God’s Inefficiency

By Sarah Cornwell

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 4:18-25

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake — for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.


In today’s gospel reading from Matthew, we hear one account of Jesus calling Simon Peter and Andrew while the two brothers are out fishing. In the Gospel of John, there is another account of how these same two men came to follow Jesus. Soon after Jesus was baptized, Andrew comes into Jesus’ house to learn from him, and it is Andrew who calls his brother Simon. It is also in John’s account that Jesus gives Simon the name Peter. How do we account for this? Do the gospel narratives contradict one another?

In a homily on the passage from Matthew, St. John Chrysostom argues that Andrew and Simon Peter were called twice. John’s account is the first, shall we say, indirect calling, occurring just after Jesus was baptized but before he withdraws to Galilee to begin his ministry. Matthew’s account is the second, more direct calling, which takes place just after this.

Jesus started to gather followers, but then he leaves and has to go call them back together again later. Isn’t this a rather inefficient way to begin a ministry? Unfortunately, God doesn’t seem that concerned with efficiency. We may recognize this in the way God works in our own lives. There is something that draws us to follow Jesus, and like Andrew in John’s Gospel, we want to spend time with Jesus in his house. In other words, we go to church, some of us from infancy, some of us later in our lives. Regardless, it may still be some time before the Lord comes to us and issues a direct calling in our lives. We carry on doing our earthly work until one day, Jesus shows up and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This may happen shortly after or long after we are first drawn to Jesus. When it does happen, however, we had better be ready like Andrew and Simon Peter to drop everything and follow wherever that calling leads us.

Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.

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All Saints Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, Fla.
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