Sermon; Epiphany 3B; Mark 1:14-20
Today we have Mark's version of the calling of the first disciples. Last week we heard from the Gospel of John as Jesus called Philip and Andrew, but today we're in Mark and get his version of the calling of the disciples. I'd be willing to bet that this is the call story everybody knows: Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon & Andrew and James & John from their fishing boats to follow him. And, in typical Mark fashion, they immediately leave their nets and follow.
One of the things that I am both continually amazed at and always seem to expect is how well the lectionary pairs up with what is happening in the world today. My most famous example of this was when the gospel reading on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 had this line from Peter: “How often should I forgive?” Today is no different, as the gospel pairs up well with where we currently find ourselves.
In just over an hour from now we will hold our annual meeting. We will look at where we've been this past year (a good summary might be my report and/or the 2020 timeline that follows the parish register), maybe touch on a little of where we might be going, review the 2021 budget, and elect four new Vestry members.
In the upcoming year I expect us, as the parish of Saint John's, to move forward in a variety of areas. 2020, as we all know, was a dumpster fire of a year. It wasn't all bad, but it was worse than most. And for a lot of things it seemed to be a placeholder of a year. Like the life of Isaac in Genesis, things seemed to simply be on hold as we experienced a great trauma from which we need to recover before we can move forward. A lot of what commissions and the Vestry did was to maintain a holding pattern. And now, hopefully, we can start thinking about moving forward.
The current Vestry and I recently discussed some possible directions on how we might begin to do this, with regards to both the parish and a post-COVID life. Some of it will have to do with regathering. Some of it will have to do with our online presence. Some of it will have to do with marketing. And all of it will take work.
Remember when I said that the lectionary always manages to pair up with what is going on in the world? This is one of those days.
As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and Andrew casting their nets. “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
How does this apply to us today, you may ask. In this way.
Christianity is first and foremost a religion and faith of invitation. Simon and Andrew were invited by Jesus to follow him. Jesus also invited ten others to follow him. Elsewhere in the gospels he invites still others to follow him. Later, Peter, Paul, John, and James, will invite people into the faith through both their words and example. Down through the ages people known and unknown have done the same – proclaim the Good News of God in Christ and invited people to join them in a faith that claims resurrection and a faith that claims a fundamental change to who we are.
The first Christians didn't say, “People will come if we paint the doors on our houses red.” They didn't put stickers on the back of their donkeys that said, “Bray if you love Jesus.” Nobody erected billboards proclaiming Christ along the Appian Way. There was no advertising. There was no marketing plan. There was no mass communication. There were only stories and invitations.
Fish don't just jump into a boat – a fisherman has to work for the catch. So when Jesus told Simon and Andrew that he would make them fish for people, he was letting them know that this endeavor was going to take work.
As we move into 2021, as we learn to recover from and move forward from the trauma that was 2020, let us remember these words of Jesus: I will make you fish for people.
We can have the best online worship service in the Anglican Communion, but that won't necessarily translate into new disciples. We can have a slick marketing campaign, but that won't necessarily translate into new disciples. In other words, there are no easy answers; there is no easy system of making disciples. The only thing that has proven successful over the years is the willingness of people in the church to do the hard work of fishing for people.
As we move forward into 2021 and beyond, let us be willing to do the hard work of following Christ and fishing for people. Let us invite others to Worship with us. Let us be willing to Welcome people into our midst. Let us work to Serve God and those in need. Let us Encourage people to learn about this faith and live godly, informed lives.
Christ is calling us to follow and work. I hope and pray that we, like Simon & Andrew and James & John, are willing to do so.