Welcome to the third Sunday in Epiphany. Last week Mike Fekula said to me “You really seem to enjoy Epiphany.” And I thought, I do, I really do like Epiphany. It may be one of my favorite seasons of the church year. Epiphany is a season of discovery, we are invited to rediscovery our relationship with God, to discover once again why we choose to follow, why we choose to be disciples, why we choose to take up the name of Christian. This is our opportunity to have an Epiphany as an immediate and meaningful understanding of something. Surprising. Sudden. Profound
We are back reading in the Gospel of Mark again this week. As I have mentioned before I call Mark the gospel of the cranky Jesus because the Jesus we meet through the eyes of Mark is always a little on edge, he never wants anyone to say who he is, and he loses his temper with the disciples all the time. In this gospel we are often reminded of the human side of Jesus, the side of him that brings us closest to him, a side that lets us see ourselves in him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God,[b] 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[c] repent, and believe in the good news.”[d]
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.
May God bless to our understanding the words that we hear today.
Whew, I don’t know about you, but Mark’s gospel can leave you breathless. He moves so fast from one thing to another that its often hard to keep up with him and that makes me a little crazy because when I am hearing things, or learning things, I like time to mull things over, especially when it comes to figuring out who this Jesus guy is and what exactly I am supposed to do now that I have him in my life.
Will you pray with me please? May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redemeer. Amen.
Do you believe in love at first sight? I am not sure how I feel about it. I know that I fell in love with my daughters the first instant that I saw them. And our sweet granddaughter had my heart from before I even saw her. I did NOT fall in love with Michael the first time that I saw him…and yet,45 years later, here we are…I think generally we like to take our time to get to know someone and I believe that extends to getting to know Jesus as well, because really, there is a lot to know and can we really expect to fall in love with him at first sight? I have come to appreciate that that’s part of the beauty of the Bible; we have four different gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who give us four different ways to get to know Jesus, so we know who we are dealing with when he comes calling.
As a reader, I appreciate that Matthew and Luke give us several chapters to get used to the idea of Jesus, to meet the one who's going to be calling. Luke has the story of Zachariah and Elizabeth and the birth and dedication of John the Baptist, and Gabriel and Mary, and Mary's song, and Jesus' birth, and the whole gang of shepherds and angels at the manger.
Matthew has the genealogy and the birth of Jesus and adds to Luke’s story with telling us more about Joseph and the visit of the wise men and the escape to Egypt and Jesus’s dedication with Simeon and Anna.
John's gospel has a lofty prologue that lays Jesus' ID on the table. We're tipped off to his being the Word made flesh before we ever meet him. In John's gospel, the first two disciples that follow Jesus are disciples of John who follow Jesus before he ever calls them.
Maybe Matthew, Luke and John have got it right in giving us time to meet Jesus, time to decide if we want to follow or not. Spiritual directors advise people who are making a life-altering decision to take days, even weeks, to consider each potential choice, to prayerfully enter into it, to investigate all the implications, to ruminate on all the ramifications. "Look before you leap" is a time-honored proverb (not from the Bible, but time-honored nonetheless) that seems to honor caution. You don't quit a job without giving notice. You don’t marry someone without dating first and you don't leave your dad sitting in a boat and walk away without looking back.
But this is the gospel of Mark, and Mark would argue that our being called by Jesus is a situation that calls for another time-honored proverb: "He who hesitates is lost." Mark conveys the urgency of Jesus' mission and message and our need to get on board with the program. Mark’s favorite word is "immediately." He uses the word "immediately" over 40 times in his 16 chapters. It occurs several times just in the first chapter: twice in our short reading from today, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him" (1:18); "Immediately he called them" (1:20
Mark wants us to get on with it. So, we shouldn't be surprised that he takes the remote and fast- forwards to the scene he chooses as the starting point of his gospel: "John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness . . . from there, he gives us a line or two of description of Jesus, then it's baptism, temptation and we are onto: "Follow me." We are not even half way through the first chapter and Mark has us to his main point, which is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
In Mark you get the sense that God is on the march through the ministry of Jesus. Even Jesus announces that sense of urgency in his first public proclamation in verse 15. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near;[c] repent, and believe in the good news.” In other words, this is it! The prophets have spoken about this moment, the poets and the singers have sung of this hope, this is what the people of God have been holding out for, longing for, watching for preparing for now it’s time to respond! You heard the call… Times’ up LET’S GO!!!
OH, right now? did you mean right NOW? Me? RIGHT NOW? Um yeah, you know, I feel the call I do…but um right now? I’m kinda busy RIGHT now, I need to wash my hair…and um…the kids, well you know, the kids…but I want to, for sure…you go on, I’ll just catch up with you in a minute…
A lot has been written about the response of the disciples who dropped everything to follow Jesus. So cool right? But wow, SO drastic. Did they really do it, drop everything, up end their lives so dramatically? We can’t help putting ourselves in that boat, or on that shoreline, doing our everyday work, casting our nets, minding our own business, fulfilling our commitments and dealing with the reality of having to work just to survive and having some guy we don’t even know appear in front of us and say “Follow me” and we do it!
As a kid, as an adult, I know that I experienced HUGE amounts of guilt wondering if I could possibly live up to the impossibly high standards the disciples set. Could I drop everything and go? They did it. And they did it without a stirring sermon, they did it without a dramatic miracle, the sky did not open, the voice of God was not heard. Very simply, Jesus invited, and they followed, did they know something we don’t know?
And these guys weren’t even that amazing. We find out as we continue through Mark’s gospel that in many ways these men were nothing special, in fact during their time with Jesus they show themselves to be pretty clueless. And yet, in this one brief moment they seem to tap into some incredible insight and they drop everything, and they move forward into a life with Christ. Wow
My favorite author and theologian Barbara Brown Taylor thinks that we miss the point if we stay focused on the why did they do it, how did they do it and could we do the same thing debate, if we stay focused on that stuff we miss the Miracle! What? There was a miracle here? You bet…there is a miracle in this story, just like there are miracles going on around us every day. According to Barbara the miracle is that the power of God walked right up to a bunch of fishermen minding their own business and created faith where there was no faith, created disciples where there were none just a moment before. THAT is the miracle of faith that God works each and every day in our lives. Through the power of Jesus Christ, we get smacked upside the head with glory and God acts whether we are ready or not., whether we think we can do it or not, whether we have the time or not. Surprising, Sudden, Profound!
Now we always have the freedom to respond or not to respond to God’s grace and God’s call…but sometimes we can’t help but wonder how that can happen when we are just so darn busy? How do we move forward to get that done? Think again about this interaction between Jesus and the fishermen. Jesus does not add one more task for them to do in their busy lives. What he does is call them into a new way of being, he doesn’t add more to their plate, but he does give them, a new identity, a whole new life. That is the miracle that is waiting for us too. A new identity and a new life, a new life where we can live the miracle of faith that everything we are and everything that we do is a call from God.
Sometimes a call is what you do; sometimes a call is changing how you are. Whether we leave our nets for good, or return to them and catch fish in a new way, with a new identity and a whole new life, the important thing is that we respond to Jesus and to what God is doing in Jesus, and by extension what God is doing in us! This is a moment of epiphany an immediate and meaningful understanding of something. Surprising. Sudden. Profound. Can we make a lifelong commitment that we are being called to with no more than a “Follow Me”?
Our challenge is this…do we want to be a part of a miracle, or do we want to sit back and see how things work out? The time is now, surprising, sudden, profound! Follow Me.
. HA (Hallelujah, Amen!)