Epiphany 3B
Mark 1:14-20

A Liturgy is also available


In the traditional teachings of the church, following Jesus or ‘discipling’
has become an important theme in church life.

This morning’s story by the storyteller we call Mark, is one such story.
The calling of Simon and Andrew, James and John.

And by implication, the commencement of a movement
        which centred on the character and teachings
        of the wandering sage we call Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus certainly had followers.  Both men and women.
        It was one of the most common ways
        in which teaching and learning took place.

And while we can learn something of the roles men took
        in this process, from the various stories in our biblical tradition,
        the role women took goes almost unnoticed
                    until we read the Gospel of Mary - which didn’t make it into the biblical collection.

On the other hand, as to whether Jesus actually took the initiative
and carried out a recruitment drive,
        with the intention of organising a movement,
        I very much doubt.

I tend to agree with those who claim Jesus was a wandering or itinerant sage
without organisational intentions,
        and who never intended to found a movement much less a church.

A Jesus who was thoroughly consumed
in the religious/political concerns of his own time and place.

A Jesus whose focus was not on some mystified realm beyond time,
nor on some present world which we simply appreciate or accept.
          Rather, whose focus was on a new realm of God
          here and now, and ready to emerge.  
(Coverston 2005)

So, what we have in this particular story this morning,
is more the hand of the storyteller Mark or a particular community,
        rather than a record of one of the actual deeds of Jesus.

Either way, storyteller Mark seems to have a collection
of stories and sayings and theological reflections,
        some probably written fragments, but most retold
        and remembered from oral telling,
        and is weaving all of them together.

Adapting and weaving them together with a particular purpose in mind:
• so the small community can honour Jesus in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets…
• can hear a link between “Jesus’ ministry and John’s preceding one”  
(Cairns 2004:16) and
• hear and understand, remember and be empowered as people of the Way.


In the traditional teachings of the church, following Jesus or ‘discipling’
has also been associated with the evangelical
        missionary endeavour of ‘saving souls’.

Certainly that is how many preachers have understood
the metaphor, spoken exclusively it would seem to Simon and Andrew:
          ‘make you fishers of men’ or the more inclusive, ‘...people’.

But this metaphor is not only very tired and outdated,
it is also, I reckon, a misrepresentation of Jesus’ life and teachings.

So let me offer a few suggestions on all this as I invite your consideration.

Scholar Ched Myers, in his comments on this story,
offers an important and different interpretation, which suggests
        phrases like ‘fishers of men’ and ‘hooking of fish’
        are (Hebrew prophets) euphemisms for judgement upon the rich.

Myers says initially:
“Taking this mandate for his own, Jesus is inviting common folk to join him in his struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege”.

And again:
“...following Jesus requires not just assent of the heart, but a fundamental reordering of socio-economic relationships. The first step in dismantling the dominant social order is to overturn the ‘world’ of the disciple... This is not a call ‘out’ of the world, but into an alternative social practice.”
(Myers 2008: 132-133)

Not a call ‘out’ of the world, but into an alternative social practice.

Those words by Myers resonate with me.
Because they suggest to me that being a disciple in the 21st century
        requires us to engage in both social analysis
        as well as theological reflection.

And in so doing, to be reminded that the biblical 
and extra-biblical stories we hear and study and speculate about,
are not just earthly stories with heavenly meanings,
        but earthy stories with heavy meanings!


Recently I mentioned the American celebration called Martin Luther King Day,
a celebration more at home in America.

Some years back, journalist James Carroll, wrote an article called ‘The Dream and its Enemies’.
In it he suggested that while the outright racism of white supremacists was one of King’s enemies,
“almost equally infuriating to King was the complacency of the vast majority of Americans that allowed inequality to thrive.”
(Carroll. ‘Globe’, a New York Times Co. 2008)

Carroll went on:
“This nation honors Martin Luther King Jr today because of what he forced on it.  Recognitions that followed his challenge have taken on the character of rock-solid truth.  Segregation by race is deeply wrong, and the institutions of government that supported it were indefensible.  King's work freed whites as well as blacks from the prison of an inhuman perception, but, in fact, few white people ever came to see things as he did.”

Not a call ‘out’ of the world, but into an alternative social practice...
Can 'Australia Day' also become a call into an alternative social practice?


Discipling, as the storyteller we call Mark suggests,
is about accepting the urgent invitation to ‘break with business as usual’.
        To re-imagine the world, both personal and communal.

In our time might it not also suggest that
complacency, in all its forms, is the last thing we should fall into.

Cairns, I. J. Mark of a Non-realist. A Contemporary Reading of the Second Gospel. New Zealand: Masterton. Fraser Books, 2004.
Coverston, H. S. “Ears to Hear? Who is my Neighbour? Preaching with Integrity and Moral Reasoning”. Seminar Papers, Westar Institute, Fall. Santa Rosa, 2005.
Myers, C. Binding the Strong Man. A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus
. Special edition. Maryknoll. Orbis Books, 2008.