Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | January 25, 2015

2015.01.25 “Meeting Jesus: You Never Know Where It Will Lead” – Mark 1: 14 – 20

Central United Methodist Church
Meeting Jesus: You Never Know Where It Will Lead
Pastor David L. Haley
Mark 1: 14 – 20
January 25, 2015

CallingDisciples

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 fishermen. 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.”
– Mark 1: 14 – 20

 

There is a song the older of us will know, the younger ones not at all. Chances are, if you’ve ever heard it, you’ll remember it. It is from the musical South Pacific, by the famous Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. It goes:

“Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger,
you may see a stranger
Across a crowded room
And somehow you know,
You know even then
That somewhere you’ll see her
Again and again.”

What this song captures so well is that first meeting of those destined to be significant to each other, either as spouses or friends. When a relationship blossoms in such a way, we never forget that first meeting, that first “enchanted evening.” It is a question I love to couples I’m going to marry: “So – how did you meet?” After all, we always remember, and even if we don’t, we’d never admit it.

On this week of my 14th wedding anniversary, I remember well how I first met Michele. It was a Sunday when the St. Andrew Lutheran Church bell choir – Michele Harbeck, Director – was playing at First United Methodist Church of West Chicago. Our reader that day was a friend of mine, Janice West. As we prepared to walk into the sanctuary for the worship service to begin, Janice began talking with Michele like they were old friends; which, in fact, they were, dance friends from way back. From that came an introduction, and to make a short story long, this week we celebrated 14 years of marriage. We like to say we met, got engaged (yes, I proposed to her in church too, but that’s a story for another day), and got married all in the same room. You never know where things are going to lead.

It is not just those destined to become spouses, but other people as well, who though we may not know it at the moment, may be destined to become significant friends or mentors to us. It may happen through a chance meeting, but it blossoms into a relationship that grows and significantly influences our lives. Once begun I such a way, you never know where it is going to lead.

I wonder if that wasn’t the way it was that day Jesus’ first disciples him, as described today in Mark’s Gospel. According to Mark, Jesus strode into Galilee, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is among you; repent, and believe in the good news.” What good news? The announcement of God’s reign, here, now, on earth, even in Galilee.

What do you think that was like? Did Jesus stand up on something and preach, like in church? Did he walk into a room at a party and announce, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is among you; repent, and believe in the good news.” Did he buttonhole strangers on the street? How do you announce something like that, without wearing a signboard and standing on a street corner?

And however he did it, what happened? Did people nod politely and said, “And you are . . . ?” Or did they say, “Sure, Jesus, God’s reign is here, right here in Galilee. But I wouldn’t tell the Romans over in Tiberius that, if I were you!” Doesn’t the fact that Jesus was walking along the sea alone, and first called as his disciples, fishermen, make us wonder if maybe he was beginning to feel desperate? I mean, fishermen? In this church Jesus will build, evidently they will take anybody.

Or did Jesus already know these men, had they already met on the streets and shores of Capernaum? Surely that is the only explanation that would explain why they would drop their nets like that and give up everything they’d known to follow a stranger? Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. Would you do that? After all, there are questions to be asked, doubts to be overcome, fine print to be read, costs to consider.

But for whatever reason, they did it, left everything behind to follow Jesus. It would be the beginning of a wild adventure; little did they know where it was going to lead, any more than we do.

Because somewhere along the way, we too, met Jesus. Not in the way they met him, no one can do that anymore. Maybe we were introduced to Jesus by our parents, by a Sunday School teacher, by someone who explained to us who that guy was hanging on the crucifix in a Catholic Church. However it happened that we met him, once we met him, slowly and significantly he began to influence our lives and now there is no going back.

Where will it lead? We might find ourselves like this, sitting in a church on a Sunday morning, or in a protest march in the middle of a week. We might find ourselves in a weeknight study group, or working in a Food Depository on a Saturday morning. We might find ourselves teaching Sunday School or counseling a troubled colleague at work; we might even – God forbid – find ourselves standing before an altar on a Sunday morning like me. Who knows where it will lead? I certainly had no idea, when my journey began so many years ago.

RNS-BORG-OBITSometimes along our journey, it is even necessary to meet Jesus again, as though for the first time. I and many others this week are mourning the death of Marcus Borg at the age of 72 – a scholar, teacher and author, who in 1994 published a book of exactly that name, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, and helped many of us do just that. I first learned of Marcus Borg’s death this week on Facebook, through the scholar Diana Butler Bass, who posted a twitter allegedly by Jesus Christ, which said: “Meeting Marcus again for the first time: RIP Marcus Borg.”

Borg was the youngest of four children, born March 11, 1942 in Minnesota, and raised in a traditional Lutheran family. He attended Concordia College in Minnesota, where he majored in philosophy and political science. What he learned about the New Testament and about Jesus so fascinated him that he accepted a fellowship to do graduate work at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he delved deeply into the Jewish background of the Gospels and Jesus of Nazareth. He then went on to further studies at Oxford and taught at various Midwest universities on his return to the U.S. In 1979 he joined the faculty at Oregon State University and taught religion there until his retirement in 2007. He often traveled the lecture circuit, where some of us heard and met him. I heard him years ago at Chicago Temple; some of you heard him when he was at First Church, Evanston, several years ago.

The author of some 20 books, Borg was perhaps best known for Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, and another of my favorites, The Heart of Christianity.  Finding – as many of us have found – that the Jesus of our childhood no longer makes sense in the modern world – Borg summarized and explained two hundred years of critical Biblical scholarship and research on the historical Jesus. Borg presented Jesus as a social and political prophet of his time who was driven by his relationship with God. For Jesus and for us, it is that relationship with God that is more important than traditional Christian beliefs based upon a literal understanding of the Bible. As Borg says in his 2014 memoir, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most: “Imagine that Christianity is about loving God. Imagine that it’s not about the self and its concerns, about ‘what’s in it for me,’ whether that be a blessed afterlife or prosperity in this life.”

Brian McLaren, a prominent evangelical, wrote on his website, “In Honor of Marcus Borg:” “What a pleasure to have known Marcus Borg. What a kind and beautiful human being. What a loss to us all.”  And he shared this story:

Once several years ago, Marcus, Diana Butler Bass, and I spoke together for a few days at Harvard …. Immediately after that …. lines formed with people asking Diana, Marcus, and me to sign their books.
My line, being the least popular, left me standing there somewhat awkwardly for long periods, but it also gave me the chance to eavesdrop on what people were saying to Marcus. Person after person said almost the same words, “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be a Christian today … I dropped out of church but came back after I read one of your books … I’m still a Christian because of you … I became a Christian because of your books.” …. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, it turns out that Marcus Borg is an evangelist too, just in another way and to another community of people.” (Brian McLaren)

In other words, a “fisher of people,” in the most unlikely of ways.

Let’s pay attention to our lives, and to the people we meet. In the name of and after the example of Jesus, let’s give them our full attention and listen carefully, because we never know the influence they may come to have upon us, or we upon them. Because just as with those first disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee so long ago, once we begin the journey, we never know where it will lead.  Amen.

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