Lectionary Reading: Psalm 62:5-12; Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Mark 1:14-20; I Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark’s story is not complex, or elaborate, it’s to the point, it’s only seven verses long. But contained in this story of Jesus’ calling of Simon, Andrew, James and John is a call to you and me and to the church.
When I read this story what grips me again and again is the response of those first four disciples. After forty days in the wilderness, Jesus begins his ministry proclaiming the good news of God. Jesus then goes to Simon and Andrew and then James and John and says, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately, they went and followed Jesus. There wasn’t a well let me think about it or a let me get permission from this person or that person, or will you pay better than what I’m getting right now. They just immediately follow Jesus. The more practical side of me says, that’s just irresponsible…it won’t last. To be honest I don’t know if I would have responded so boldly. My question really is why did they respond the way they did?
First, I think they got what Jesus was saying when he said, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near.” For many hearing these words in first century Galilee, the kingdom meant a place, a long hoped for earthly kingdom or eschatological future. For many of us, kingdom of God language is still a place. Maybe not visible, maybe consigned to the future. Living in a broken and hurting world probably enforces the idea that the kingdom has not really been “fulfilled”. There s a sense of an “already but not quite” quality to our perspective of the kingdom. (George Eldon Ladd)
But Jesus says, “the kingdom has come near”. That’s what those first disciples hear. A better translation might be, “the kingdom is right in front of you”. Guess who is standing right in front of those first four disciples, it’s Jesus. They got it. They understood the kingdom is about a person not just a place. The good news that we have to share is about the person of Jesus Christ. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus has fulfilled and ushered in the kingdom of God. The good news is as one commentator has put it, “Kingdom people live the future in the present. Kingdom people live the not yet in the here and now.” We can be part of “the kingdom coming near” in the lives of people when we share our faith in Jesus in our words and our actions. Brian McLaren says it well when he writes, “The Gospel is not primarily informational but relational/missional. That is imparting information on how to be individually saved is secondary to inviting people into a relationship with a King (God/Christ) and with members of a kingdom whose foremost concern is wholeness for a broken world, rather than just an insurance policy for eternal destiny.” I believe they immediately followed Jesus because he was calling them to something bigger than themselves to a movement of God’s kingdom breaking into the world through Jesus. Which brings me to my next observation.
Second, they responded immediately, because Jesus gives meaning and purpose for their lives. In many of the translations, Jesus’ call to Simon, Andrew, James and John seems like a task. A more accurate translation of Jesus’ call is “ follow me and I will make you to become fishers of people.” Jesus is in a sense giving them a new identity, a new purpose for their lives. Evangelism is not just a task or a program it is a way of life. It isn’t,”Llet’s start a new evangelism program,” or “Let’s get everyone to bring one person on this Sunday or that Saturday.” In the North American church we have focused too much on programs and too little on developing disciples who live out their faith and share their faith in all of life. That’s why I love Acts 1:8 when Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus doesn’t say you will be great evangelist, he says you are my witnesses. Like it or not people are watching us, they want to see what following Jesus is about. They crave to experience the kingdom of God come near, they want to know the God whom we serve. Jesus gave meaning and purpose to their lives, and to our lives and vocations and occupations. We’re not just parents or children, doctors or mechanics, teachers or students, clerks or scientists, waiters or fishermen. We do all those things but we are “witnesses” for Jesus Christ first and foremost.
Don’t let the term “fishers of people” confuse you; our call is to be in our lives, in our words, in our actions, like Jesus to others. We are called to serve and radically love others and our world. We are called to reach our communities and work for justice and a better world. We are called to reconciliation and healing. We are called to share the good news that in and through Jesus the kingdom has come near, repent (go in the other direction, make new life choices and priorities) and believe (give yourself fully to the God who loves you and loves the world) the good news.
Christ is calling us and our churches to live our faith. I agree with Reggie McNeal when he says that we don’t need another evangelism strategy, we need a blessing strategy. God is calling us not to do church better, but to be church I a different way. That’s why those four disciples dropped everything and followed. Because in a sense Jesus was calling them to be a part of changing the world. Those disciples and a few others who were in Acts were described as “uneducated, and unlettered” were witnesses (the word in Acts is the root word for martyr) and they gave their lives because of a belief in the risen Jesus and the call to love others radically. These ordinary men and women would change the world. Christ calls us to the same mission, to the same movement.
Additional Worship Resources (Sourcebook of Worship Resources):
Call to Worship
Leader: God saves us.
People: God calls us with a holy calling.
Leader: God calls us according to God’s own purpose and grace.
People: God’s grace has been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Leader: For us, our Savior abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.
People: We have been appointed heralds for the gospel
Invocation or Illumination
Most gracious God, prepare our hearts and minds to receive your deep peace. Hush the anxieties that shout in our minds. Prepare us now to receive your living Word with joy through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Searcher of hearts you know us from the beginning. You see in us more good and beauty than we have dared to believe. You beckon us to do more than we have dared to try. Forever you call our names. But we have filled our ears with the sounds of the world; we have timidly spoken of your great love.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy and forgive us. (Silent Prayer)
Gracious God, searcher of hearts, shine your forgiving light into our hesitancy, and embolden us to live with such joy and fire that all the world may know of your love. We ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
God loves you and sends you into the world to share the Good News of God’s love. Be, therefore, agents of change, mediators of reconciliation, heralds of good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
– Sourcebook of Worship Resources. Communications Resources, Inc. Canton, OH. (Pp. 39, 43,68,196)