John the Baptizer, the one who was
preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry and message, is captured.
His prophetic time as
the voice calling out in the wilderness, is at an end.
Which means that it is time to kick
—time for Jesus to act
—to call on those
around him to repent, because they are now on holy ground
—Wherever Jesus is,
the Reign of God is.
That is truly good news!
So, Jesus goes along, and finds two
brothers and brings them into his fold, calling on them to follow him.
Two more seaside brothers, the
Zebedees, are brought in, leaving family and vocation, to follow him.
And sisters and brothers, I have some
bad news for you—Pastors, by our very
nature, can’t hear what today’s Gospel is saying.
Not being ordained
actually helps you to hear what Mark
is trying to say!
Oh, we Pastors are fine with the first
bit, in fact our understanding of grammar and Greek can help with discerning
the whole “Kingdom of God” bit…
But then, we come to those words, “Follow me.”
“Oh,” we say, “Yes. Yes Jesus we do!”
Yes, we follow you… we threw away our
Yes we did! We gave up
our professional credentials and licenses, we gave up our jobs—as teachers,
nurses, computer programmers, and used car salesmen... all of ‘em,
yes we gave up our
Yes, we follow you… we left our boats too.
We sold our cars and
houses, we gave up our insurance policies and drained our 401Ks, we gave out
our last penny, and loaded up on loans for this calling.
Yes we left our boats
Yes, we follow you… we left father and hired hands,
and mother and country
and colleagues and spouse. We ignored our children and studied non-stop for 4
years. We moved and moved and moved again—from Seminary to Chaplaincy to
Internship to first call… we lived 100’s of miles away from anyone who we can call family,
and we submitted to
the proposition that the calling by Bishop and by Congregation was not that of
flesh and blood, but instead the very calling of Christ through the Spirit saying,
“Come, follow me.”
And so, we miserable clergy
misinterpret, “Follow me.”
We hear it, and look out at all of you,
and back at our own experience of “follow
me” and ask,
“Why are the people
in the pews, such defective Pastors?”
… because we can’t
help but think that’s what Jesus means by
That following Jesus
means the particular path that is required of us.
But, perhaps a better questions to ask,
perhaps one you all
should keep in your back pocket, if I ever get insufferable and persnickety…
and I’m human, so I will,
is this question, “Why
are the Pastors such defective disciples?”
After all Jesus calls
Fishermen, Tax Collectors, Assassins, and Fanatics, but no Religious Leaders.
Because, we clergy cannot help but hear
“follow me” in light of our particular vocation.
And in so doing, we miss out on Jesus’
We miss the amazing insight—that Jesus
is not simply saying “Follow me,”
he’s saying to his disciples, “Follow me
We forgot that, with few exceptions,
the majority of Jesus’ ministry is
around the Sea of Galilee.
Most of the gospel takes place
around a lake that is 7 miles by 13 miles.
fishing for people thing that Jesus does—this good news about the Reign of
God being near—happens in an area
where everything is near-by.
Think about that… from Plainfield in
the North to Metuchen in the South, Iselen in the East and Boundbrook in the
it’s in a zip code that Jesus is fishing for
It’s in an area code that Christ creates the
rule of God.
It all happens in
Jesus’ own neighborhood—he says, “Follow me” from his own home base in
Capernaum… Follow me home…
The problem with Pastors, when we read,
“Follow me” is that we’re too much like Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab
—chasing after whales
—or perhaps getting
swallowed up by them like Jonah.
But we’re called to fish for people
like Peter and like James. We are called to renew our In-State People Fishing License.
We follow him in our own neighborhood
and in our own homes. The Kingdom of God is near—it’s right there,
Jesus’ giant journey started small
—and shouldn’t we know
—after all he tells us
the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, it’s tiny and rooted in place, but
The Kingdom of God is like leaven, tiny
grit that makes it all grow…
That’s why he calls us to follow him, home.
Consider Simon Peter and his brother
—they already knew
this man Jesus, he was a local like them
brother, as we read in John’s Gospel, was a follower of John the Baptizer
—he likely already saw
Jesus at his Baptism.
And we imagine these men, they leave
their nets, bobbing there in the water—it’s a lovely image.
--Dropping the nets and follow Jesus
never to see those nets again…
—but that’s too big picture,
it’s not accurate.
They’re still there in their
—they likely pass
those nets every couple of days
—they see them
floating there, getting smelly with sea debris
—maybe their old
friends complain because their nets are now catching on other people’s boats.
Or perhaps, and more
likely, they take those nets and use them for a different purpose
—after all, that’s
what they do with their boats, they make them into a floating pulpit for Jesus
and ferry him from place to place in them.
Or consider John and James
—they leave their
father, but perhaps they still run into him at family reunions
—or when they pop back
home to do some laundry or sneak a snack out of the fridge.
They still maintain
relationship, just differently.
For that matter, they likely meet the hired
hands who watched them go to follow after Jesus.
Perhaps they run into them when they come in
to happy hour at the Grubby Gills
Galilee Grill after a long day of discipling… perhaps they are met with the
confused stares of those former colleagues. They have to explain themselves,
and their faith, to their neighbors and friends.
I’m getting at here, is that the Kingdom of God is near, it’s right here…
we’re following Jesus
in the everyday of our lives
—in our town,
in our neighborhood,
on the block or cul de sac we live on.
We follow Jesus among
friends and enemies,
with people who know
us at our best and at our worst!
following Jesus home.
why I love watching
our crew march in the Labor Day Parade
—watching the little
bubbles of recognition in the faces of friends in the crowd,
the moments of eye
that moment when they
connect you to the Kingdom of God.
That’s why I treasure Agnes’
description of walking her neighborhood with Pastor Clark, introducing them to the
Pastor of her church.
Why I try to check in on Katie’s Quilters every time they meet,
even though it’s
inevitably after a 12-14 hour Tuesday,
—because seeing the
non-members from town showing up and joining in the work of the Kingdom
—that’s worth pushing
through to see.
That’s why Pub Theology is in a pub-lic
place, so when we pray the Lord’s Prayer at the end, everyone in the joint
knows that the Kingdom of God has come near.
That’s the thrust behind our Salt and
Light project the Evangelism Committee is heading up, letting our neighbors
know the blessing of God, which we have found in Christ Jesus.
Yes, sisters and brothers, we’re
following, thank God,
following Jesus home
—to our homes,
to our neighborhoods,
to those places and
people nearest to us.
We are following Jesus home.