Reflection on This Week’s Readings

IN THE NETS OF THE KINGDOM

Jan, wandering seat to seat on the bus, was crossing state lines from Michigan to Wisconsin. Bruce had sent her the ticket. The two met at a church youth convention; now she was going to be his high school prom date. Here’s how it happened: At the youth gathering, during each morning’s worship, the two held the same green hymn book. During the afternoon Bible studies, sitting cross-legged in a circle on the floor, she read compellingly from her red leatherette Bible. For evening reflections, the prayers she pulled from her blue plastic packet of devotions swept the room. Bruce was bedazzled. That’s why he bought the ticket. When Jan stepped off the bus, she shimmered, telling him how from seat to seat along Highway 2 she had saved souls, netting fourteen converts on a colorful missionary journey.

As delighted as Jan might have been, her proselytizing was not the kind of fishing for people Jesus was after when he passed along the Sea of Galilee, calling oily fishermen to “follow me.” What shook Simon and Andrew, James and John, and countless women and men throughout the ages to—immediately, impulsively—give up their nets, quit mending, abandon boats, and leave families and homes?

Jesus’ wild, sea-changing challenge demands courage. It dares us into a way of living, a manner of seeing, and a risk of not knowing but earnestly believing that when he asks us to step up, something more meaningful than all we have awaits us.

Jesus’ “follow me” comes amid a lifetime of rigorous monotony, in which we are constantly casting nets to catch more of what never satisfies. Jesus’ “follow me” is an epiphany. It is an invitation, not to “save souls,” but to be gathered and to gather the weak and despairing, to minister to the ruined and abandoned, scared and starving, to show compassion to the mean and unloving, and to embrace the great, greedy, proud, and demanding; all of this awaits us in the nets of God’s kingdom.

From sundaysandseasons.com.

READINGS FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

In year B, the third through the sixth Sundays after Epiphany read slowly through Chapter 1 of Mark. Through the reading of this word, Jesus once again begins his ministry also in our congregations.
When Jesus calls us to believe in the good news and follow him, our lives are “immediately” altered by the proclamation of the word. The adverb “immediately” appears twice here and 27 times in the NRSV translation of Mark’s gospel, not counting all the use of “at once.” So it is that we stand for the gospel reading, on our feet, ready to follow.
The passage from the short story of Jonah is chosen to parallel Jesus’ call of his disciples. Jonah was called by God and now is calling even his nation’s enemies to repent and believe. Such Old Testament selections proclaim that our God was, throughout time and place, always merciful.
Each year in the Sundays after Epiphany the lectionary reads through 1 Corinthians, one of the seminal writings of Paul. Paul’s advice in Chapter 7 on sexual and status issues differs from Matthew’s that we heard in year A. Whether or not we join Paul in assuming that the world will soon come to an end, we agree that life in Christ makes our old values give way to new ones. The reading is a good complement to the call narratives in Mark and Jonah.

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