Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 26, 2003
The Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." 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. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Third Sunday after the Epiphany - January 26, 2003
For the past week people across the United States and even the world have been preparing for this day. Companies have bought advertisements. Parties have been organized. Food has been bought and prepared. Beer and soft drinks have been purchased. Big screen televisions have been bought or rented. Tickets have been sold. Team supporters have bought every piece of memorabilia for the two teams imaginable. Rarely do we see such dedication, such commitment to an event in our lives. Yet, we see it every year involving sorting events, particularly with the Superbowl.
Right now, as we sit here, there are people who are so busy preparing to see the game tonight that they have said they are too busy to attend church. This football game has priority over spending an hour to an hour-and-a-half with God and the Church community for them. They have in a sense become disciples of the Superbowl.
Do I sound condemning? I am not condemning them I am simply stating a fact. . I enjoy a football game as much as anyone else. In fact, our youth group has plans to watch the game tonight.
However, the hype over this game and the way people react to it does pose a question for us. What is discipleship? A disciple is one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another. A person who is a disciple is a convinced adherent of a school or individual. I guess some of the fans of the various football teams do fall into that definition. But what about us? How do we view discipleship? My guess is that some of us view discipleship with uncertainty and possibly even fear.
One of the reasons we view it this way is because of the Gospel story we read this morning. Peter, James, Andrew and John are simply doing their normal every day work. They are fishermen. Along comes Jesus. Let's put this in perspective. Along comes God. God walks up to them and says simply, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." There are no words about how it will be done. There is no mention of power or glory. There is no questioning by these men about any details. They simply get up and they follow. Their response is radical. They leave their livelihoods to follow Christ. Our fear is centered in the radical response these men have to Jesus, -to God.
We can't help but wonder what God intends for us if we are called. Will we have to leave our families and friends like Peter, James, Andrew and John? Will we have to change our lives and turn them upside down? Well, the answer to these questions are yes, no and maybe? I know there are only two questions but there are three answers.
The first answer is yes. Yes, we are all called. We are called to a radical obedience to God. Everybody is called. The difference is we know we are called. In fact, since we are in this building there is no doubt we are called. We are called to be obedient to God first. That doesn't mean we don't live in the world. What it means is when we are faced with choices in this world we do our best to choose for God. It doesn't matter what our occupation is. It doesn't matter if we are employed or a student. It doesn't matter whether we are rich or poor. We live for God first. We live for God when we respect the dignity of every human being. If we are a businessperson then be a good business person to all. If we are a teacher be a good teacher to all. If we are a priest be a good priest to all. The first yes is to obedience.
The no answer is in relation to the question of being called exactly like Peter and James and the other apostles. We will not be called like them. Their calling was to a special ministry, their ministry. It is not identically repeatable. They were not only called to be disciples they were called to be apostles. They were called to be the foundation of the spread of the church after the resurrection. Their call is not repeatable. So, we don't have to worry about their call.
Now, comes the answer maybe. We are all called. We are all called to a particular ministry at a particular time and a particular place. Over our lifetimes we will be called to multiple specialized ministries. Our call is to treat everyone at every moment of every day with love dignity and respect. We are also called to particular tasks, not unlike Peter, James, Andrew and John. We have people in this congregation who have such specialized ministries. In fact, everyone in this building has a specialized ministry right where they are. Some examples include, counters, ushers, prison ministry, accountants, webmasters, Happening, Cursillo, the Soup Kitchen, youth advisors, delivering food and tapes to shut-ins and the list goes on. But the maybe means we might be called to a special ministry that will require something unusual. We might be called to something the rest of the world or the rest of the family might not like or appreciate.
When I was called to youth ministry our families tried to talk us out of it. There was no doubt I was supposed to do youth ministry for eight years in two different churches. However, my family and Ellen's family tried to talk us out of it. In fact, when I graduated from seminary one my brothers-in-law told me it was great. Now, I could go and get a real good job. He was serious. The answer of maybe means that God just might call you to respond in a special way the world won't understand. Remember the world is not eternal, God is.
So today while we watch the game on television I hope and pray we are reminded of three things. I hope we are reminded that we are called by God. It is a radical call demanding a response. I hope we are reminded that we are not all called the same or to the same task. We are called differently and to different tasks. Finally, I hope we are reminded that we might be called to something very different. The rest of the world might not understand the ministry at the time. Hopefully, they will at some time. Our ministries might be very distinct and very specialized. Finally, I hope we recall these words. God never calls us to a ministry that we can not perform. God always gives us the gifts and abilities to do what we are called to do.
I pray we always have the courage to respond like Peter, James, Andrew and John. I hope when God calls we will follow.
Definition of discipleship is from Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Deluxe Edition copyright 1998, p. 518