Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
January 21st, 2018
Mark 1: 14-20
“Let us now listen with our minds and our hearts to this ancient accounting from the gospel according to Mark, chapter one, verses 14 thru 20.”
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.” 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.
“Building A Team!”
It has come to my attention, more than once that the things that occur in our lives as children, have a real impact upon us as we grow to adulthood. Take for example what occurred for me when I was just entering the sixth grade after moving into a new community, in a new state when my father found it necessary to move us away from where I was brought up as a youngster, to a town closer to where he was working. As an adult, looking back, I am certain it was a solid decision at the time. But as a sixth grader, getting on a school bus and traveling to a school I had never been to, and being the ‘new kid’ in a classroom full of strangers was nothing but traumatic! Simple things occurred, like the morning role call, when the teacher badly mispronounced my name. How can you mess up a biblical name like Timothy? Or a good English name like Woodard? OK you got me there, the English spell it with two w’s, Woodward.
Hopefully, you are getting the idea, being new in a class room is really-hard when you are ten years old. One day the teacher made us say what nationality we were. No one had ever asked me that before, nor had it been discussed as a child as I was growing up. Kids were saying words like: Polish, Italian, German, English, Irish, and French. Came my turn I blurted out that I was American! The class erupted in laughter… at my expense of course. I cannot recall what occurred after that, but I know that I as a child, I was mortified! As an adult, I am kind of proud of my outburst! I am an American first, my background, my origin comes second! But, being ten years old in the sixth grade in a new school is not easy.
Oh, let me tell you about the day everyone wanted to play baseball during a long recess. I had never played any baseball. Two team captains were quickly chosen. They decided who went first by some type of ritual with a bat. As they alternated grasping the bat with their hands, the last one who could grasp it went first. All went well until I was the only one not chosen. Seems that whomever had to have me on their team, I was to be their handicap! The consensus was that the shy introverted dumb new kid surely couldn’t play ball well. Unfortunately, they were right. Finally, the deed was done, and I was on a team. God was merciful, I never did get my turn at bat that day… the rest of what occurred is a blur. One thing was for sure, the lot of us, were nothing but a rag-tag unimpressive group of kids, and the only unified team effort that day was trying to compensate for being stuck with me on their team!
You know the rest of the story. I survived and some how became an adult while in the U. S. Air Force somewhere between Boot-Camp and while serving in Thailand during the Vietnam war. South East Asia, in the sixties, had a way of sweating out of a guy, the nonsense of childhood things. It cost me many hours of therapy years later to put these things into their proper prospective. I was forty-three before I accepted my calling into ordained ministry and became a member of a new team. Of course, the team captain, was none other than Jesus himself! Most of you have heard that story before. While watching the movie: “Jesus of Nazareth” I came to believe that in the scene of the movie, the same scene described in this mornings scripture lesson that Jesus himself was inviting me to follow him and join his team. Which I have clearly done! In many ways radically different than that day I was ‘chosen’ to play on a ‘rag-tag’ baseball team.
Last week we discussed how Jesus entered his formal ministry by being Baptized by John the Baptist at the river Jordan. He was then lead by, driven perhaps, most certainly ‘compelled’ by the Holy Spirit to go out into the desert wilderness, where he was tested and ultimately prepared for his difficult journey into public ministry. Now today, Jesus appears, after his wilderness experience, ready to choose and to build his team. This team was meant to be trained by Jesus, to follow in his path, along the rugged journey of ministry, which Jesus was called to and destined to fulfill! So, let us take a few minutes to consider what type of a team he was pulling together. Was it just a rag-tag bunch of men he chooses! At first glance it clearly was. We know Jesus was being guided by the hand of God, and the Holy Spirit was upon him, so perhaps he was seeing in these men things which we, or others, could not yet see.
First, let us consider what we know about the men chosen that day. The author of this accounting from Mark tells us just the basics. “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.” /Mark 1:16/ “As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.” /Mark 1:19/ OK, we learn they were fishermen. These men were fishing upon the sea of Galilee. That’s it! We are told nothing else. From what we have learned about that time-period, we must assume that these were not rich men. Nor were they considered to be over achievers. They were just fishermen. This is how they carved out a living to support themselves and their families. Usually, we have learned, they would pool together to buy a boat. Perhaps they owed someone for the boat, we are not sure of that fact. But, we can assume, it was probably the only option they had, or they and their families would go without. There were no social charities or government subsidies to sustain them if they failed either. No, they were under the thumb of the Romans, living as a conquered nation. The Romans allowed the religious leaders to rule over these men and their families to help keep order. Therefore, we can assume, they were dirt poor.
