We have been hearing stories for the last couple of weeks, stories that remind us that God loves us, that we are the delight of God's life. Stories of baptism, God claims us, and we are marked as God's own forever. God calls us, God shows up with us and for us. God calls us wonderfully and fearfully made.
In the gospel of Mark, there is no pussy-footing around. There is no nativity story as there is in Luke, there are no begats like in Matthew, and no soaring language like in John. No, Mark gets right to the point. In the first sentences the writer says, this is about the Good News, who is Jesus the Messiah. John announced Jesus, Jesus is baptized, and the next thing you know Jesus is calling disciples. Hardly enough time to get strapped in before we hit the first 200 foot climb followed by a one second drop. Mark gets down to business.
It's not much different for these fisher people. Just imagine this. Just imagine being in that fishing boat with Simon and Andrew, with James and John, having fished all night. You're exhausted, and you must fix the holes in your nets before you can call it a day. You just want to get the work finished, take your haul home, and go to bed. And Jesus passes by. He yells from the shore, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." Who is this guy? How can you make a living fishing for people? How's that going to pay the bills? How's that going to put food on the table? How's that going to bring any honor to the family? This is just crazy. And yet you go. And yet you step out of the boat and follow. What is so compelling about this man that causes you to leave your father, to leave your livelihood, to leave your honor, and follow.
Mark doesn't give us a whole lot of clues about what is so compelling about this man Jesus, except to tell us that this is the Good News of Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus is the truth, Jesus speaks the truth, Jesus knows your truth. And that is compelling. And when you say yes to the call, you don't really know what to expect, except that your life will be change forever. When you say yes to the call, Love wins, mercy prevails, compassion lives.
Because that is the way it is with Jesus, it isn't easy, comfortable, or clear. So what does saying yes to the call look like? It looks like a guy who walks to the other side of the road to help someone who had been attacked by strangers. It looks like a woman who gives a man a cool drink of water at the well. It looks like the soil that is rocky, that is thorny, and that is fertile. It looks like the tiniest of seeds.
Being perfect, or even having our act together, is not a prerequisite to saying yes to Jesus' call. Remember the Old Testament story that is before us today from Jonah. What we heard is the conclusion of God calling Jonah. The beginning of that story goes like this. The word of the Lord came to Jonah, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Jonah's response to God's call was to turn tail and run. Not unlike most of us when we hear God's call. Jonah ran from God until he could run no further, Jonah said no to God for as long as he could. The result of Jonah's eventual yes, was that everyone turned away from their evil ways; maybe in other words, they turned toward mercy and compassion. That is what it looks like to repent.
Saying yes to Jesus' call is what frees us to be who we are, and to live the truth of who we are, beloved and forgiven. I think the reason people say no to God, and say no to church, is because of the mistaken belief that you have to be perfect to stand before God and others. I think the reason that has happened is because some who call themselves Christian have set up some sort of perfection checklist, some sort of standard of behavior that no one can live up to, and everyone begins to live a lie.
Saying yes to Jesus is to say yes to the truth; the truth of who we are. We are people who are broken; we are people who make mistakes, some huge mistakes, some not so much. We are people who betray. We are people who love and who fall short of love. We are people who get ourselves into trouble with wanting too much and expecting too little. We are people who believe we can make it on our own and forget we are not the center of the universe. We are people who erect and worship idols. We are people who build walls around us so thick to guard our brokeness and to look perfect.
Saying yes to Jesus, saying yes to the truth, looks like the guy who spent some time in jail, and who can listen to others trying to find their way. It looks like the mom who struggled to live through addiction, and who can listen to other moms who are so afraid to face up to their own lies. It looks like couples that work through the depths of sadness, recommit to each other, and listen to those who can't see the possibility. It is each and every one of us knowing we are just inches away from losing our job, or losing our home, or losing our spouse, and living in the midst of hope and joy anyway, because Jesus lived it all too.
Saying yes to Jesus is to say yes to the truth. And the truth will set you free. Saying yes to Jesus is to let love win, it is to let the mercy and the compassion seep into our scars and heal us. It is to let love win and let the mercy and the compassion transform us. When you say yes, your life begins to change, you are in the presence of God, and your truth begins to invite others into healing. Jesus' truth, your truth, your life in God's presence invites others to live a live fully alive, a live filled with truth, with love, with mercy and compassion. Your life begins to show forth the moral decision making that is apparent in the baptismal covenant. You begin to do what is right, instead of what is selfish or greedy. You bear Jesus' light in the world, and those you encounter, those who encounter you, witness the truth of your life and are invited to be healed by Jesus. Come and see.
Studies are showing that people today and especially those under 50 don't so much want to GO to church as they want to BE the church. I'm wondering how we can empower one another, as we go to church, to be able to live out our calling as we seek to be the church. How do you live out your calling, out there in the world? At work, at school, at play. That is being the church. As you do that, more and more, as you make the invitation into Love, others will come, you will see.
"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Frederick Buechner.