Emmitsburg Council of Churches


The Holy Gospel According to St. 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 fisherman. 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 the Gospel of the Lord. 

The Call of the Fisher People

From the fishing village of Capernaum where the Jordan flows into Galilee, we find Peter and Andrew, James and John, starting their day's work -- it is early -- long before the first light. There's little time for them to prepare hot barley cereal before they must leave their homes of rock, mud, and dung to hurry down Capernaum's earthen streets to the path that leads to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As the men walk in darkness and silence -- they wonder to themselves what the day's catch will be. This is the true spirit of fishing -- i.e., to be held captive by the not knowing -- the unseeing of the potential held by dark rippling waters -- the anticipation of possibilities unknown. And so there is a certain tension that is experienced by the people who make their living from the sea. Fishermen and Fisherwomen never truly know what the wind and the waters will yield from one day to the next.

When one is a fisherperson, there is the feeling of heightened anticipation that creates a type of excitement held within. This level of excitement is unequaled by other tasks. Perhaps this is what keeps fishing people returning to their occupation day after day. You can feel it when you drop a line with a worm and a bobber into a farm pond. The moment the tackle splashes into the water there is a magnetic-like attraction that comes into being, connecting one's consciousness with the "matter" in hand.

Perhaps you have experienced this tension in your own fishing pursuits --whatever or wherever they may be.

For us, on this cold January morning of 2003, it is Mark's Gospel that creates for us the tensileness of this moment. Listening carefully to Mark's Gospel, we can hear and we can feel the excitement as he relates the account of Jesus' coming into his Messiahship.

In affect, Mark draws us into the tension of what God is doing in the human story by telling us that the time for God's action is "Now(!) -- after John [the Baptist] is arrested, Jesus comes into 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.'"

At these words our relaxed fishing lines are drawn tight as with a strike!

We experience the awakening that takes place when one becomes caught up in the startling meaning of an important message: Jesus has come to usher in God's Kingdom and Jesus is calling simple folk like you and me and fisherman to join him as leaders in the task of living the new life of God's kingdom on earth!

With these words Mark has caught our imagination. Jesus Words intrigue us, and we're drawn in to wonder "What is the meaning of the "TIME BEING FULFILLED" -- what is this KINGDOM about which Jesus speaks???

Is it not Alluring? Is it not a desirable thing that Mark is Dangling before us like the shiney balls and spoons and twirlys that make up the fishing tackle we use? Isn't a Tempting concept? Surely it is at least mysterious and we are tempted to ask . . . Has God really come on the scene?

Through this abrupt announcement, Mark has set up conditions of tension for us to grapple with. God is at work! For Jesus has come to fulfill what John the Baptist has preached. "The way has been prepared for the coming of the Lord." And now the disciples are about to be effectively pulled into the ministry that Jesus is proclaiming -- the Gospel is the Good News -- That "'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; and a time has been set for us to repent, and to believe!"

And so we wait, as with baited lines. We wait as fisher-people who must organize our tangle of nets with their stone weights and the strings that are all in disarray. We stumble we trip -- at times, we accidently push one another overboard!! "Excuse me whoops . . . Oh sorry about that!" We are like the disciples in the predawn darkness -- hurrying in the confines of our own small boats -- peparing to cast our nets over the world, engrossed in the mundane work of our lives. We are not unlike the disciples who worked along the shores of Galilee.

As busy as we may be with all that needs doing -- before casting our nets over the course of the day -- There is yet time -- Time for quiet moments alone before the sun rise. Time to listen to the wind and the waves and to observe the currents that are swirling in and out of our lives. In this place we may observe and note the comings and goings of time -- and we must reflect on these things in light of the kingdom that Jesus has proclaimed. "Am I making the right choices? Do the things that I do have meaning in light of God's time and purposes? Am I casting my net for myself or for Jesus?

Our responsibility in light of these questions is to listen for the quiet voice of God and to sense the guidance of the Holy Spirit -- and in the silence to recognize that the TENSION of the Gospel calls us to the work of discerning our call every day . . . in this we must find satisfaction, even joy!

