Good morning. All right, I need a little more enthusiasm this morning. Good morning, I'm glad to see you here. For those who I have not met, my name is Brian Gordon and I'm the new pastor here at First United Methodist and the Connection here, and glad to have you here. And today we're gonna look at a scripture from the Gospel of Mark as we begin this new year, together, as Mark 1:14 - 20. So let's hear together God's word.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” He said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” And as Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little bit farther, he saw James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John in the boat preparing their nets. Without delay he called them and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men and followed him. This is God's word for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
There will be a little test on all the names of all the people that were called by Jesus after the service. Just write those out on your card and we'll be. We'll be good to go. No, there will be no test, but Jesus has come to show us the way.
How many of you, like to set big goals for yourself. Do you always reach those goals? No, we don't. But it's a good thing for us to set goals that are that are out there, something we can can strive for, things that can push us to be, go beyond ourselves.
One of the things that I've loved to do over the years is to is to is to run and want to, and I talk about that this week because of the here in the Starkville we're having the Frostbite (race) and, and Steve and I heard you're, you're running in that next, this next week too.
Prayers appreciated, yes always, always.
But one of the things I've always loved about that is I don't always enjoy the run in the, in the middle of the run, but when you get to the end. When I ran my first Marathon years, years ago more years than I want to be able to say, but I can remember getting to the, the end of it and about two miles from the end and I just and I just started tearing up because I was just like, oh wow, you know this goal that I had set and said I'm gonna, I'm gonna make it, I'm gonna make it that.
You know, we need those things that that are out in in front of us.
One of the things we do is is to say, for students coming back to school, you know, we set, we've set goals short term for our semester and and then long term for what we want to do. And when you're new, I know this is a kind of middle of the year, but when you first come to school, what happens? You have to have to find your way around. You have to learn where all the buildings are, where your classes are gonna are going to be.
One school in in Hawaii, the University of Hawaii, they have I think they said 48,000 students. I cannot imagine that many students in one place and I can't imagine why they would want to go to Hawaii. But in 2018, they set up this new system to help students find their way around and and they included, they have a large number of the native people, native Hawaiians, that are there and and they use their indigenous language. And a unique thing about their campus is it's spread across many different islands. I think they said it's about from the farthest campus to the other is about 300 miles across.
I mean many almost, and if you put it on the continental United States, just from, like, dc to Ohio, it's a long way from from one to the other. But what they did is they made up signs and and these maps and you could take your phone and you could scan that QR code and it could tell you not only where you wanted to go, but it could tell you you know what's the waterfall that's over here? Or there's a volcano over here.
What are the, the unique things about where you are that grounds you in the place that you are?
These are like landmarks, these significant landmarks that help people know where they are and who they are. And this is something similar to what Jesus is calling his disciples to. He's in Galilee and he's walking evidently by the seashore and he calls these first disciples to something new, to a new kind of landmark. It's the kingdom of God.
Now, when we think about, what is the kingdom of God? Is the kingdom of God a place? Is it like going to the beach or going to the mountains? It's not a place, but it's more about how God's power is at work. Maybe when we talk about the kingdom of God, it's more about talking about the reign of God or the kingship of God.
There's a writer who talks about this and says that God's reign is at work to restore the earth and all that's in it. Now we know in our world we need a lot of restoration, we need reconciliation with each other. But what Jesus comes to do is in the midst of our conflict and in the midst of our struggles and the midst of our hurts. He comes to give us a victory, to give us a new way of seeing the world and seeing each other.
So Jesus comes to us to give us a direction, to give us a new life. When we maybe if you, when you were in school, I had to change my major a couple of times when I was in school and you get a new direction, you get reoriented, you get resent. This is what he's calling us to.
When he comes to announce the kingdom, the first thing he says in verse 15 is come to repent. Repent and believe the good news. How many of you know what repent means? What's a good definition of repent? Apologize.
Apologize Like to just lay out your sins, lay them out and say I want to do better. Yes, it's to say I want to do better, I want to turn around, I want to change direction, I want to reverse kind of reverse course, change my mind about who I am right now. But what Jesus says is that the first step in following him is to repent and then to believe the good news that he is who he says he is. He wants to call us into the kingdom of God.
Sometimes that's a hard thing to do, even when we want to change and be. Better is to turn ourselves around in a different direction and go a different way than we have been. I heard once people would rather be, or sometimes happier, being stuck in the rut they're familiar with than trying something new. It's easier because going and doing something new is scary. But when we're willing to do this, we discover that the words of Jesus are true.
He says those who want to save their life will lose it. Those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it.
We find that greatness in life doesn't come from our beating someone else or achieving victory over someone else, but it comes when we find the kingdom of God at work in our life, when we decide. It doesn't matter if I'm first or if I'm last. What is important is that we find out that Jesus is at the center of who we are and how we treat other people.
