Mark 1:14-20 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 sea—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.
This is such a simple story, isn't it? And for the sake of those who like to have the story in context, last week we saw Jesus get Baptized by John the baptist, the heavens tore open, the words, you are my beloved, with you I am well pleased, echoed from the sky, and Jesus spent the next 40 days in the wilderness, preparing for what would come next. We didn't talk much about the wilderness, or what that might represent- And in a few weeks we will talk more about that, but as Jesus comes back after that time, John who is his cousin, btw, has been arrested. What a difficult way to start a ministry. And whether he may have been counting on John to come on board with him or not, Jesus now must begin the task of gathering a team for ministry.
And this is my greatest argument to those who think they can be Christian by themselves and not have the community of faith around them as they live out the Christian life. Our leader, Jesus, formed a community- and encouraged us to depend and rely on each other- even when it gets difficult. And this is what I talked about last week. The fact that Jesus' disciples not only did ministry together, they spent time with each other just hanging out- sharing meals and stories, getting to know each other and trust each other. And we talked about taking one year as a community of faith, to focus on that same thing.
And for those who were not here, we shared how for the past several years this church has done amazing works, embraced a lot of change, and in many ways, took steps both in governance, policy, and attitude, that will position us to become the best version of a community of faith that we can be. But now that we are here, it is fitting that we take some time to know where "here" is! It's time for us, as ministers of the gospel, to get to know who God has placed us along side for this leg of the journey. We likened our situation to a family who saves for, plans and goes on a big vacation every year, (in our case, for the past 6 years) and how for one year, this year, we are going to learn to enjoy our own backyard- maybe plant a garden, or enjoy the pool, fire up the grill and play croquet- you get the picture. We are going to take a year to just "be." An that's where this series came from- for the next few weeks we are going to talk about some backyard basics, or basics of being, whatever- and for our purposes they are believe, breathe, balance, belong, behave... So this week, we begin with believe. And so we look to the disciples for guidance in this area, because for many of us, this is the real stumbling block. Further, it is our belief (or not) that will enable us to move forward in ministry at all, much less encourage us to get to know anyone better or trust people with our stuff. In the passage I just read, it happens so fast. Jesus creates his vision statement: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” and then starts building the community. And so he comes up with an attractive invitation, specifically crafted for the nautically inclined, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And they go... they leave their nets, they leave their families, and they join the ministry of Jesus Christ. And I know that sometimes we can look at this passage and then look at our own journey with Jesus and we marvel at that kind of an immediate and overwhelming response of the disciples. And I know that for most of my life I heard this passage preached as, "if you really had an encounter with Christ, you would be ready to alter your entire life too! And if you’re not ready to leave your nets, well...."
But for many of us, the call took a bit more time, regardless of the encounter with Jesus, real as it is. I would like to invite you to think a moment and remember the first time you heard the call of Christ, and what it felt like for you. And if you have not had that experience, remember instead the first time that God became real to you, and the feeling inside that you wanted "more;" more knowledge, more feeling, more meaning... more. And though you may not have known what it would look like, you decided to follow.
Now look again at the passage. Nowhere in this passage does it say that the disciples believed and followed. it only says that they followed. And while there must have been something about the way Jesus asked, and something in the way he acted, or spoke, that no doubt prompted them to believe he was a great preacher, or prophet, or activist- and he was all of those things- the disciples belief grew as they spent time with Jesus, and each other. We will see that as we travel together through the book of Mark over the next year... but, belief, my friends, is a process. And that means that you never have to feel like your faith isn't strong enough, or that you don't have the faith of the disciples, or that you are somehow not living up to some standard because you haven't left your nets, so to speak. Just as Jesus spoke to the disciples in a way that moved them, the Spirit of God knows each of us in and out, knows how and what to speak to us to move our hearts- and to help grow our faith.
And what we believe about God, about Christ, about the Holy Spirit, will grow and develop and even change radically as we follow. And that can be a little disconcerting- it's a little bit unnerving to think that what I believe right now might change, or that I might not have everything "right" about God. It is not exactly comforting to know that down the road, one of the things i hold most dear might be challenged, In fact some of us fight tooth and nail- asserting “ou” beliefs- this is what is true about God, and that's that! And we have our beliefs about God neatly packaged in a little box that we can open up any time we have the need- boy we can whip out verses, or theologies, or quotes at the drop of a hat when we need them... like a gunslinger in the old west, we can take our ten paces and turn around like quick draw McGraw, pull that pistol out of its holster and fire away... Bang! Bang! Bang!... and once we've done our damage, we feel great, blow the smoke away from the barrel and put that baby back on our hip for next time... yeah, that's what its about- blowing the other guy to pieces!
Well, let's think about that. What is it about our beliefs being challenged that makes us want to fight? And I'm not talking about quiet discourse, or discussing things that may lead to deeper spiritual growth. But more and more I see Christians arguing, belittling each other; using words or phrases of love in unloving ways- laced in sarcasm and and anger, and aimed at blowing the "other guy" to pieces. As if the person or people looking down the barrel of our theological rifle is going to say, oh gee, you are right after all, I'm supposed to love my neighbor!" And I know, it's difficult to see people self centered, and money focused and building their own interests instead of helping the marginalized and the immigrant, and the least of these... i get it. I get the anger, the impatience, the intolerance- and you can argue that Jesus was also angry and impatient, and at times, intolerant- but in every word, in every action, love was the motivator... in every case, Jesus met people where they are- and for the handful of times that we see Jesus getting impatient, the bulk of his ministry was helping people see that they were loved, and included, and accepted... I'll just leave that there...
But I want to get back to the process of our beliefs being changed, and the process itself, because the process is one of letting go. It's like we hold on to the things we know- and with good reason. Many have staked their life on things they believe, and we don't like to have our faith shaken. So when we come up against a theological wall, and start thinking, no, this is as far as I can go, we sometimes are content to stay right there... but what if, when we come to a wall like that, and our thinking begins to get challenged, instead of staring at the wall as a point of finality, we instead wonder, what's beyond that wall, and why have I put it here? Instead of shouting this is where God ends- we ask ourselves, why can't God be bigger than we think? The disciples had to do this at every turn. And the thing is, I'm sure they didn't all get these little glimpses all at once- they had to be patient with one another as faith developed, and as their belief grew. All part of being in the backyard together, so to speak.
That being said, each of us have also walked far enough in our own journey of faith that God has brought us all here- to this place- for this season. No matter where your belief begins or ends today, and whatever you may or may not have placed a wall, believe this much- that God has you hear for a reason, has us together for a reason- that one thought can be a catalyst for everything we do this year. Believing in the spirit that has brought us here, believing in the spirit that encourages us to grow as one body in Christ, and learn to, even if we don't trust one another just yet, to trust the spirit that lives within each other. Believing that this backyard is a place for all, of acceptance, and compassion, and love... I believe in that spirit, and- I believe in us