Mark 1:14-20 • January 22, 2012 • “What’s in Your Net?”
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
So how many of us would have been like these first four disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, and John? This guy Jesus walks by, you’ve never met him before. From what we know at the surface of our text today, you’ve never read about him in the papers, heard his voice on a radio or television, or watched any of his movies or YouTube videos. Would you have been confident enough, or maybe foolish enough, to say, “OK, Jesus. I’ve never met you before right now, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ll drop everything. Leave my business and family and employees behind and follow you into the future even though I have no clue as to what that may be. By the way, where are we eating dinner tonight?”
If Jesus walked by me while I was sitting at my desk writing liturgy for an upcoming worship service and said to me, “Let’s go.” I think I may have said, “What? Are you kidding me?” I think it’s entirely true and probably a bit hard for you and I to admit – that – most of us admire what the first disciples do in fact do, but few, if any of us, are actually willing to do the same.
One thing is for sure when reading the gospel of Mark. You better buckle your seat belts and hang on for the ride. Mark wastes no time getting to the point of this Jesus and what his mission and ministry is all about. Mark is not like Matthew’s gospel with a beautiful birth story complete with detailed genealogy and wise men and adventures to Egypt. Mark is not like Luke’s gospel where we encounter the drama of Jesus’ dedication at the Temple and a party at Aunt Elizabeth’s house and a bit of political intrigue with King Herod. Mark is not like John’s gospel, an eloquent poetic and theological journey of God becoming flesh through this one Jesus and literally moving in.
Mark doesn’t waste any time. Mark wants those who hear these words to know that the time is now. Ready or not, here we go. Put down your nets – it’s time! Let’s go! With the arrival of Jesus, the world has changed forever and will never be the same again. One of Mark’s favorite words throughout his gospel is the word – “immediately.” It’s a word that Mark uses over and over in his gospel. What’s the hurry Mark? Why the urgency?
Methodist Pastor Ted Smith said that “Mark begins like an alarm clock, persistently declaring the time and demanding some response.” The response of the first disciples is to leave everything behind and follow. Go. Now!
But Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that we are missing the point of this story if our focus is on what the disciples gave up and whether we are in fact able to do the same today. In her sermon “Miracle on the Beach” Taylor claims that this story is really about God, not the disciples or us.
The “miracle story,” as Barbara Brown Taylor calls it, is really about “the power of God – to walk right up to a quartet of fishermen and work a miracle, creating faith where there was no faith, creating disciples where there were none just a moment before.”
I don’t think Jesus was asking the first disciples to just add something to the list of things they already had to do. Jesus doesn’t give them a new list. Instead he’s offers them a new identity. A new way of doing. A new way of being.
I’m not afraid to tell others that I love the church. I am passionate about being part of a church that is deeply and intimately connected to strange folks like Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These men weren’t people of extraordinary talent or wealth, yet Jesus saw them as they were, doing what they did as ordinary people trying to make a living and care for their families and the community in which they lived. Jesus called out to them and asked them to follow.
I’m also not afraid to tell others that I don’t believe everything about the church is perfect either, just look at us. You and I have nets just like Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And most of us have far more than fish caught in our nets. That’s what makes it so very hard for us to let go of them and follow this Jesus.
Back to Barbara Brown Taylor. She thinks that “What we may have lost along the way is a full sense of the power of God – to recruit people who have made terrible choices, to invade the most hapless lives and fill them with light, to sneak up on people who are thinking about lunch, not God, and smack them upside the head with glory.”
I think that may be the reason why the gospel writer of Mark seems to be in such a hurry with his abundant use of the word “immediately” in his story of Jesus. He’s afraid that we’ve either become so concerned with looking at what someone else has in their nets or that we’ve become so complacent with what the power of God is doing in our lives that we really don’t care anymore.
I remember reading a short story in a pastoral care class about a young boy who asked his older sister a question about God. He asked her this, “Do you think anybody can really see God?”
“Of course not.” was her quick response. “God is way far up in heaven so that no one can see God.”
A few days later, the boy was still thinking about that question and thought maybe his mother would have a different answer, so he asked her “Mom, can anybody really see God?”
More gently than his sister had answered, but with a similar response, his mother said “No, not really. God is a spirit and lives in our hearts, but we really can’t see God.”
His mother’s answer helped a little, but still didn’t satisfy his search. A few days later he was fishing with his grandpa. The fishing wasn’t really all that good, so he posed the same question to him, “Grandpa, I wasn’t going to ask anyone else, but I can’t stop thinking about this, so I need to hear what you think. Do you think anyone can really see God?”
His grandpa looked at his wise young grandson and simply said, “Son, it’s getting so I can’t anything else.”
In Jesus, the disciples saw God and for whatever reason believed that nothing would ever be the same again. Stay with their nets or go with Jesus – it really didn’t matter anymore which choice they made – God had come to them. Nets and all.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. It’s time to put down our nets and follow. Amen.