When Jesus talks about the power of this kingdom that he's proclaiming, it's not about dominating others, but finding those who are sick and helping to heal them, to find those who are suffering from being unable to forgive someone else or forgive themselves and pronounce forgiveness, to cast out demons, to feed the hungry.
What he's come to do is to find in this broken world, to find a place of wholeness and healing. This is who Jesus is.
So where do we find this kingdom of God? We find it in an unexpected place. We find this power when we live not for ourselves, but we live with sacrifice and service and we look for places where we can offer healing and hope. And this is the new direction that he gives to his followers when he calls them.
In the Scripture today, he says, as he passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea. And for they were fishermen. And Jesus said follow me and I will make you fish for people. He's redirecting them. They're being resent. They didn't know that that was the path that they were going to take. He was pointing them to a different place, a better place, something they had never imagined they could see before. And what was their response? They repented. They changed their course, they reversed direction.
And again, what does that mean? That there's something that's not right in our life that we can't change ourselves, but Jesus can change for us. that we reorient ourselves. We are repentant.
So first we repent and then we can be resent.
They, immediately, when they were called, left their nets and followed Him, and then you think well, as he finished there, said no, he keeps going on down the beach a little further and he saw James and his brother John, who were in a boat mending the nets, and he called them and they left their father in the boat.
It says their father is Zebedeh, who had other workers with them, and their following Jesus was an even bigger change for them and for their family. They were in that fishing business. Their father, zebedeh, may have had big dreams of what their business was going to be for the future, but they were going to have to make a change.
So he calls the disciples, he calls us, to a new way of being and to be fishers of people. They began by doing what? By repenting, and then they are resent, repent and then you are resent. And this is how they began that journey of sharing the good news of God's kingdom with others, to bring a ministry of healing and helping and serving and sacrificing. It's maybe not the life that they imagined it was going to be, but it is a new direction that they never anticipated.
Now, going looking back at the University of Hawaii, that system was designed to inform people about their landmarks, to anchor it in their history and in their culture. And for the indigenous people, the land was very important. It anchored them in who they were, in the natural world around them.
And the same is true for us, that when we remember who we are and we are acknowledging who we are, we come from a particular place, and that is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God makes us who we are, the spiritual land on which we stand provides us with important landmarks, and when we can change our direction and when we can follow after Jesus, it changes our relationship with everything, with everyone. So how do we do that? But by putting the values of God's kingdom in place in our life.
There's a woman by the name of Alyssa Wilkinson. She's a film critic and she looks at all kinds of different films, not just Christian films. But one of the things she says she tries to bring to her work is love, she said. Love bids us to care for and identify with others beyond our own level of comfort. Think about that. As members of God's kingdom, we're called to love other people beyond the level of our own comfort, beyond the point of our own comfort.
That means that person we don't agree with at work who always disagrees with us.
Maybe there's an immigrant worker at the grocery store.
Maybe there's a teenager who's struggling with who they want to be.
Maybe there's a neighbor we just can't ever seem to get on the same page with.
What our relationship with God calls us into is to being in relationship with those who are different than us and still knowing that, even if we disagree about things, about certain things, that we still have that foundation together in Jesus. and Jesus, just as he called those first disciples, says that he's saying to us the kingdom of God has come near. What does that mean? It means that it's not quite here yet. It remains our destination. We can see it, maybe off in the distance, and we can see glimpses of it.
There was a story from a book called Windows of the Heavens. There was in this book a Methodist pastor by the name of Harley Camden. He was reading to his congregation from the book of Revelation. He said, “the angel showed me the river of life, of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” And then he says to them, “begin with the end in mind.”
He says today's scripture is the end of the story. It's the goal to which God is moving from the first day of creation to the end of time. God wants there to be harmony between water and the cities, between plant life and all human development, between the city and the river and the tree of life, all of these things live in harmony for the healing of the nations.
He pauses for a moment and he says again begin with the end in mind. That’s the good news of the kingdom of God that was first proclaimed by Jesus is that God is working to bring harmony to all of our relationships, to relationships between heaven and earth, between human beings, between human society and the natural world, that God is coming to create a world of love and justice and healing and hope.
When we repent and we're resent in the direction he sends us, he calls us, we begin to make decisions that are in line with the kingdom of God. That journey begins with a single step, when we say that we'll follow him, when we begin with the end in mind that were those who were called to again repent, be resent and go out into the world with a new purpose, with a new beginning.
You know we're at again at the beginning of a new year and have that opportunity to make a change in who God has called us to be. May we follow as those first disciples follow.
Let us pray, dear Lord, we just thank you, but we thank you that, no matter who we are, no matter where we've been, no matter how we might have messed up, no matter how we've strayed from the path, or that you continue to come to us, you continue to reach out to us and call us into new life. A new life that not only changes us, but a new life that changes those that we are around, that changes the very world around us. Well, we just pray this morning that you would Lord call, as you call those first disciples names, you would call our name today and say follow me. And Lord, may we say yes and we pray all this in Jesus' name, amen.