“Jesus Calls Disciples to Follow Him”
a sermon based on Mark 1:9-11 & 14-22
This is a very special day, with a baptism and with new members joining our church. The Annual Congregational Meeting will commence as soon as the worship service is done. So let’s get into the sermon…
After John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus picked up his theme… and began saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” (The Old English word “gospel” simply means “Good News”.)
The Good News that Jesus brought was this: that God knows you (and me), and loves you and me (and all people) with the intense, personal, intervening kind of love like a parent has for their child.
When Jesus would speak about God (or pray to God), he used the word “Abba”, which means Father in Hebrew. In fact, when we are first introduced to Jesus, Mark writes: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1) “Son” is a metaphor of personal relationship: such as the relations between a parent and a child. And then (as we heard in the first Scripture reading) as Jesus was being baptized by John: when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10-11) It was like getting a love note, or a valentine.
So the Good News that Jesus brought -- his “gospel” -- was that the God who made you, knows you, and loves you… like the love a mother or father has toward their own child. Jesus brought that kind of news to people who felt “set-aside” in their society (for one reason or another); judged or shunned by the more religious-types; lonely, perhaps. Jesus brought his gospel to people who felt put-down, put-out, or put-upon… Jesus’ brought the news that it is God’s inner-most, ut-most, heart-felt desire that all people be included in God’s kingdom. No more “us” insiders and “them” outsiders. This Gospel is Good News for those people who felt like left-outs and left-overs -- people who wanted a new direction in life, or needed to be reconciled, or healed, or to be forgiven.
I am taking the time this morning to make sure we are clear about Jesus’ Gospel on this day of new members joining and when we hold our Annual Meeting. Before we do any business as a church, we need to know what business we are in! We need to know Jesus -- what he taught and what he did -- if we presume to call ourselves “Christian.” We modern-day disciples -- as much as those four fishermen we met in the second Scripture reading -- need to know just who we are following.
Jesus once said that “a disciple (or student) is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (Luke 6:40) That’s my primary goal as your Minister: that each of us knows Jesus, our teacher and role model, well enough to replicate in our lives the effect He had on people in His world. When we join the church, each of us makes the promise to (as best we are able) “take Jesus as our example, his Spirit as our spirit, and his Way as our own.”
The first thing Jesus did, after John the Baptist was arrested, was to pick up the mantle himself and start proclaiming the same message as John had done: “The time is fulfilled. (that is, the time is now!) The Kingdom of God is at hand. (God is right here, right now… right on!) Repent, and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
It sounds simple enough, but this was a bold thing on Jesus’ part. You see, that was the very same kind of preaching that had gotten the Baptist into trouble with the authorities. (!) “The time is now” – “carpe diem” -- seize the day. God’s Realm is present and active, here and now! Heaven has opened up and come down; God is nearby. “It’s time to repent” -- which simply means change directions, change our minds, change our attitudes, change our behavior -- metanoia (the Greek word for “repent”) means “turn around” -- and believe the good news -- evangelion in Greek -- the Gospel.