The Roaring Twenties

Bible Text: Mark 1:14-20 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Well, look at you now Comox Valley Presbyterian Church. Twenty years ago 45 people became charter members, 15 more joined as adherents, and twenty children attended the presbytery service of constitution on January 24, 1995. The presbytery was then moderated by Ivan Cronsberry. The congregation now holds steady at just over 100 (105) members and 50 adherents (52). This is a big deal. Sure you’re only twenty but at 18 you moved out and started a life all on your own following the final mortgage payment. Do you remember what you were doing in your twenties? The twenties is when we will really come of age. It’s when we really grow up. It’s the college years. A time when a lot of mistakes are made, a lot of fun is had, a time when true friendships are solidified, a time when we start to seriously think about our identity and future. It is both an exciting time and scary time. There are a lot of unknowns. And not all twenty year olds are the same. Perhaps what separates us from other 20 year olds is that we know we are getting older and not as invincible as we once were, we know our future is fragile and we know we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
Today’s gospel lesson continues the story from last week. It is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and he is calling his first disciples. Today Jesus calls four fishermen at the Sea of Galilee, Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. It is a powerful moment in the Gospel because there seems to be little to no hesitation. What separates these four disciples from Philip and Nathaniel in last week’s reading is that Philip and Nathaniel were already disciples of John, they had been preparing for Jesus’ arrival, and even so, Nathaniel is a little hesitant and as we discovered needed an extra nudge. Whereas these four fishermen seem to be caught unawares and yet they simply drop their nets. Jesus calls out, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” The NRSV says, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”Eugene Peterson’s The Message interprets, “They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.” They became disciples, just like that.
Other than their names and former occupations we don’t really know much about these disciples. We do know that they are northerners- men from the northern province of Galilee. This is interesting because the capital of Israel is Jerusalem which is in a Southern province, formerly known as the Southern kingdom. Jerusalem is also the religious centre of the Jewish faith in part due to the fact that it is the location of the temple. As a result it is not at all surprising that when Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem they are greeted with scepticism. Jesus and his disciples would naturally be considered outsiders. They are northerners, what do they know about faith and practice? Perhaps that’s the point, they don’t have to know much about faith and practice to be faithful followers.
With this basic information we can tell that these companions were ordinary men (and certainly there is evidence that there were ordinary women disciples as well). Jesus doesn’t appear to check references or even assess their abilities. There are certainly no tests with regards to their knowledge of the Torah or even if they practice their faith on a regular basis, what about their prayer life, does it even exist? I’m betting that these four, being fishermen, probably lived according to the schedule of the fish not the Sabbath. But Jesus called them, no matter their ability or experience, status or i.q. In fact, some of the disciples were of such ill repute that they gave Jesus a bad reputation just for following him. We also know that they were not perfect and certainly struggled to understand Jesus’ teachings. Despite this example of them leaving their nets and immediately following him we know they did not always follow so blindly. Peter denied and Judas betrayed him. Yet, Jesus personally chose and called each one of these ordinary fishermen.
We often refer to being called by God when talking about clergy but God’s call is not limited to ordained ministers. We believe God calls each one of us, ordinary people, regardless of status or iq, ability or experience. Over twenty years ago God called a group of people together in this valley, close to fifteen years ago a building began to take shape, around ten years ago, despite pain and challenges this congregation grew even more and out of sorrow arose a caring community, about five years ago new programs and ministries were introduced, one year ago my church family grew. Each one of you is called- no matter how ordinary and no matter what wisdom. You have been personally chosen. New Testament scholar Deborah Krause says, “[In this Gospel passage] one message is clear: God calls God’s people and creation into a transformed relationship with God. This transformation requires a release from our preconceptions and assumptions about who is and is not worthy of God’s love and mercy.”
When the disciples were called by Jesus there must have been something remarkable about him because they left their lives to begin an unknown journey. They followed him into an uncertain future. These disciples followed Jesus with no idea where it would lead. Perhaps if they had known how long the journey would be, or how much work it would take, or the pain they would experience they would not have left and followed in the first place. But when all was said and done few of them had regrets- yes, they probably would have done a few things differently but they realized that they had been privy to God in their midst.
God’s call is always into an uncertain future. When we enter into our callings we have no idea how it will all end up. However, if we use the gifts and talents God has given us, when we open ourselves up to the Spirit’s guidance, when we take that journey together we can look back and realize that God was indeed in our midst and if God was in our midst during those first twenty years imagine how much more God will be present with us as we head into the unknown future together. Amen