Service of the Word: Sunday 24th January 2021

OPENING PRAYER

In our time together, Jesus says:
Follow me

Listening to his word, Jesus says:
Follow me

Thinking about our life as his disciple, Jesus says:
Follow me

Praying in faith, hope and love, Jesus says:
Follow me

Singing songs old and new to the Lord, Jesus says:
Follow me

Following him now, come, let us worship him!

MARK 1: 16 – 20

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ 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.

REFLECTION

Simon and Andrew were fishermen.  And day after day, week after week, year in year out, they did the same thing in the same sea, with the same nets, in the same boat.  Every single day of their working life they contended with the wind and the water, with the sun and the glare, with fish and crustaceans, with aching backs and tired bodies. 

They had probably grown up watching their dads fishing, learning from them and copying them, knowing that this was going to be their future as well.  Casting the net, hauling it back in. Casting the net, hauling it back in. 

And when they weren’t casting and hauling they would have been sitting in the boat doing a spot of mending. James and John were the very same. Casting and mending, casting and mending.

We all know what that feels like, don’t we?  Especially in these days of pandemic. Days that all seem the same, one day looking very much like another, life lived on auto pilot.  We cast and we mend to make a living, to feed the family, to pay the bills, to make ourselves feel secure, to have the things we want and maybe get a bit of approval, a bit of status along the way.

Casting and mending are the realities of real life.  Simon and Andrew, James and John were engrossed in those realities of life on the day that Jesus passed by them.  They were too busy with their nets, too busy doing what they knew they had to do, too busy getting through the day even to notice him.  But Jesus stopped and saw them and he spoke to them.  He called to them, saying words that were to change their lives irrevocably. He called them to leave their nets, their families, their homes. It must have been one heck of a moment for them, a real light bulb moment,  the kind of moment that people describe when they speak about their own conversion experience, a moment of decision, a moment of transformation, a moment when rock bottom suddenly changes into record high.

Sometimes Jesus still calls people to change their lives physically, as he did with those fishermen to follow him from one place to another.  I know that Jesus called me out of teaching into ministry, out of Dumfries and away up to Glasgow, and from Glasgow down to Greenock and Gourock, and from Greenock and Gourock back to my roots here in my beloved Clydesdale. Be in absolutely no doubt. Jesus can still call with a voice and an authority that are hard to refuse. He can and still does demand physical, drastic change.

But not always. Sometimes his call is different. Sometimes that call to follow him is an invitation to a new life, to a transformed life. It’s an invitation to all of us, wherever we are, in the plodding routine of our daily living.

Notice that when Jesus called the fishermen he asked them to carry on being fishermen. True, they wouldn’t be catching fish anymore. They’d be catching people.  But they were still going to be fishermen, only now, their fishing would fit into God’s plan, God’s purpose.

And that wee difference is what transforms the humdrum into the sacred. It turns the spud peeling into an act of humble service. It turns the social cup of tea with an elderly neighbour into an act of pastoral care.  It turns the casual conversation with a stranger into a gesture of welcome and acceptance. It turns the business meeting into an act of justice and good for all.

Jesus could just as easily have said to the farmers that he met along the way: “Follow me and you will grow God’s people.”  Or to the doctors: “Follow me and you will heal the brokenness of the world.”  Or to the teachers: “Follow me and you will open hearts and minds.”  Or to the parents: “Follow me and you will nurture new life.” 

Whatever our life, whatever our work, whatever our daily routine, however we spend our time,  Jesus calls us to follow him and to do and give every action in his name and in so doing to participate with God in God’s saving work.

It is the call to move from a limited, worldly way of seeing to a broader, sacred way of sharing the divine vision,  connecting our wee story with the bigger story, the story of God’s life and salvation.

There’s another dimension to that invitation to follow Jesus and it’s the dimension that requires us to leave stuff behind. This is where it all gets a wee bit more challenging. It can’t have been easy for those fishermen to leave behind everything they had known. I’ve never found any of my leavings very easy.  As humans we are far better at settling, accumulating and clinging, gathering our security, getting comfy in who we are, where we are and what we do.  We’re not naturally so good at letting go.  We’re not even very good at admitting that we HAVE to let go.

But we do.  It is unavoidable… 

In our physical life and in our spiritual life we will never get anything new if we are unwilling to leave where we are.  So, let’s face up to what Jesus is calling us to leave behind. Let’s start asking:  what are the nets that entangle us and prevent us from following him?  It might be pride or laziness or stubbornness or a wee bit of self centredness. It might be a tendency to be angry or a refusal to admit that we are wrong.  Maybe it’s a deep seated prejudice that we skilfully keep covered or a desire to be in control, to keep life the same.

What do we need to let go of and leave behind so that we can follow Jesus properly?

The call of Jesus is ultimately a call to be fully ourselves, to be the people Jesus knows we can be and the people God made us to be. It’s about letting go and allowing God to transform our lives, our nets and our boats. And it all happens in the casting and mending of our daily lives, just as it did for the first disciples all those years ago.   

CLOSING PRAYER

As we go out into the world, Jesus says:
Follow me

At home with our families and loved ones, Jesus says:
Follow me

In the humdrum of our work, our studies, our isolation and changed circumstances, Jesus says:
Follow me

In everything we do this week, Jesus says:
Follow me

As we do all of these things this week, Jesus says:

Follow Me

and remember I am with you always even to the end of the world.  Amen.