From the moment of his declaration that this is “the beginning of the good news”,
Mark is off like a jack rabbit,
like pressurized water suddenly set free,
like a person running late in the winter,
grabbing, on the way out the door,
a bagel a scarf and a briefcase,
sliding along the sidewalk, coat flapping, to the bus.
Like a person running late, Mark grabs, the Baptist, the Baptism,the Kingdom’s announcement
and then is off, sliding along the sidewalk of words (without rubbers)to catch the conveyance that is the Word.
It is a breathless dash, this gospel. It is good to reach out for what we can as it travels. in the challenging, ever- new way of gospel it may be a different something each time the good news surges through us.
Repent, Jesus says, turn around, and believe in the good news under and in the midst of all the bad news that surrounds you. Work for the wholeness of creation but know also that I have already set it motion, tilted it toward myself. I am here to catch you in my heart.
I am here to catch you in my heart.
“Follow me”, he says to the men fishing, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. And they do, immediately. Immediately, is a favourite word in Mark’s fast-moving narrative and it may inspire us with its life-changing decisiveness. We may have experienced this sudden impulse of saying yes, leaving something behind.
Their immediate response may inspire or, it may make the story seem remote, improbable.
The fishers’ quick responses, knowing how long our own sometimes take may make the story seem remote, like a fairy-tale and we might be unable to see ourselves as those called. If this is the case, we can recall responses to so many other calls in scripture that came about slowly, reluctantly and know that speed is not the essence.
We can also delve into the conditions that must have wound up the lives of these four men like springs ready to bolt. Simon, Andrew, James and John are fishing from the shores of the Galilee near Capernaum a major harbour.
Capernaum had recently moved into the shadow of the newly built city of Tiberius, given its name by Herod Antipas after the emperor Tiberius, built and named by Herod as a kind of political boot-licking. Tiberius became an administrative and military centre, its main function to regulate the fishing industry around the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum now lived in the shadow of the city and under its foot.Fishing interests were rigidly controlled by the state. Corporate interests bought up the fish for export. The prices were regulated in ways that didn’t favour those who fished and taxes imposed on both the fish and its processing. Leases and licenses were tightly controlled. Those who fished in ancient Galilee were oppressed and desperate. Theirs was a marginal existence, like the oppressed marginal existences we see in so many places,
Elders in long term care
Blacks in a social order scripted by whites
Indigenous Canadians in a culture shaped by settlers
Small farmers in the face of agribusiness . . .
When Jesus came close to them, his breath, the breath of the Kingdom, his beat, the beat of the community of God, liberation and healing in the shape of him. They followed, immediately.
With his call and their following Jesus put life on notice –
He was upending the social order. He was starting in a beaten-down, marginal place with those who were exploited. He was, with his call of the fishers, both warning the oppressors and comforting those they oppressed. He was announcing that his was a different kingdom; that he was a living kindom; a community of fullness for all.
This One has invited us out of any system that demeans and into the work of God’s community.
Some have grown leery of the metaphor of fishing for people, sensitized to the way it’s been used to bolster a kind of predatory, invasive push to “saving souls”, a kind of hauling in of captured converts. But there is a better way to understand it. “This “fishing for people,” says Ched Myers, “should be understood more in the sense of Dr. Martin Luther King’s struggle “for the soul of [the nation]”.
This is not a fairy tale. It is story critically engaged with a political system and the struggle for justice. Deeper than that it is the call for relationship with the One in whom justice lives. It is the call to come close to the One who is the commonwealth, the kingdom, the community of God. Our coming close, though it may begin immediately, is a long work of becoming. Simon and Andrew, James and John may follow immediately. But we know, and they will come to learn, that becoming a follower in the way of Jesus takes forever.
Remember those words we often miss. The words that lead up to fishers of people
“I will cause you to become”. Jesus walking by the water, just out of the wilderness, calls.
Leave what you’re doing, and I will cause you to become . . . .
I will cause you to become, . . . fishers for people.
I will cause you to become gatherers of community.
I will cause you to become net menders of hearts that are broken.
I will cause you to become who you already are, most truly
though you may not yet know it,
one caught in Love by the beloved Son.
I will cause you to become . . .
Becoming doesn’t shield us from all hardship, it forms us as people who can tell the story of that hardship in a way that puts lives back together again ~
Fishers of people we will discover as we read through Mark, are those who, out of their love -caught self, do whatever can be done, in whatever way is theirs to heal the world. They are about opening here and there a louvered slat through which God’s Commonwealth is revealed. Fishers of people are about uncovering in themselves and others, ways of loving into being the kingdom. Fishers of people are called, we are called, in our original belovedness, to touch the world in whatever way they have been given, with politics or poetry. They are called to touch the world with their waiting and their running ahead, with their hosting and their being hosted, with their speaking and holding silence.
Those who are caused to become quiver with the kingdom that is also becoming. They are, we are, tuned to vibrate with the frequency of the community that is and is not yet.
In becoming, the fishers recognize that, just as they are being caused to become what they already most deeply are, so too is the world. Like them, the Community of God is not just the world as it does, but the world that, unknowing, is caught in the beloved Son.
The fishers see with their becoming eyes both the horror and the hope, the trouble and the tenderness, the lament and the laughter. They learn that though becoming doesn’t shield us from all hardship, it forms us as people who can tell the story of that hardship in a way that puts lives back together again
The disciples, as we know so well, are far from perfect – they are becoming.
Answering the call of Jesus, and then becoming – reminds me of the words of the skin horse in the story The Velveteen Rabbit. This is how the Skin Horse, long loved, and the Velveteen Rabbit, newly loved discuss becoming.
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ [perhaps you do mind, but the minding has a place to go]
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time.
And here I disagree with the Skin Horse who says, That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. think becoming real does happen to all kinds of people, those who break easily or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept”.
“Generally, by the time you are Real”, says the Skin Horse,“ most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,except to people who don’t understand.”
We are caused to become real.
We can’t do it all ourselves.
We are first loved by the One who calls usOver and over again
We are becoming.
Thanks be to God.
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