Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after Epiphany
For the present form of this world is passing away. — 1 Corinthians 7:31b
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. —Mark 1:16-18
Urgency, immediacy, and focus are three words today’s lessons bring to mind. From Jonah’s call to go to Nineveh, to Paul’s exhortation to the church at Corinth, and to Jesus’ call to Simon, Andrew, James, and John, lives are changed and plans altered. Funny how God’s call tends to work like that.
I’ve heard folks pooh-pooh the whole dropping nets to follow Jesus immediately, making all kinds of justifications about how that can’t be realistic. Surely those wise fisher/business folk tidied up their affairs before running all over the countryside following a radical rabbi. To even worry about the nit-picky details is to miss the point.
When God calls and folks answer that call, everything changes. Of course, change is the most reliable constant in our world anyway. From the weather, to clothing styles, to the menu at your favorite restaurant — eventually change happens. One can either embrace the change or stubbornly resist it. The problem with resistance, however, is much like standing at the waterline between water and beach. The sands shift, the tides turn, and your feet sink deeper and deeper.
Both individuals and institutions resist change. Don’t believe me? Consider the church. In North America the tides of culture have and continue to change. Mainline churches have by and large resisted these changes, and the result is aging demographics, emptier pews, and dated approaches to worship and ministry. Meanwhile, life goes on outside the hallowed doors, Truly, as Paul said, “…the present form of this world is passing away.”
I am not suggesting that we change our message. The good news of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is timeless, relevant, and compelling. Jesus is way ahead of us. Unfortunately, we cling to the hem of his first century garment and try to package him in clothes that are comfortable and familiar to us. We forget that Jesus calls us in the here and now, just as he did those folks beside the Sea of Galilee so long ago.
Maybe it’s time we let the gospel out our carefully constructed and safe containers and cages and quit trying to domesticate it. Imagine the possibilities that might result from hearing this week’s gospel lesson with fresh ears, hearing not a call to some men in a long ago place and time, but to us — right now, right here. There is no better time than this present moment to put aside our rational minds and hear Jesus say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Yes, dear brothers and sisters, now is the time to turn from whatever stands between us and our Lord and act like we really do believe in this powerful message. Perhaps God is calling you to go to some modern day Nineveh. Maybe Jesus wants you to drop what you are doing and follow him down a new road in a different direction. It could be that it’s simply time for you to wake from your slumber and realize that there is more to life as a disciple of Christ. Whatever and wherever God leads you, the time to heed that call and follow that leading is right now.