Friday, January 19, 2018

We Are Called: Reflections on Mark 1.14-20 (RCL Proper 3B, 21 January 2018)

We Are Called
Reflections on Mark 1.14-20

RCL Epiphany 3B
21 January 2018

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church

Mark 1.14-20

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

            16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen.  17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  18 And 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.  20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

         Some years ago Kathleen Staudt, a lay Anglican theologian, wrote an article about helping people discern their vocations.  She devised a series of questions that I have used in various places and at various times to help in the process of figuring out what God is calling both individuals and communities to do and to become.

  • What do you think is the most urgent work God is doing in the world today?
  • What is your role in that most urgent work?
  • What gifts do you bring to this urgent work?
  • Who are your co-workers in this urgent work?

Today’s short reading from the Gospel according to Mark frames these questions nicely.
         For the evangelist the most urgent work God is doing through Jesus in Mark’s place and time is gathering people into life-giving community.  Jesus is God’s agent in this urgent work and he brings the gift of being the Beloved of God who has knows God’s vision for a restored human community.  But what Jesus needs is a core community who shares in his ministry and who can proclaim the good news to the audience Jesus wants to reach.

         I have always found some comfort in the fact that the first apostles were ordinary fishermen.  They knew how to work hard and they knew that sometimes your work is greeted with success and sometimes with failure.  Being a fishermen requires patience and the gift of observation that can help identify a plentiful fishing spot from one that will only be a waste of time and resources.  Being ordinary working people the first apostles can bring an honesty to their sharing about who Jesus is, what his message is and how it has changed their lives.

         When the first Christians were asked to describe their community, they chose a word that had a distinctive meaning in the Greco-Roman world.  They said, ‘We are an ekklesia.’  Two thousand years of history has shrouded the original meaning of this word with theological dust.  I’m going to shake some of that dust off.

         Ekklesia was the word that the ancient Athenians used to describe the public assembly of citizens who gathered to discuss the affairs of the city and to make decisions.  The word literally means ‘called out’ or ‘summoned from’ the normal affairs of one’s life.  It’s fundamentally a political term with implications for the common good of the wider community.

         Despite the dust of the past two millennia this word still ‘cracks’ today.  Every Sunday you and I turn our faces to this place and leave behind the normal activities of a weekend in Vancouver.  We are called to this place to remember who we are and the ministry God has called us to share.  The scriptures we hear, the prayers we offer and the food we share have a common purpose:  forming and re-forming God’s people so that God’s mission can be carried on in this place and in this time.

         Today the story is not about a small group of fishermen gathered around the Sea of Galilee.  It’s about you and me.  We are the ones whom Jesus calls from our ordinary lives to share in his extraordinary ministry.  We are the ones whose gifts God needs to accomplish God’s purposes.  God not only wants us to participate in the ministry of Jesus, God is depending upon us to participate.

         So we are faced with the questions that Kathleen Staudt posed and that the evangelist Mark answered in today’s gospel reading.  It’s important that each one of us ponders these questions because in a few short weeks we shall gather for our annual vestry.  Just as the Athenians gathered in their ekklesia to discuss issues and to make decisions for the common good of their community, so we will gather in our ekklesia to discuss issues and to make decisions about the common good of this community of Saint Faith’s and its ministry.

         I believe, like Mark, that the most urgent work God is doing in the world today is gathering people into life-giving communities that transform their lives and the life of their neighbourhoods into signs of the coming reign of God’s justice and peace.  I believe that you and I have been given the gifts necessary to communicate this good news and to enable such a community to grow and to thrive in the here and now.  We are ordinary people and our neighbours, families and friends need ordinary people, not celebrities, not sport stars, not political figures of one stripe or another, to share the good news.  We need each other as co-workers and we need to keep our eyes to open to see who else might join us in this urgent work.  Some of them may not yet be here and might be found in unusual places, but they are out there waiting to be called from whatever they are doing into this community of faith.

         This is what I believe.  This is what I believe our vocation is.  It’s not usual to give a congregation homework in a sermon, but, as we prepare for our annual vestry and the work that lies before us this year, I ask you to ponder these questions in the weeks ahead.
  • What do you think is the most urgent work God is doing in the world today?
  • What is your role in that most urgent work?
  • What gifts do you bring to this urgent work?
  • Who are your co-workers in this urgent work?

Let your answers to these questions shape your participation in vestry and in the ministry of the parish.  Let your answers shape how you engage your daily life.  We are on the lakeshore and Jesus will soon pass by and call each one of us by name.

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