For the Fisher people, seasoned men and women of the water -- it is by instinct that the waters must be discerned. All of the bodily "senses" must be alert to reveal the place and the conditions by which the catch may be made. Potential is all around! Fulfillment lies just a few fathoms deep in Galilee's waters. The line may pull taught, the net may grow heavy -- the wind and the water may even become a wild torrent!! One can quickly become mentally and physically consumed by the task of bringing in all if then many kinds of fish that we encounter in life. In our lives we are quickly and unpredictable overwhelmed by the continuous demands and disappointments. Stolen Bait & Empty Nets!

But into the persistent over bussiness of our lives, a man cries to us from the shoreline, "'Follow me and I will make you fish for people.'"

And this sounds most peculiar, a strange contrast enters into the chaotic moment of our fishing day. What is even more strange is that Peter, James, John, and Andrew IMMEDIATELY left their nets and followed Jesus." HOW CAN THIS BE??

All of the excitement and the effort given to the routine of another day's work is disrupted . . . all that was forthcoming from the water is forsaken for following Jesus. Perhaps, We should not be so surprised at this -- for Mark desires for us to pay attention to the sign of the moment,

"The time is fulfilled" -- God's kingdom has come. And so nothing will ever be as it was. Jesus calls us to something new . . . though it is also something familiar, something we understand. The Kingdom of God is in our midst and we are called to be about the service and the stewardship of this kingdom. Jesus HAS Come and beckons to us from the shorelines of our lives to follow him.

Notice that Jesus does not instruct the disciples to go and get change of clothing. Jesus takes us where we are -- Right off the boat!@! Right out of the barn, from the shop -- out of the office of our lives. We do not need to learn new skills -- Jesus offers us opportunity to use what we know to accomplish his purposes in the world.

It may be that we are called to use a net to capture our brother in his sin -- but our purpose is to rescue and to deliver from evil. Or it may be that we use our talent in writing to tell our own story of Jesus' calling and our story becomes a tool of inspiration for a sister who has given up on the path to happiness or wholeness of living, and so we're about the business of fishing for men and women in order to rescue them from perishing in this world.

It may be that the experience of Fishing for Jesus requires us to hook some fish that are causing great injustices to other fish - - this too is a task of the fisher-person for the kingdom. And so we go in the name of Jesus to visit people who sit in high places and we go to speak with people who hold great power whether it be in material wealth or political influence or military strength. The Gospel of Jesus disentangles us from the world's nets -- we are free to follow Jesus!! We are empowered to attend to the Kingdom's nets and to do the work of setting at liberty the poor and the oppressed persons of the world -- this is the Work of following Jesus this is the kingdom he has called us to!!

Being a fisher-person for Jesus is not necessarily about fishing for souls -- it is in our work and deeds that they may see the light . . . Jesus has accomplished the work of salvation for us -- the Holy Spirit will draw men and women and they too will discern the call of God. But we are called to be workers, fishing on behalf of Justice; being about the task of throwing the net of God's righteousness out over the stormy waters of human deceit, slander, selfishness and greed.  The net of God's kingdom comes to cover these human ills and seeks to redeem them into qualities of Godliness.

What was deceptive becomes known!  What was hoarded as selfish gain becomes shared resources! What was planned for greed becomes planned for the benefit of all!  Plans for war and destruction must be abandoned for conversations of peace and understanding. Silence must be replaced with communication. Neighbors must speak face to face rather than scheming and celebrating one another's downfall. All of this is work of the Kingdom. All of this and more must be caught in the net of the Gospel of peace.

Dear friends, you and I are the net of the Gospel. Each of us makes a circle in the web of the Kingdom created. Each of our lives must be lived in such ways that we would connect with the lives of others and that the tears and rips of the net are mended. We cannot do this in our own strength, but through Jesus Christ whose body and blood strengthen us for the journey. Christ whose word dwells in our hearts. And Christ, whose Holy Spirit shows us where to go and throw the net in order to reap the harvest of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

May we be faithful to the task. Amen

May the peace of God, which is beyond our human understanding fill our hearts and minds with visions of the kingdom, in Jesus name we pray.


Read more writings of Pastor Jon