I believe. Here is where I stand.”

When you tell another person what Jesus means to you, you take a little risk. You reveal something of your inmost self, and some folks are hesitant to do that.

But it can be good for us to share our inmost beliefs. How did you come to be where you are right now? How was God’s hand active in your life to bring you to where you are this morning? When you tell other people about that, you might help them in their pilgrimage, and you also help yourself--because as you talk about what God has done for you, you are reassured that God is still with you. Also, when you bounce your story off another person, sometimes they have insights that can be helpful to you.

Not long ago I renewed acquaintance with an old High School friend, Bill Moore. Bill asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was a minister. I went on to tell him how I was converted and led into the ministry. I finished by saying, “You probably remember that I was a hard core atheist in High School and are surprised to hear that I am now a Christian minister.” I thought that would be a real shocker to him, but his reply was a real shocker to me. He said, “I’m not really surprised. We all thought at the time that all your arguing against God was your way of wrestling with a call from God.”

As I said when you bounce your story off someone else, you sometimes get insights about yourself that you did not expect, and these insights can be good. Sharing what Jesus has done for us can help both us and the person we share with.

Being followers of Jesus means that we are called to be fishers of people, but that is not something hard or dangerous. It is good and beneficial. Jesus has called us to be his people because he loves us. He calls us to share what he is doing in our lives out of that same love. So be followers of Christ, express the love of Christ, be fishers of people.


If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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