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“Who Would Follow Jesus? Anyone Who Longs for the World to Change” (January 21, 2018)

Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The very first words out of Jesus’ mouth as recorded in Mark are in this text, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” His first words are also his first “sermon” and is pretty short. If I was Jesus, maybe I could be that short, too. But since I’m not . . .

I’m kind of caught by two things in this text that I’ve not really paid attention to before. One is a phrase from Jesus, “the kingdom of God has come near.” Come near. When the Kingdom of God comes, it means that God’s life and peace and justice are established in the world. It means an end of poverty and injustice. It means no fear of enemies and enough food for everyone. And Jesus says it’s nearby. Not actually here, just kind of in the neighborhood. What does that mean? If you go two blocks west you’ll find God’s peace? Or it’s just a little bit late, but if you wait fifteen or twenty minutes, our enemies will put down their weapons? What does it mean that the Kingdom of God has come near?

He says it’s close, but there’s no evidence of it. Too many people are still poor, Israel is still occupied by a foreign oppressive government, Herod, although a Jewish king in Judea, was doing whatever Rome told him. Life is still extremely hard and unjust. Nothing is different. Apparently, the Kingdom of God coming “near” doesn’t really change anything.

That’s one thing. The nearness of the kingdom of God.

The other thing that is grabbing my attention is that all four of these fishermen that Jesus calls to follow him left real and significant lives behind in order to do so. They had jobs, families, friends, and homes. They were settled in a lifestyle and a routine that had been part of their lives their whole lives. They knew who they were and what they were about. Yet they left everything they knew behind to follow Jesus. Why?

It’s even more fascinating when you put both of these things together. These fishermen dropped their familiar, comfortable lives to follow Jesus when there’s no evidence at all of this Kingdom of God he talks about.

It seems like a huge risk. For them to give up everything for this so-called Kingdom of God when there’s no evidence of it. Why take that kind of a chance?

Not to mention that Jesus give no instructions to these fishermen at all. They are called away from the familiarity of their lives into an uncertain future with no guarantees whatsoever. Who would do that?

Yes, who would do that?

I’ll tell you who. These four fishermen would. And when you really think about it, so would anyone who hopes for a better world. Anyone who believes that greed and selfishness are not the way to real life. Anyone who has seen that humanity hasn’t been able to bring about peace and justice on our own. Anyone who is willing to work with God to make this world a place where all are valued, all are respected, all have a place. Anyone willing to give love a chance. Anyone who has longed for the world to change. Anyone who feels this just may be bigger than humanity can do on our own. Anyone who has the imagination to consider that perhaps in this Christ, this Kingdom of God’s peace and compassion really has come near.

Just think what it would be like if fear and death and violence were finally put to an end. Think about a world where anyone can go anywhere without worrying about safety. Think what life would be like if anything that opposed God’s peace and life and sharing were put away forever. Think what it would be like if there was a God who was committed to doing this among us.

Wouldn’t you follow one in whom this was possible? Wouldn’t you leave behind those things that work against God’s work? Wouldn’t you lay down the parts of your own life that aren’t helping God’s vision? Even if those pieces of your life are familiar or even comfortable? Wouldn’t you be willing to walk away from prejudices, political views, family dysfunctions, or fears? Wouldn’t you put all that away to follow one who brings that hope so close we can taste it?

That, I believe, is what Simon and Andrew, James and John did. It’s not that there was no evidence of this Kingdom of God; it’s that in this Christ there was a real and present hope for it.

You see, God has not given up. In the midst of the violence and the threats and the racism and the misogyny and clamoring for power in our culture, God still comes. And the good news Jesus brings is a real hope that God is still here, that God’s peace will still come in fullness, that the kingdom of God comes along side of us especially when it doesn’t look that way.

Jesus brings hope. When all evidence points away from peace and away from compassion and away from justice for the vulnerable among us, Jesus brings those very things right in front of us.

We are called to be part of this hope. We are called to leave all else behind. We are called to follow. Because in Christ, the good news of God’s kingdom is here.

“The time is fulfilled, “Jesus tells us. “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. Come, follow me.”

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2018 in Sermon

 

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Fishing is Holy Work (Mark 1:14-20)

Have you ever heard this gospel story before? Jesus goes up to four fishermen and tells them to follow him and they will fish for people. And they do it. The gospel writer says they dropped their fishing nets immediately and followed him to fish for people.

It’s interesting that Jesus does not call these fishermen when they are in church or when they’re praying; he meets them in their everyday lives where they actually live and work. He goes to them in their life. And since they are fishermen, he calls them with fishing language, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

How do you think Jesus would have called them if they had been carpenters? “Follow me and I will make you hammer for people? Or secretaries? Or health care workers? Or engineers? Or students? Or people out of work? Think of your own work or anywhere you spend a lot of your time. How would Jesus call you to follow? We’ll come back to that.

When Jesus asks these fishermen to follow him, he isn’t asking them to play follow the leader, but, “Be my disciple. Do what I do. Get to know me so that my ways become your ways.” They didn’t fully leave their lives as fishermen; after the resurrection they were still fishing. Now, rather than being fishermen first who happen to like Jesus, they are disciples first, who are sent to do Christ’s work as fishermen.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean leaving our jobs and our families behind us. It means recognizing that as workers, as part of families, as part of our neighborhoods we are called to be there as disciples of Jesus. We aren’t called away from work and life to be disciples; we are sent into work and life as disciples.

For Martin Luther (perhaps you’ve heard of him), he called the roles we have in our lives our vocations. All the various responsibilities and roles that we have in life are specific opportunities God calls us into to show God’s love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. We are sent by Jesus to reveal Jesus in the very places where we live our lives.

This is the call of our baptism. We are marked with the sign of the cross and become disciples as our primary identity. That is first.

So, now, how would Jesus call you in your life? “Follow me and I will make you _____________ for people.” That is real. Have you ever really thought about what you do as your call from Jesus? That you are sent by Jesus into the very places where you work, play, volunteer, study, spend time?

You are called to holy work, holy vocations. As disciples. As followers of Jesus. As revealers of Jesus’ love and mercy.

Since we have been sent to do holy work by Jesus, we have an opportunity to share that. Through our relationship with Green Mountain High School, they have asked us to mentor some of their students in the holy work you are involved in, your vocations, your jobs. God may be calling students to be architects, veterinarians, therapists, artists, writers, office workers, plumbers, truck drivers, nurses, lawyers, teachers, and more. There are students at GMHS who would like to consider those vocations, may be called into those vocations, but aren’t sure how to go about it.

So our Neighborhood Church Task Force has developed a Career Mentoring Ministry to help them. Jeff Simley is in the back to answer questions and offer help to follow Jesus in our vocations.

Follow me, Jesus says, and I will make you fish for people.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Sermon

 

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