3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Mark 1: 14-20
- Last week I spoke a bit about how the Trinity family can help you to deepen your relationship with the Living God – how we can make your spiritual life more fulfilling and nourishing.
- I shared from Fully Awake and Truly Alive: Spiritual Practices to Nurture Your Soul, Pastor Jane Vennard’s vision that many things can be seen as spiritual practices: traditional ones like Worship, Prayer, Meditation, etc.; but also those things that nourish your soul like gardening, baking, spending time with grandchildren, walking your dog, caressing your cat, singing or making music in some way, etc. She asks, “What if all those activities that nurture our souls and refresh our spirits could be experienced as either prayer, or as spiritual practices, or both?”
- As I shared last Sunday, those who were called to follow Jesus were looking for something deeper and more powerful in their lives, “We have found HIM!” they said.
- Today we hear the calling of disciples again, but not just to become fully spiritually awake for themselves. Today they are told that if they follow Jesus, they are called to bring OTHERS into a dynamic, life-transforming relationship.
- “Follow me and you will soon fish for people,” Jesus says.
- And, amazingly, they drop their nets and leave their father and the life and livelihood they have known, and follow.
- As you have heard me say before, this Christian life is not just about you and God, it is about you and God and others.
- My Dad often advised me, early in my ministry, that when things in the life of a pastor get you down, “Go out and visit and be with the people.” It truly nourishes you – spiritually and emotionally. Sometimes I find, when I am with someone providing pastoral care, that I get more out of the encounter than the person to whom I am ministering. IT IS TRUE!
- Our Old Testament lesson from Jonah is about a reluctant prophet. (We don’t hear the whole story in today’s lesson, but it is there.) God called Jonah to go to Ninevah and call them into a new relationship, turning from their sinful ways toward a God-centered life. He didn’t want to go. He ran the other way. If you know the story, you find how God used a ship, a storm and a “big fish” to get Jonah to finally do what he was called by God to do.
- In today’s lesson, we hear that Jonah preaches and Ninevah – that great city – repents and God changes his mind sparing the city. After what we hear today, the story continues with Jonah leaving the city and pouting. He wanted to see God destroy the city for all their wickedness.
- Perhaps sometimes we are like Jonah. We are interested in getting our OWN connection with God right – deepening our relationship with God, but not so sure we are interested in helping others on the journey. “I’ve got enough problems just taking care of my own life.” “I don’t always feel close to God, and certainly don’t understand how God acts. You want me to invite OTHERS to have a relationship with this God??” “Look, these folks are sinners, and they’ve got what is coming to them. It’s not my place to encourage them to open themselves up to your presence in a new way God. Get someone else to do it!”
- Being a disciple, a follower of Jesus is not just about learning from him how to pray and meditate and worship the Father. Being a disciple is about learning from Jesus how to minister to others – go outside our comfort zone – to listen with empathy, to encourage, to be in solidarity with those who suffer or feel lost or empty.
- We are called to FISH FOR PEOPLE – to bring them as they are ready into a dynamic relationship with a God who is so loving and powerful that he meets suffering, lost, empty people where they are with the vision of the Cross. To gently tell them that Jesus is a companion who died for them, but did not stay dead. That emptiness, suffering, abandonment and being lost is not the final word. Resurrection comes, not just for Jesus, not just at the end of time – but within the lives of Jesus’ disciples – here and now.
- There are many ways that you can do this. Of course, being open to friends and family, coworkers who are going through difficult times is obvious. Remembering that listening is the FIRST STEP of sharing the Good News.
- But there are other ways in which you can fish. As you have heard from me before the words of Fredrick Buechner: Where your greatest love and the world’s greatest need intersect, THAT is the place where God is calling you to serve.
- As you think about your passion – that activity that nourishes your soul – your spiritual practice: is it something that you can share, that the world needs?
- Do you love animals? Can you help take care of abandoned ones? Advocate for ethical treatment of God’s creatures who need our protection?
- Is music what gets you going? Can you sing or play and share, not just for yourself, but to enrich the lives of others?
- Perhaps you like to listen to music. Can you find others to share your passion or teach them what is so special for you and the specific type of music you enjoy?
- Do you write? What about stepping out in faith and sharing some of your poetry?
- Do you feel a special connection to God when you cook? Right here at Trinity with our Fellowship or Community Supper, your skills can brighten someone’s day.
- Maybe you really like to pray. Praying not only alone but with others has amazing power. Ministering with the sick is DEFINITELY needed. Marching for justice is especially relevant these days.
- If you are lucky enough, you can turn your greatest love into a profession, so you can make a livelihood from it – actually help the world, and make a living.
- But if you have to spend your time in a career that is not so satisfying, because rent and utilities and other expenses MUST be paid – find a way to live with your passion, and share it with others, with the world.
- Fishing for people takes many forms.
- If you really have a passion for something, and the world really needs that – you will let your light shine. And God will bless the work you do. And others will come to know the joy of a God who makes church, and music, and children, and animals and poetry.
- C’mon. Let’s go fishing!