Mark 1:14-20

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

In a little over 3 years, most of you have gotten to know me better.  And, I have gotten to know you better.  The good and the bad, and we still genuinely like each other!  That’s good news…we’re are not only surviving a pandemic, social and political unrest, but also the shifting culture all around us.  And, in the midst, we are trying to figure out who we are as a church in this changing world, and who are as people.

PTS Doctoral Cohort meeting via Zoom!

As you know, I’m pursuing my doctorate in missional leadership to continue to understand church and how it’s shifting and growing.  You also know that I’m constantly working on myself.  I’m big on trying to figure out how I operate.  I think that’s part of my understanding of myself as being in God’s image and growing in my understanding of my gifts and talents and how God animates and even redeems them.  

I think it’s also part of being present, faithfully present, with myself, others, and seeing how God flows in and through all things.  Presence is a big deal.  As we’ve said so many times, when Jesus talks about Kingdom of God, or Heaven, or God’s reign as he does in this morning’s passage, he’s not talking about a nation or another place, he’s talking about  God’s Presence that is with us now, everywhere.  That God’s kingdom has been fulfilled and it’s our task to seek it, to live into it, and to try to be present with God as God is present with us.  

One of the tools that I’ve used in counseling and in spiritual direction is the Enneagram.  The Enneagram is a model of human personality which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.  It has been around for hundreds of years, and has evolved over the years.  My personality type on the Enneagram is a “3”.  That’s often called the “achiever” of the “effective person”.  I value getting things done essentially.  I’ll work towards whatever measure of success that I have for whatever I’m doing.  There is a lot of good to that, but there’s also some darkness with that.  The good is that I feel pretty confident in who I am, it’s not arrogance, I genuinely like being me.  The bad is that I can base my value on what I achieve rather than who I am.  I can also be a workaholic, just ask Debbie!

It’s important for me to be able to take time off.  That’s why it’s really hard to get a hold of me on Fridays, my day off, especially in the morning.  It’s also why I periodically go to the Springs retreat center in IN or the Abbey of Gethsemani in KY.  I need Sabbath rest.  I need quiet.  It helps me to cultivate this sense of presence, of seeing God’s Kingdom presence in me and around me.  

Friends, I get it, it’s scary slowing down and simply “being” present.  Oftentimes, when left on our own, we begin the hard stuff of questioning ourselves, we see the dark places in our lives and in the lives of those around us, and we don’t want to go there.

WB Yeats wrote this:  “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

I also think that it’s important for us to ask these questions collectively as a church.  We have to slow down, listen to each other, our communities, and to God.  That’s why I’m really curious and hopeful for what we are learning during this pandemic and political and social unrest.  How are we growing? 

As a church, we’ve done a lot of stuff, a lot of it is pretty amazing actually.  But, we also realized before the pandemic, that we needed to change, we realized that what we’ve done, doesn’t work.  The pandemic has been a struggle, a lot of suffering, but it’s also forced me, and all of us, to ask some great questions.  

As we ask these questions, Jesus invites us, just as he invited his disciples, to be fishers of others, to invite others to live differently in this world, to be present with one another, to a ask deeper questions.  

I found this statement from the PCUSA Book of Order that I think resonates well with this morning’s message.

In Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all creation, the Church seeks a new openness to

God’s mission in the world. In Christ, the triune God tends the least among us, suffers the

curse of human sinfulness, raises up a new humanity, and promises a new future for all


…a new openness to the sovereign activity of God in the Church and in the world,

to a more radical obedience to Christ, and to a more joyous celebration in worship

and work; a new openness in its own membership, becoming in fact as well as in faith a

community of women and men of all ages, races, ethnicities, and worldly conditions,

made one in Christ by the power of the Spirit, as a visible sign of the new

humanity; a new openness to see both the possibilities and perils of its institutional forms

in order to ensure the faithfulness and usefulness of these forms to God’s activity

in the world; and a new openness to God’s continuing reformation of the Church ecumenical, that it might be more effective in its mission.

Our scripture passages this morning give testimony to God’s Kingdom being made known and lived.  In our gospel passage, it says we need to repent.  We do.  Again, I’ve said this before, the greek word for repent is “metanoia”.  

It means to change one’s mind.  We need to change as persons, we need ask hard questions.  We also need to do that as a church.  If we do repent, if we do change, together we can bear witness to God’s Kingdom around us and in us, God’s Presence rising up all around us. 

My bet is that if we do that, then others will join us.  Others will see the beauty within us and around us and contribute to that beauty.  It happened in the early church, just look at the passage we just read, others jumped in…

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