“Called into a Purpose”
January 24, 2021
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 lake — 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.
Jesus, his hair still damp from his baptism had just come from the Jordan River, where he heard the powerful words from heaven; “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” Making his way to the nearby region of Galilee Jesus proclaims, “The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand!”
I like to think of this as the inauguration of Jesus according to Mark.
This week we witnessed the inauguration of a new president. After the recent insurrection attempt at the Capital by supporters of the outgoing president, the tradition of a smooth transfer of power was on our minds. All was orderly, except for the outgoing president who chose not to do the customs of the day. Despite the pandemic, representatives from all three branches of government gathered, along with a spattering of people to give first-hand witness. The new president made a speech and in so many words, like many new presidents before said something akin to “The time has come to unite our nation.” It sounds a little like Jesus saying in today’s reading: “The time is fulfilled.”
There are similarities between the two events, but note the differences. A new day has dawned, a new regime has been ushered in with the ministry of Jesus. But there is no great fanfare, no poets or bands playing “Hail to the Chief”, no inaugural concerts or parades.
We might imagine that when Jesus made this announcement it would have been at a great hall of justice like the Congress. There would be fireworks and cheering. But no, that is not what the story says. The beginning of a revolution, a new movement which would later be described in the Book of Acts as, “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) begins with the proclamation of God’s reign. “The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand!”
So, what happens after an inauguration? The new president usually calls Americans to step up, both Democrats and Republicans, young or old, to get busy together to try and heal or unite or advance our economy, our culture, our calling as people of the greatest country in our world. Or something like that.
What did Jesus do after his proclamation? He went on the move, finding two fishermen working at their trade. They heard his voice, “Follow me!” The text says, “immediately” they dropped their nets and followed. There is an urgency Jesus creates.
Then it happened again. Immediately, Jesus called to two other fishermen in their father’s boat: “Follow me,” he said to them and off they go. We do not know whether or not they ever returned to fishing. But we do know in that decision, in that commitment, four men, Simon and Andrew, James and John changed the course of human history. They left what they were doing because they had been called. They followed and the Kingdom of God was underway.
Does this appear to you to be a strange way to begin a revolution? It is not done by creating an army or appointing special envoys, but to choose a quartet of fishermen who go off stumbling after Jesus.
Do you find it strange that Jesus called these ordinary people and even more strange that they followed? It seems the strangest point of all, they left what they were doing and followed him. Who in his or her right mind is going to leave what they are doing and follow a rabbi? Unless, unless God created in them the faith to follow.
Most of us hear this story and start thinking about what we would have done, whether or not we would have left all to follow Jesus. If we got the call tomorrow afternoon while in line at Trader Joes or Kwik Trip, or sitting at home reading a book, what would we do?
Thinking about this biblical story from a personal viewpoint puts the focus on us and we begin asking questions. Would I really be worthy to be a disciple? Am I good enough? Will I measure up?
The people that Jesus calls to follow make clear the viewpoint is just the opposite. Look at the crew that Jesus calls to follow, four fishermen. The point of this story is, God does not choose people because they are worthy. God calls ordinary people and makes them worthy.
Jesus announces the coming of God’s Kingdom by calling ordinary people to be his disciples.
There is an important insight here. When God draws near, it often happens not in the spectacular but in the ordinary. In the little moments vast things happen.
Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopalian priest and professor says this story is a miracle story and it is not about us — or fishermen. “It is not about our power to change our lives or make the courageous and important decisions, to do the noble thing. Or as my mother used to encourage me to do, ‘straighten up and fly right.’ This is primarily a story about God. A God who has the power to create in the first disciples and in us faith where there is little or no faith which enables us to follow faithfully.”
The miracle continues as we get up and follow. Everywhere and always God is present calling us to new depths of faith and commitment. The good news is life is not empty, void of meaning and purpose, because we have been called into a purpose given to us by God.
“And, immediately, they followed.”
It is pure grace that God takes folks like us to do Kingdom work, visiting the sick, building homes for the homeless, teaching children, feeding the hungry and the list continues in your life. What kingdom work are you up to these days?
“The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand.” And the miracle of discipleship lives on through us. “Come, follow me!” Amen.
 Home By Another Way by Barbara Brown Taylor Cowley Publications, Boston MA 1997 p. 40