Third Sunday after Epiphany

Epistle:1 Corinthians 29-31. 29What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

 Gospel: Mark 1: 14-20. 

14After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" 16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." 18At once they left their nets and followed him. 19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.  The Word of God.


When we are awake to God’s call, we can be led into surprising, unconventional places; just like the fisherman in today’s Gospel reading. The call is clear and urgent: We are to be ready to turn to this new, unexpected Way.

The Gospel of Mark makes a fast paced approach to introducing Jesus ministry. Mark goes from the beginning when Jesus picks his disciples to the time he takes up the cross in a fast paced approach . In  our previous messages we have learned of John and his  “Repent, for God’s kingdom is coming.” You still hear that message ringing through the time of Jesus’s Baptism ..How different is the example of Jesus, whose message turns John’s on its head. “The kingdom has come,” Jesus says. “Now repent.” And if, when the message was John’s it was pretty much bad news—that folk are sinners and vipers and all—with Jesus there is self-avowed good news: “In spite of it all, you are chosen. So follow!” Jesus calls, and rather quietly it would seem. Simon and Andrew, James and John—fishermen all, and none of them able to catch a fish in all the Gospels without Jesus help.

Though it has been suggested that this was probably not the fishermen's first encounter with Jesus, the point is that on the day Jesus asked the four to leave everything and follow him, they had to make a decision and act immediately. They could not put it off. They either followed or they did not. And what they chose to do affected the rest of their lives. Jesus presence enabled them to be fishers of people. It is Jesus initiative that prompts faithful response. For Jesus, our obedience ultimately depends on the kingdom’s coming. We need to remember that there is a right time to fish. There are certain times of the day when the tides and temperatures are conducive to fishing. Likewise, there are right and wrong times to ask people to drop everything and follow Jesus. . Right now for some of us it may not be the most appropriate time to share our faith with others. Like Jesus, we are wise and polite to wait for a suitable opportunity when our message will meet open ears. If we listen, people will give us hints about when the time is right. There is a right place to fish. You cannot catch fish in a baptismal font. You must leave the church building and go where the fish are. Jesus did. He didn’t hide out in the synagogue. Jesus went into the streets and marketplace, into the villages and homes of the common people. Likewise, we must develop friendships with those who are not Christians. We must reach out to people in need wherever they are. Just as fishing requires the right lure, so does fishing for believers. Jesus had the right time and the right words. When Jesus called his disciples, they had to leave their boats and their fishing village and journey to new places. The time had to be right. We listen to the stories of the call of the disciples and find them interesting but unrealistic. When we look at our own lives, we believe that we could not leave everything to follow someone we didn’t know. We have many responsibilities and ties which keep us from following.

Finally, serious fishermen mourn over the loss of a fish. They regret having one get away. But even if they come home without fish, the true fishermen are glad they tried. People really do want to hear about hope, about life and love given through Jesus. Sharing the good news of God’s love means offering a word of hope, a word of forgiveness, a word of love, a gospel of grace to people beyond our church walls.  In Paul’s letter he has instructions for Christian disciples in action. We are to remember that being a disciple is more important than anything else in life. It is much to Paul’s credit that he somewhat mitigates his advice in this passage by saying directly that it is his advice. On these matters, he says, “I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion”. Paul states the key issue in verse 17: “Let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you.” When we look at our own lives, we believe that we could not leave everything to follow someone we didn’t know.. But God is persistent. God understands our confusion and doubts. And God continues to call us to be in ministry and mission in this world. It may not mean leaving everything behind, but it does mean being willing to serve wherever God calls us. That’s hard. We want to place conditions on service, and usually those conditions are "if we have time", "if we have energy"; " if we can just try serving God for a little while to see how it all works out". Still God calls to each of us. Don’t let peripheral issues and things consume your life and keep you from God’s purpose for your life.

Let us Pray.  O God, you are our light and our salvation. Living in your presence, we have nothing to fear. Open our hearts to your word this day. As we hear the story of the call of the first disciples, make us ready to follow Jesus on whatever path he leads us. Cast aside our fears and doubts, and teach us to trust wholly in you. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.