Third Sunday After Advent Sermon
Salutation: May Grace and Peace be yours in abundance.
It has been suggested that the Gospel of Mark was written during a time of civil and domestic disparity with conflicting views of a mixed group of faiths, customs and languages in a period dominated by the Roman Empire.
During that period the Galileans were subjected to Herodian domination and oppression. The Galileans’ main livelihood was fishing and agriculture. They had to pay taxes to the Roman empire. How did they do that? They shared a portion of their harvest with the ruler of that time. If they could not pay, they received a credit payment of the future crops. So, they were continually struggling to survive and exist under a dictatorship.
Out of all the Gospels, Mark’s focus does not biographically and chronologically reproduce the life of Jesus. According to C. Clifton Black, a theologian of the New Testament school of theology in Dallas, Texas claims that The Gospel of Mark is thematically more about the suffering and death of Jesus than about his exalted identity and miraculous power. Jesus is portrayed as a humble human trying to save souls. But Jesus does not want to do this all by himself. Jesus is on a mission which is not without obstacles.
The Gospel lesson of Mark 1: 14 – 20 sets the stage in beginning, of the first disciples that were called by Jesus. Jesus came to Galilee after John was arrested. Once again Jesus has a heavy heart. This indicates the gloomy condition in which Jesus begins his ministry. The path forward had obstacles. But Jesus was on a mission. Jesus walked to the sea of Galilee where he finds two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And when he found Zebedee’s sons James and John, he asked them also to get out of their boats and to follow him.
Jesus invited common fishermen to follow him and become his disciples. How were they supposed to do this? Fishing was their livelihood. It is how they supported their families. Yet and still, Jesus instilled a need greater than fishing to be addressed and the time had come to do that. It was a time to pull together like fishermen pulling on a long line of rope that is attached to a net in hopes that it will yield another measure of sustenance for survival. In the same way we might pull together like good neighbors when life presents us challenges. Why do we in the present day need to pull together like fisherman. I think when we do work toward a common goal like good neighbors, it makes the world a better place.
In Matthew 4:14-17, and Luke 4:14b, and John 4:43-46 Jesus advises that it is time to get ready for the kingdom of heaven because life is fragile, and we know not when the hour will come. From Matthew chapter 4 verse 16 Jesus advises repentance as part of the preparation to the Kingdom of Heaven. The time is now! Will light overcome the murkiness of darkness? Jesus is our backup when we struggle. So how do we repent.
Well, the advice from the writing of C.S. Lewis says to lay down your arms, surrender, apologize. NATO suggests negotiating; to lead us to the start of a positive life filled with joy and hope for the future. Dr. Martin Luther King advocated nonviolence against violence. The Negro spiritual, “Down by the Riverside,” the lyrics say to lay down that sword and shield down by the riverside, to lay down the war shoes down by the riverside: and to put on that long white robe and be ready for the invitation of the Lord, because now it the time for a new identity.
Well, how do we become disciples? How do we prepare for the kingdom of Heaven? How in the present time do we become fishers of human beings? I think first, it begins with us. We take breaks from the business of our lives for devotion in one form or another. And then we join in communion with others in weekly devotion through attending a worship service, a bible study, a memorial service, or by being of service to others that connects us to one another in support and compassion for life.
The chorus of the Negro spiritual “Bye and Bye,” sings out to lay down that heavy load. Oh, Christians can’t you arise and tell that Jesus hath done all things well. And “You Better Be Ready,” is another spiritual that reminds us to get ready for the Kingdom of Heaven. The time is now!
A woman by the name of Linda McMillian who lives in the province of al Quarayyat Jouf, Saudi Arabia makes an interesting comparison to the occupation of fishing in Mark 1:14-20 to Jesus’ ministry…
The kind of fishing that the disciples did was at night or before dawn when the rest of the inhabitants of the land were still sleeping. During this time, there might have been the stillness of fog, and the fisherman could not see clearly. They did not know what could be lurking about. McMillan says it is of a time when our subconscious mind comes forth in darkness and in mystery.
Wherever you are, perhaps you are like Nathanial sitting under that fig tree from the gospel from John 1:43-51 or sitting in a boat casting your nets from this weeks Gospel of Mark 1:14-20 you cannot always be sure of what will come to you, what will come to pass, or what is lurking in the depths of your mind.
However, Jesus is there waiting to lead us in the paths of righteousness. Life is uncertain, fragile and unpredictable. Yet our mission ship leads on a continuous journey with Christ at the helm.
Spending time with God in solitude or in the company of others is in part the key that opens the door to discipleship and to the Kingdom of Heaven. When we take some time to do that, we gain a new identity and experience a new personal Epiphany.
Our God is everyone’s God. McMillan informs us that Allah is another name for God. It is not just the of name of the Islamic God, or the Saudi God, it is another name for the one Lord God of heaven and earth and all that has ever been made. And the Muslims – for all little quirks have the same God as the rest of us.
Therefore, we should have a spiritual bypass of earthly possessions that do not live, breathe and think. We might deal with the world as though not dealing with the world as we know it. Corinthians 7:29-31. Pauline teachings confirm the time is short. The brevity of human life and the urgency of living and the imminent return of Jesus Christ is in the forecast.
Therefore, let us keep the feast. Let us prepare. Let us be ready. For no one knows when the hour will come. Amen