Yet, their decision to follow Jesus, and join his team, was a major decision and it appears they made it without giving this much thought. Perhaps, in their situation, this was not as hard to do as we may surmise from our vantage point, as modern era Christians. Walking away from family responsibilities and duties seems almost irresponsible from our views from here. Yet, their situation was radically different than ours is today. In today’s society, in which we live, it would be irresponsible to walk away from our duties to our families and our responsibilities in our social setting. This is why, in our denomination, the larger church which we are a part of, we have committees like the one I serve on, called: The Committee on Church and Ministry. Within that committee structure, we work with individuals whom believe they have a call from God to serve in public ministry. It is a process of discernment. A process where we help individuals determine their “Calling.” We are all called by God, yet, not all of us are called to public ministry! There are many ways to answer our callings. And there are many ways to serve the ministry to which Jesus calls us to serve.
How do you and I make such a decision – to become a part of the team that serves the church – the church which Jesus himself started? Yes, that was an overly simplistic statement. But let us not get lost in the details of the many, many splits, chasms and such of the modern Christian Church. Let us keep this relatively simple. Jesus was pulling together a crew, a team, to help him start a movement meant to radically change how people were to understand their relationship with God. In the simplest understanding of this, Jesus, was starting a teaching, within his short three-year ministry, which was to revolutionize how God was to be understood! Clearly, there are many different and various understandings of how we, the people, are meant to interpret what he did. This is where we now find ourselves. We are one of the sub-groups of Christians who now believe in the ministry of Jesus in a certain way.
We are not an oppressed people, under the rule of a foreign power that has conquered us and driven us from our home land. In contrast, we are a part of a very powerful nation, which has tremendous influence and authority over many nations around the world. Therefore, as we look to how our callings need to be implemented, we must take these circumstances into account. Some of us are called to do radically important roles in our society, outside the walls of this our church. God bless you! Fulfill the roles to which you have been called by God, utilizing the gifts God has given you! Some of us are called to be good parents and good teachers and to care for ourselves along the way. This can be a full time calling, of which those called sometimes must make hard decisions to accomplish, with integrity, their roll, their tasks. With these thoughts in mind, we are given the tools of discernment necessary, or better stated: we are given the ability to judge and decide what is essential to clarify the work, the mission we must now accomplish!
In the story of the fisherman being called by Jesus, their choices were limited, and the risks were balanced with their speculation that this Jesus might be the new Messiah, the one who, like Moses, would free them from their oppressors! When we consider our calling, we must do likewise. We must ascertain what our callings are based on, taking into consideration who we are, and where we are in our journeys of life. Ordained, public ministry is not for everyone. Likewise, raising a child is not for everyone. Taking the lead in a social justice crusade that might get you thrown in jail is not for everyone! Timing is always a critical point in these types of choices and decisions. At age seventy, I probably would be a poor candidate to become an Olympic skier! Based on what I recently told you, regarding my skiing abilities, it is extremely unlikely I could reach that goal! Likewise, if you are over seventy, you probably are not the best candidate to go back to school to become an ordained minister, seeking to lead a local church like our own. Yet, a retired pastor like myself may feel called to continue serving well past their seventieth birthday!
For many, answering the call to serve in some capacity within their church can come at a very early stage in life, while others may come to serve during the twilight of their lives. One ought not to feel left out, if their current call is to fulfill some other role outside their church. Bearing in mind, there are many differing ways to serve the needs of one’s church; and various ways to answer God’s calling! Yet, others of us, may need to reconsider what we are still able to do and seriously consider how we can serve this our church! Maybe this is your time to stand up and pick up the mantle of ministry! One New Testament professor talks about the many different times of our lives in which God reaches out to us. “God in Jesus Christ comes to us in our most unexpected moments.” /Paul S. Berge/ This very well may be that unforeseen and unanticipated moment for you! Another theologian asks us a challenging question. “What would make you drop everything and pursue an entirely new life?” /David Lose/ Are you willing to answer that question?
Most of us are past sixth grad now. And we may not be trying to build a baseball team. Yet, this church needs a team of volunteers, whom work together for the common goals of this our church. Jesus the Christ, is our leader and thankfully, has left us a set of guidelines to live by. Our goal here is simple: To come together “as we continue to think openly, believe passionately, and serve boldly!”
May God always bless you! Amen.