January 24, 2021 Chapel by the Sea Worship via Zoom
Mark 1:14-20 Followship A sermon byThe Rev. Dr. Flatley

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

16 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. 17And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18And 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. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

We witnessed one happy inauguration this week of our 46th President of the United States and this text from the Gospel of Mark is about another inauguration: the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came proclaiming the good news of God: the gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.” These words continue the message of John with one difference, the messenger is Jesus.

And what we need to understand from the outset is that the phrase, “The kingdom of God” is a very political term. “Basilea” the Greek word can also mean empire. Jesus was referring to the Roman Empire. Father Hoppe, an Old Testament Professor gave a Presidential Address at the 2016 Meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association and he gives us some historical background to Jesus’ use of the phrase “kingdom of God”. Hoppe writes,

“One reason Jesus used this metaphor is because he sought to contrast the goals of his mission with the goals of the Herodian dynasty. Herod the Great ruled as king because he was placed on the throne by the Roman Senate as a reward for his support during the Parthian invasion of Roman Palestine. Herod was anxious to show both his Roman patrons and his Jewsih subjects that he was worthy of the title king. He rebuilt the temple of Jerusalem because temple building was a royal prerogative… ”

The political climate of Jesus’ day was empire driven to honor the Emperor and the King. Peace was a false sense of peace under oppressive Roman rule in their occupied territory.

Jesus is a very political figure, speaking God’s truth to power. Why else would he have been arrested like John the baptizer and killed?

I suggest that politics and faith do mix. There are consequences, good and bad and for followers of Christ that’s the cost of discipleship. Our political views are informed by our beliefs about God and who Christ is. I’ve heard some of you say this as you witness to others who hold opposing political views.

The word politics comes from the Greek word polis, meaning “city” or “community”. To be concerned about the welfare of the city or community is to be concerned about politics.

In Jeremiah 29:7 as God’s people are exiled to Babylon the prophet tells them, “but seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” This speaks directly to our faith and politics. In our followship, I just made up a word to describe a conjunction of faith and politics where politics and faith impact our way of life, who we are, and who we are becoming.

Jesus is both message and messenger announcing that the time is now, and the kingdom of God has come near. This phrase is the perfect tense. Past action that has already taken place. And therein lies the perfect tension when we ask ourselves, how can the kingdom of God be here, and yet there continues to be such disaster and misery everywhere and a pandemic?

We know from our experience and other Bible teachings that we are far from God’s perfect rule, so in God’s sense of time (kairos time) there is a future dimension to our prayer “thy kingdom come”. God’s kingdom is now and not yet. We are in the in-between time. We live in this creative tension between: now and then, faith and politics, faith and science, work and worship, service and sacrifice, creating community and becoming the people God desires..

At the outset of his ministry then Jesus comes preaching with politically charged language. He calls followers, some of whom become his disciples to “Come and See”, and “Follow Me”.

Here in Mark, Jesus chooses two sets of brothers: James and John, and Peter and Andrew to become part of his inner circle. He invites them to become fishers of people. Their family business was fishing and they understood the analogy Jesus was making. The literal translation here is, “Follow me and I will make you to become fishers for people”. We are all in a process of becoming…

I don’t know much about fishing but I do smell a bait and switch when I encounter one. It may be intentional but it’s not authentic evangelism. Jesus doesn’t catch or trap us in God’s net. Once caught by Christ’s message we must be taught the ways of Christ and swim with the school if I may keep the fish analogy going. We are schooled or discipled then released into the world. It’s a process of becoming that we call life-long discipleship to be all that God wants you to be.

Becoming fishers for people is more of a catch and release way of sharing the good news: a more intentional authentic evangelism.

Last Sunday we looked at words that describe Christ’s identity. This text in Mark is asking us to consider our identity. Is discipleship a task for us, another item on our to-do list? Or is it part of our identity, who we are as a whole person?

Let me close by quoting our newly inaugurated President who speaks to our identity when he used the word soul in his speech this week. To quote two presidents, President Biden in his inaugural speech on Wednesday said,

New Year’s Day in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper the President said, and I quote, “If my name ever goes down in history it’ll be for the act, and my whole soul is in it.”

My whole soul is in it today on this January day. My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation.

Inspiring words of a consummate statesman who is now President of the United States.

Jesus, Savior of the world, unites us as the beloved community of God and asks for our whole self to be in the work of bringing the kin-dom of God, where we are all kith and kin, to all God’s people. To love God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind. We have a message of unity in God’s love and hope for all people, in whatever condition we encounter: hungry, or thirsty, or stranger, or naked or sick or in prison we are called to lend a hand and be a Matthew 25 church. Our followship has been severely tested this past year, fear and virus spread, isolation and social distancing, distrust of government and intractable political division, no fishing, no work, no school, no fellowship for us. The good news is that God loves us unconditionally through it all. God offers peace, promise, protection and a way forward. Remember Christ is with us to the end of the age, The Holy Spirit guides and comforts as we follow and work with our government for the welfare of the people. To God be the glory. Amen.

Sources: Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 1

New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII