By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
January 25, 2009
Read: Mark 1:14-20
“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.”
The time is fulfilled. Again, the Greek for time here is kairos….meaning this is significant time; the moment of truth; a decisive moment; God’s time. Jesus says the time is fulfilled but we are also told that this is after….after John was arrested.
Can you imagine the whispered anxiety and concerns from one ear to another “John has been arrested .. The wild man has been arrested … This amazing figure has been caged…” One thing for sure, if someone like John can be arrested by the powers that be, then none of us is safe. If it can happen to John, it can happen to any of us.
I know this anxiety that comes whenever the “John the Baptist” figure in our life gets arrested. You know, when the un-touchable gets touched.
Like when layoffs began happening to people that none of us would ever imagine layoffs would happen to. Folks in senior positions. Folks who had been in the companies for twenty some years. Folks who had the kind of expertise that you are convinced that the company would be crazy to lay off. News of those layoffs were like hearing “John the Baptist has been arrested.”
When John the Baptist gets arrested then you know nobody is safe. When John gets arrested, fear strikes to the root. One message is clear, “if can happen to John, then it can certainly happen to any of us”. What happens when the symbols we had put our trust in get moved?
It is in those times, those anxious times, when the heart is beating hard and fast, that the Gospel dips into God’s well and says “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God!” Jesus comes.
Jesus comes preaching the same message that John preached. But this time it’s different. John was in the wilderness. Jesus is in the towns and cities and villages. This time it’s different. The people went out to John. This times Jesus comes to the people. And Jesus comes to where the people are working, making a living, catching fish so they can sell the fish; so they can pay their taxes to the Romans and buy their daily bread for themselves and their families. Jesus comes to “the office”. Jesus comes on the scene as fishermen are fishing and fishermen are mending nets.
How often we might look at a fisherman and that is all we see: a fisherman. Or perhaps an accountant and that is all we see: an accountant. But not so with Jesus. Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee and he sees more than two fishermen blood brothers. His eye sees possibilities beyond. These are disciple material!
I find it striking that Jesus takes what these men are already doing for a living and gives them a new perspective on it – fishers, fishing for people. To me this call has to do with identity and vocation. It was Martin Luther who gave us the profound insight that it is not only clergy who are “called”. We are all called to do whatever we do to the glory of God – if we clean toilets with the perspective that we are serving God by doing so, it is a holy vocation. We are given different gifts to use for the kingdom, and they are not ranked in importance! If we offer our talent and skill to God, God takes that raw material and makes a new creation with it! Fundamentally changed, yet still the same…fishers, yet more than fishers!
There is that story of the sculptor whose artistic work is known far and wide and who is visited by a student just as he hurls a huge block of stone into his studio. The student watches as the artist chips and hammers away. Some days later there is a beautiful sculpture of an angel. When the student inquires about the artist’s talent, the artist simply says “the angel was always there. My task was to release her.”
Jesus says, “Follow me”. Some see this as a command, but could we also say it’s an invitation? We aren’t given much information about Simon, Andrew, James and John and their current life. We don’t know if they were successful fishermen or not. We don’t know whether they were satisfied with their lives. We aren’t told if they’ve heard any reports about Jesus before this. We don’t know a thing about their relationships with their families, other than that James and John left their father, Zebedee, when they went off with Jesus. We are told they are given a new career—fishing for people—but we aren’t given much detail about what they left behind, or why.
Perhaps it’s meant that way. Perhaps we’re to realize that what really compelled the disciples was not the command of Jesus, but the invitation that it conveyed: the invitation to enter into a fuller, richer life; the invitation to follow this One with authority, this One who had come to save the world; the invitation to find themselves more fully as they lost themselves in the love and power of Jesus.
It was a command, yes; but it was also an invitation. And a call.
The disciples were called—called to follow Jesus and fish for people. And so are we—commanded, invited, AND CALLED!
Called to experience the wonder of living in God’s kingdom. The time is fulfilled. Called to live the abundant life—life with Jesus.
Fred Rogers, in a 2002 commencement speech at Dartmouth College said: “Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel. A facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal. We are intimately related. May we never even pretend that we are not. Have you heard my favorite story that came from the Seattle Special Olympics? Well, for the 100-yard dash there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and at the sound of the gun, they took off. But not long afterward one little boy stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard him crying; they slowed down, turned around and ran back to him. Every one of them ran back to him. One little girl with Down Syndrome bent down and kissed the boy and said, “This’ll make it better.” And the little boy got up and he the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line. They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in that stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long, time. People who were there are still telling the story with great delight. And you know why. Because deep down, we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win too. Even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.
There is a line from The Little Prince that reads, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our lives from which we make our choices is very good stuff.
There is the story of the Washington, D.C. cabby. He came to the United States in 1924, a stowaway on a banana boat from Jamaica. He died years ago after decades of driving the ordinary and the famous in the Capitol city. He had the quirky habit of asking passengers to sign a guest book. Now after more than 50 years, eight cabs, untold miles through DC and hundreds of thousands of passengers, Percival Bryan’s autograph collection – presidents, jazz greats, senators, scientists, and everyday people; mostly everyday people, is on display at the Smithsonian Institute. The 312 books chronicle one man’s journey through some of America’s most volatile times. Journalist Skip Thurman tells of meeting Mr. Bryan one cold January morning. “I was late for an interview and had slogged for blocks through wet snow to find his solitary cab idling on the curb. I was prepared to simmer in silent aggravation in the back seat. But like a person who can’t walk past a crooked picture without straightening it, Bryan could not help trying to coax a smile from anyone who looked unhappy. Bryan was remarkable for his friendliness and aplomb. One night, his passengers, two young white men, robbed him. But before the ride was over, not only had they given back the money, they had both signed his book.
“What keeps you going?” I once asked him. “My priorities, friends. Most of all, God. Every morning I get down on my knees and I have my little prayers. I ask God to go with me, protect me, ride with me, and take my eyesight, my nose, my mouth —especially my mouth —and share it with others. And I tell you, sometimes I feel very rich. Don’t have nothin’, not much money in my pocket, but inside I feel like I have done my best and God has given me the wisdom and the strength to keep going.”
The time is fulfilled. May our identity be rooted in the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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