21 January 2024

The call to follow Christ continues this week, with Mark’s Gospel narrating the call of Peter, Andrew, James and John. But, along with this call comes a challenge to trust in God and not in the temporary, unreliable things of this world. In truth, unless we learn to trust God, and release our desire to find security, wealth and satisfaction in material things, we will never really know God’s Reign, and we will never be able to bring God’s life to others.

May we see the glory of the Christ who revealed God’s Reign, and may we seek to reflect that glory to our world this week.

Jonah 3:1-5, 10: God sends Jonah to Nineveh for a second time, and Jonah obeys. He preaches that God is going to judge and destroy the city, but the people repent, and so God decides not to do it.

Psalm 62:5-12: An exhortation to wait on God and trust God as our refuge and salvation. Wealth, whether stolen, extorted or simply increasing, does not provide the security that God does, for God, in God’s mercy, gives rewards.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31: The world as we know it is not going to last, so we must take care not to depend on the things, the people or the experiences of this world.

Mark 1:14-20: After John the Baptiser is imprisoned, Jesus begins his ministry preaching that God’s reign has arrived and that people should repent and believe it. Then he calls Peter and Andrew, fisherman, to be “fishers of people”, and shortly after, he sees James and John and calls them too.

The clear call of this week’s Lectionary is to get our priorities right. The way this is applied to our lives is twofold. In the first instance, there is the call not to depend on the things of this world, not to place our hope or trust in things that cannot save us, and that will ultimately pass away. Both Psalm 62 and the letter to the Corinthians stress this truth and call us to trust only in God. Then, there is the call to commit ourselves to God’s purposes and invite others into God’s grace and life. The story of Jonah, the reluctant prophet, shows how committed God is to this, and the calling of the first disciples to be “fishers of people” reveals how Jesus’ mission was to lead people into God’s Reign and the lasting life that it offers. It makes sense, of course, that when we have experienced the life of God, and learned to trust in God rather than in temporary, unsatisfying things, that we should desire to share the joy that we have found. So, as we begin to understand this Christ, and as we recognise God’s glory revealed in him, we are invited both to receive God’s life and presence, and to be those who reflect Christ’s presence and glory to others.

Global Application:
There is little mystery to this week’s theme and how it applies to our world. The call to shift our allegiance from “things” to God may sound naïve, but it is actually exactly what we need to address the big challenges we face in our world. It is our desire to accumulate wealth, to have enough weaponry and to satisfy every appetite that has left us in the crises we now experience. But, when we can trust in God and God’s Reign to be our security, our sufficiency and our best life, we lose the need to grasp what we can and fight against others to protect ourselves. This is the repentance that Jesus calls for, and the Reign of God is the new way of being that can lead us to life and security and enough for all. In God’s Reign we no longer need violence, war or terrorism, or weapons to keep us safe, because we know both that they are unable to protect us, and that the only truly secure life is that hidden in God. In God’s Reign we do not need to prioritise the accumulation of wealth above all else, because we know that money does not provide us with the things that make life really full and meaningful, and we know that there is enough for everyone, if it shared well. In God’s Reign we do not have to marginalise or exclude others in order to have a strong national or personal identity. Rather, our identity is given to us by God’s adoption if us as children, and we learn that all people are our brothers and sisters. And so, one of the most powerful, healing and just things we can do, is to recognise the life, the security and the sufficiency we have in Christ – the way God’s grace and love are revealed in Christ – and to share our trust, our simplicity, our inclusivity and our generosity with others. In this way, we become those who see God’s glory revealed in Christ, and who reflect it to others – while trusting that it is a glory that truly can heal our world.

Local Application:
It is unfortunate that Jesus’ call for us to be “fishers of people” has so often been interpreted to mean coercing others into our way of thinking, believing or worshipping. Evangelism has been about trying to change others to be like us, rather than inviting them to follow Jesus. We have made Jesus’ message of God’s Reign about the Church, and about a specific religion, more than about Christ. In this way, rather than allow God’s glory, revealed in Christ, to shine, we have obscured it and distorted it and hidden it from others. In many ways we have become like Jonah, who at first did not want to prophesy to Nineveh because he didn’t want the people to repent and be saved. He wanted to be right, more than he wanted God’s grace to be seen. But, the downside for us in this equation is that we have actually stopped trusting in God, and have started trusting instead in our wealth, our religions, our doctrines, our strength, our military or even our nation. If we can release this, and allow the radical – even offensive – inclusivity and grace of God’s Reign to guide us, we will discover, like Jonah that we cannot control God’s grace and we cannot act as gatekeepers of God’s salvation. Rather, we will have to learn to trust that not only is there enough grace and life and support for others, but there is also enough for us, if we embrace and welcome others. When this truth sinks into our hearts, becoming “fishers of people” stops being about “our” religion, or “our” truth, or “our” country or “our” blessing. Rather it becomes about allowing the light of God’s glory – God’s presence and purpose – to shine and to attract others into an inclusive, simple and trusting life that welcomes all and shares with all and loves all. The question is whether we have the courage and the humility to stop trying to control God and to allow God’s glory to be our guide, rather than our own fear, self-interest and pride. It’s a challenging, but liberating message, if we will but hear it again.

Your Kingdom Come
Your Welcome Invitation
Choosing Differently
Passing It On

Hymn Suggestions:
There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy
Just As I Am
To God Be The Glory
Depth Of Mercy
Living For Your Glory (Link to YouTube video)
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)
All I Have

A Liturgy Of Compassion

Video Suggestions:
The Calling