Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 22, 2006
The Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Sermon: "To Respond as the Disciples"
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.
To Respond as the Disciples
Third Sunday after the Epiphany - January 22, 2006
Friday morning I saw part of an interesting show on The History Channel. The show was a live auction of the memorabilia of one of the world's greatest magicians and escape artists, Harry Houdini. They were selling items like the milk can he used for one of his escape tricks and original flyers that had been posted for his shows. I have to admit that the materials were selling for a hefty price. The milk can was sold for $35,000.00. We could do a great deal with those funds.
However, the show really got me thinking in the context of today' s world and the Gospel reading. For instance, the world is full of all kind of schemes and scams today. There are weight loss programs that promise incredible results in a very short time. We see get rich quick scams on television and on the internet. For the most part, we have been able to determine that these schemes and scams are just high tech snake oil salesmen.
It would really be wonderful if I could say the church was free of these artists, but we are not. We see many of them in all venues of media. Some try to sell us water from the River Jordan that has been blessed. Some try to sell us blankets or oil for healing that have been prayed over by some religious leader. Others try to tell us that in order for us to get our lives right with God, we must send them our money. They have a direct link with God. Not only do they have a direct link, but that link is opened to us if we send in our money. The more money we send in the more open the link is between our needs and God's grace. In many cases it is pretty obvious they are after our money. One of my favorites is the rhinestone preacher. He wants the money bad. I suppose it is to pay for the suits he wears with rhinestones all over the jackets and pants. He has more twinkle and shine than the stars in the heavens.
The result of all of these schemes and scams is that we are very cautious and very hesitant. Our personal radarscopes for scams are up very high. Consequently, our trust level in other people, in what they say and do, is pretty low. We just don't know whether to believe someone or not. Are they who they say they are? Can they deliver what they may promise?
These questions bring us to one question we have about today's Gospel. Deep down we question how these four men could follow Jesus. Let's be honest with ourselves. The fact that these four men got out of their boats and followed Jesus bothers us. According to the story, Jesus is simply walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Simon and Andrew are casting their net into the water. Jesus says, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." They immediately follow him. He walks a little further and he sees James and John mending nets. He calls to them and they also leave. They left their father and the hired hands in the boat. If we are honest with ourselves this story confuses and, I dare say, frightens us.
We get confused with this story because we project our own selves into this story. We can not imagine someone just picking up and leaving home and family on somebody's word. Shouldn't Jesus have had some identification card or something? Name: Jesus Christ. Address: Nazareth Occupation: Carpenter and Messiah. We can't imagine ourselves being addressed in such a manner and responding. Imagine our own selves at work or doing anything and someone coming up and saying follow me and you will affect the lives of many people. So, how could these four men choose this act? To be honest, we don't know. We only have what Mark has given us.
We do know that Mark does have a quickness about his gospel. Everything that Jesus did was done immediately. In fact, the word immediately is used over forty times in this account of Jesus' life. Mark has a sense of urgency about him. Let's take the urgency and immediacy of Mark out of the equation. Suppose Jesus sat and talked with them a short while first. The end result is that they still left and went with him. It is this fact that frightens us.
We are frightened for several reasons. First of all it frightens us because we don't know if we would make that decision for ourselves. How would we know if it was really God calling us? We wonder if we would recognize Jesus for who He is. It is a legitimate question. All we can say is that at that moment they recognized something in Jesus. They may not have known what it was, but something was present. Whatever it was caused them to stand up and go.
Second of all we wonder if we would give up what we have in order to follow Jesus. These men left their homes and their families. They left their entire livelihood and went to see where this man would lead them. When it really gets down to it, this part probably frightens us the most. Family, friends, job security, money, prestige, and reputation are all important to us. If we were to respond like these first disciples, we could lose all of it. At least, we think we would lose all of it. We really don't know what the disciples lost in family and friends. They did give up their jobs and lost money. They might have been seen as a little weird by some in the community. Yet, aren't we all perceived a little different by someone? I can guess what someone is probably thinking, "Bill, you may have this problem, but don't project your issues on the rest of us." The bottom line is we don't know what the disciples really lost. We actually have a better picture about what they gained. These disciples of Christ, along with the others, saw the glory of God's kingdom revealed. They saw the relationship of God and humanity restored. They saw it. They breathed it. They lived it as they walked with Christ. Furthermore, they got to see it grow as the Holy Spirit came to them later. All of this happened because they followed.
Are we willing to follow Jesus too? Oh, I know, the road is unknown. We might get funny looks from our family, friends, and neighbors. We might not have all the things in life we asked for or wanted. All of these results could occur. However, if we are willing to respond yes, then we too might see the glory of God in ways beyond our present imagination. We might see the lame walk, the blind see, and the prisoners lose their chains. We might see the glory of God shine through as the disciples saw as Jesus was transfigured. We might experience resurrection in our own lives today that Jesus promised to the disciples. We might experience grace to its fullest extent as we walk in the footsteps of the disciples. For if we can imagine it, when they said yes, they walked alongside the fu11ness of the grace of God. Amen