January 29, 2012 - Fourth after Epiphany
Mark 1: 14-20
Just the Application
Two things about the calling of the Fishermen:
You know the part that drives us crazy, "Immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus." Immediately, without hesitation, without another thought!
1. When the call comes to starting something, it usually requires a near total commitment. To work with Nelson Mandela and the African Nations Congress at the beginning meant taking the message on the road to the towns and villages and hiding in the bush from the authorities. It was a 24-7 undertaking. To follow Nelson Mandela some thirty years later might mean voting for him in an election or working for his government.
The call changes as the movement matures!
2. 2,000 years ago few people enjoyed the dramatic inner life we know today. They didn't have Freud or Jung or psychology 101, or new age introspection or self help books. So, call and response back then was depicted in abrupt physical action. Remember the famous line from Julius Caesar "I came, I saw, I conquered." "Veni, vidi, vici." He didn't pen an introspective reflection on how he felt the night before engaging the opposing army.
However, today we respond to the call first from within our interior life. We don't just impulsively act. We think, reason, reflect, connect, resonate and then begin to act. It takes time now-a-days.
The call is internalized before it is actualized.
So ease up on the biblical account and ease up on yourself, but at the end of the day it is still our action that counts.
Mark 1: 21-28
The First Sabbath Day on the Job
This morning, we hear about Jesus' 'first Sabbath day on the job.' And what a day it is! Jesus, with freshly minted and very keen disciples, goes to the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath. As is the custom, there is an opportunity to recite from the Torah or the Prophets and teach. Mark tells us Jesus begins teaching.
All are astounded for he teaches as one having authority. Mark gives us a hint, a few verses earlier, about what Jesus is preaching.
"God's New Day is at hand, in your midst. Look around and believe in the good news."
To be more specific, Jesus was telling them,
"Good news: God's New Day is already dawning. God is on the move to free our lives to live in the light right now."
"Good news: God is enlisting each of us to become part of this great awakening. It is not just up to God. It involves, it includes, it requires you and me."
"Good news: It is not going to happen in a twinkling of an eye, or in a flash of lighting. God's New Day dawns each day we participate in it. When we don't participate it doesn't dawn around us. So it is a life-long project, lived one day at a time."
Jesus is saying, "It's happening in me, it's dawning through me and it can happen in you, it can dawn through you too. Look around, look within and believe in the good news." The people are astonished and intrigued, yet horrified. "Who is this man? How could God come so close? Who are we to work directly with God? What about the Law and the Prophets? What about the Temple and the priests and all the purification rites and sacrifices?"
On his first day on the job, Jesus teaches freedom, inclusion, participation and renewal.
This dawning of God's New Day, through all who follow in God's way is not about resisting the destructive systems and beliefs of the world. In Capernaum, where the new Roman tax on catching fish has caused great hardship and social unrest Jesus shows up not to agitate for some kind of resistance, violent or nonviolent, but rather to call fishermen to a different vocation, a different way, a different catch.
By calling fishermen as disciples he is including the exploited and aggrieved of his day and showing a new way, a freeing way to be in the world, but not of it.
By bringing his message to the local synagogue, he is including the religiously inclined in the participation process. He is promising freedom and renewal in the bargain.
But how does one resist resisting, without resisting, in trying times? Enter stage right, the frenzied unclean spirit. The howling begins, the voice of fear, of insecurity and raving self-interest. The voice that recognizes but refuses, God's love, and resists the new thing God is up to.
Jesus will not give any power or energy to this voice. In stead Jesus sees the larger picture, and offers what is missing in the encounter. He has compassion for the man but not for the voice of violence and resistance. He brings a blessing of freedom and inclusion, instead. Jesus quiets, and then he releases the frenzied, fearful, angry, self-absorbed, spirit.
Lets be clear here, Jesus does not get caught up, in the struggling with, and therefore giving energy to, reactions, we know all too well. Instead he steps away from the possession. He sidesteps the barrier building spirit and includes the person trapped by it and in so doing extends compassion. This creative engagement of the larger situation brings the needed freedom and restores the man to his right mind.
We know that insecure, barrier building resisting unclean spirit.
We know the struggles we have with being possessed by jealousies, or addictions, or pride, or unhealthy lifestyles, or excessive worries, or unforgiving spirits – issues that need to be exorcised in order for us to live the light of God's New Day. We know the voice of fear, of insecurity and raving self-interest in our personal lives, often in our families, sometime at work and maybe even in our faith communities.
What we may not know is that what happened in the synagogue also happens to some extent in us every time we sense the shocking changes that Jesus brings, on his first Sabbath day on the job. Whenever we hear ourselves say or think an emphatic, "No way. Never!" That is the voice of the resistant spirit!
So now we know how to recognize it in ourselves and others. We also know we don't have to resist or fight or give any energy to the resistant spirit, afraid of the New Day Jesus brings. With Jesus, it can be creatively engaged.
The Application for Today:
The application for today is the three steps Jesus employs to creatively engage difficult situations whether within us or among us.
1. Sidestep the whining, complaining and resistance in the face of needed change.
2. Include a larger vision of who we can become and move towards a new freedom, participation and renewal.
3. Offer what is missing and needed in the situation for that freedom, participation and renewal to manifest.
Keeping the Faith
Following the Jesus way of God's New Day
we creatively engage the howls of resistance and fear.
Living the Jesus way of God's New Day
we sidestep the whining, complaining and resistance
in the face of needed change.
Sharing the Jesus way of God's New Day
we include a larger vision of who each of us can become
and offer a new freedom, participation and renewal.
Blessing the Jesus way of God's New Day
we freely give what is missing and needed in any situation,
for that freedom, inclusion, participation and renewal to manifest.