Third Sunday after the Epiphany / January 25, 2009 / Resurrection Lutheran Church Text: Mark 1: 14 – 20 / Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley / Title: Let’s Go Fishing!
The Gospel writer Mark…makes me nervous. And I’ll tell you why. If there is a word in a nutshell that describes the action in Mark’s Gospel…it would have to be the word: ‘immediately’. In today’s text alone, we hear it used twice in the space of just 6 verses. Whenever I read about someone doing something “immediately”…I, for one, have a hard time relating. Not all of us are wired for an “instantaneous response”…much less making decisions that in a split second change the very course of our lives.
Being from the South, I am one of those folks who need to mull things over by giving myself plenty of time to process all the options BEFORE making any kind of MAJOR decision. Which is why…when I hear ‘how quickly’ the first four disciples responded to Jesus’ call ‘to follow, I find myself wondering if I haven’t been too slow to respond at times…and in turn, missed opportunities that may never come again.
Which begs the question for all of us: if a clear call from God was to come sometime during the day tomorrow, could we stop right in the middle of whatever we were doing…and simply walk out the door…without taking our keys or even turning to tell anyone when we might be back? Could we abandon the grocery cart right there in the middle of the frozen food section and set off for parts unknown without stopping to call home or even say good-bye to our families?
If Mark is telling us straight, then that is exactly what the first four people that Jesus laid eyes on did. Someone they had never seen before in their lives said, “Follow me,” and they did…leaving their families, their jobs, their homes behind in order to go with him.
Simon and his brother Andrew had less to lose, since Mark doesn’t mention their having a boat. All that they had to work with were their nets…which they cast into the sea and then drug back onto shore to sort out their catch. James and his brother John, on the other hand, had much more to walk away from: a boat, hired men, and, we are told, their father Zebedee.
Whether rich or poor, both sets of brothers turned away from all that was familiar in their lives in order to go after a stranger who called them to follow. Which raises another interesting point: that’s not how Rabbi’s normally went about finding students to teach.
The unspoken rule went something like this: Rabbis did not seek students…students sought out Rabbis. And even then, only the brightest and most promising students were allowed to stay on. No self respecting Teacher would ever have gone out to recruit his own followers, much less the first four people that he just happened to see.
In doing just that, Mark clues us in that this is no ordinary Rabbi. From the very beginning of his ministry, we see Jesus already setting himself apart from the other teachers of his time. He alone chose to associate with ordinary working folks…and without even so much as conducting one interview, he chose them…to be his friends.
But that in itself is not the strangest part of this story. The strangest part comes in being told that they actually went along with him. All four of them. He called and they followed, which by the way, we tend to give them all the credit. But the truth is, Mark would be the first one to set the record straight.
You see, there’s a reason why the word “immediately” just happens to be a part of Mark’s vocabulary. If we think about it seriously for just a moment, there can only be one reason why anyone would chose to leave everything that they have ever loved behind…and ‘immediately’ follow someone whom they have never seen before. It would take nothing less…than an act of God.
To be sure, this story is not about the power of human beings to change their lives. Instead, it is a story…about the power of God…to walk right up to a hand full of motley fisherman and work nothing less than a miracle. Namely, by creating faith where there was no faith…and creating disciples, where there were none only moments before.
Simply put: Jesus showed up, they took one look at each other, and the rest was history. God acted…and the “disciples” let their nets wash out to sea.
From personal experience, I can assure you that their minds were not on what they were leaving at that moment, but on whom they were about to join. And in that God-drenched moment of their turning to follow…that’s when the miracle occurred. Their wills were no longer two, three, or even four…but one will. And their lives all flowed in the same direction as God’s life. That, dear friends in Christ, is when you know the kingdom of God has come near.
In saying that, I want to add one more thought about this business of following Jesus. Sometimes, I think we hear stories like this one today…and come away believing that discipleship is always a matter of leaving everything behind.
Granted, this is what following Jesus meant for Simon and Andrew and James and John in their particular case. But…if this story is about being swept into the flow of God’s will…and giving ourselves over to it (as in ‘letting go…and letting God’), then it seems to me that it will be a different story for every one of us in our own particular lives.
For example, sometimes…following may mean staying at home. With the mission fields no longer continents away, we have only to open our eyes as well as our hearts to discover what new and exciting ways God would have us to serve those right here in our own backyards. We may find ourselves using the same old nets…but casting them in a whole new way, and for new reasons…especially when it comes to utilizing our new Family Life Center.
And if for a moment we begin to question OUR ability to follow through with what God has already put into place…then perhaps, we need to revisit today’s story once again. Rest assured, the God who called us in baptism can be counted on to fashion us as people who are able to follow. Because according to today’s Good News…whenever…and however our wills flow into the will of God, time is fulfilled…immediately…and the kingdom…is…at...hand.
Thanks be to God. Amen