4 Sunday B - Zeal, Authority and Demons

Halford Lucock says, "I was impressed several years ago when I read the Eugene Ormandy dislocated a shoulder while directing the Philadelphia Orchestra. I do not know what they were playing, but he was giving all of himself to it! And I have asked myself sadly, 'Did I ever dislocate anything, even a necktie?'"
Progress Magazine, December 31, 1992.

When he was pastor for the Methodist church in Scarborough, William Sangster had an eccentric member who tried to be a zealous Christian. Unfortunately, the man was mentally deficient and usually did the wrong thing. While working as a barber the man lathered up a customer for a shave, came at him with the poised razor, and asked, "Are you prepared to meet your God?" The frightened man fled with the lather on his face!
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 215.
1.     News on Jan 26: Zeal for the Lord and His Word 

Tamil Nadu asks top official to stop preaching faith 
His open and public preaching of Christianity has raised the hackles of right-wing groups who are campaigning against him. 
The Tamil Nadu government has directed one of its IAS officers not to go ahead with “preaching and propagating“ his faith as it is against service rules and could create communal disharmony. 
C Umashankar, a crusader against corruption and an early advocate of the use of free software in e-governance, was born a Hindu dalit but said he changed his faith to Christianity during the stressful times he faced in his battles against politicians. 
His open and public preaching of Christianity has raised the hackles of right-wing groups who are campaigning against him. 
In a letter, TN chief secretary K Gnanadesikan told the commissioner for disciplinary proceedings, Umashankar: “It has been brought to the notice of government that you are going to take part in preaching and propagating activities in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts from January 24 to January 26 which are likely to cause communal disharmony and disturbance to public order. 
Umashankar said “guided by God,“ he has cancelled seven prayer meetings scheduled in the next few days, but said he will move the high court against the government's direction. 
2.     President of India: Wrong type of Zeal 

Don't make religion a cause for conflict: President
Commenting on terrorism, the president said “violence is seeping across our borders”. 

President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday said political discourse that "cuts and wounds" people’s hearts was “abhorrent" to India’s traditional ethos.
In his customary address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day, Mukherjee said: “The freedom inherent in democracy sometimes generates an unhappy by-product when political discourse becomes a competition in hysteria that is abhorrent to our traditional ethos.” 
“The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people’s hearts,” he added.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, he said: “Religion is a force for unity; we cannot make it a cause of conflict."

Mukherjee once again objected to government enacting laws without discussion, saying that it impacts the law-making role of the parliament and breaches the trust reposed in it by the people.

“This is neither good for the democracy nor for the policies relating to those laws."

3.     Sr. Rose, Indian Nun: “Spoke with Authority” about Rubber Plantation and worked with Zeal for the Mission 

Sister Rose Kaythinkara came to northeastern India 35 years ago armed with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a burning desire to preach the Gospel.  
Now 70, the Medical Mission nun goes around with armed security guards provided by the Meghalaya government. Thereby hangs a tale.
Over the past three decades or more, the die-hard Catholic nun has used innovative methods to help hundreds of thousands of villagers in Meghalaya state’s Garo Hills become self-reliant.
“Practically all the missionaries were focused on proclamation of the Gospel and many had heeded them and followed Christ. But I was touched by their poverty and sought ways to improve their economic situation,” she said. 
It was then the idea of rubber cultivation stuck the nun, daughter of a rubber plantation owner in Kerala state’s Kottayam district.  
The nun said it took her time and patience to convince the people. She provided them free rubber saplings and funds to start cultivation. “Many used the money for other purposes since they were in dire need of looking after their stomach,” she explained her initial hurdles.  
Again, people’s attitude changed after a few villagers began to tap the rubber and improved their economic status.  
As people took to large scale rubber cultivation, middlemen too emerged on the scene to fleece them. A kilo rubber fetched 45 rupees in the market, but the middlemen gave the cultivators only 12 rupees. This happened because the people had taken advance money for their daily needs from the middle men.
Once again, Sister Rose came to the people’s rescue. She bought their produces at the market price. To help them meet their needs she launched a multipurpose cooperative society.

“Lack of proper marketing system in East Garo Hills led to businessmen and moneylenders exploiting people. People got only one third of the actual price,” Sister Rose explained the reason for starting the Mendipathar Multipurpose Cooperative Society.  
‘Rubber revolution has brought in tremendous progress in our area. I have seen how poor people becoming self-sufficient and economically climb the social ladder,” he added.  
Sister Rose has liberated her people from poverty after firming up their lives with rubber. However, the question lingers: Will her opponents see reason and leave her to preach that good life is possible here on earth as well as in heaven? 
1.     From the Connections: 
The day of the Messiah has dawned; but newness demands change: a “turning away” (the original meaning of the word repentance) from business as usual and a complete trust in the life and love of God.  Simon and Andrew's “abandoning” of their nets and James' and John's "abandoning" of their father in today's Gospel illustrate the total trust and commitment Jesus demands of those who would be his disciples. 


Jesus began his ministry by calling simple fishermen to be his most trusted friends.  Although the Twelve were hardly scholars or men wise in the ways of the world, Jesus saw beyond their gruff simplicity to call forth from them faith, sincerity and integrity.  As Mark’s Gospel unfolds each Sunday this year, the first disciples will misunderstand Jesus (if not miss the point entirely), desert him and even deny and betray him. 
To follow Christ means “abandoning our nets” of self-interest to embrace the needs of others; Jesus calls us to follow him along the difficult path of humility and selflessness.  If we are going to realize his call to be “fishers of men,” we have to be willing to cast our nets into waters that are deep and turbulent, waters we do not know, waters that threaten the safety and security of our small boats. 
But Jesus entrusts to them, for all of humankind, the proclamation of his Gospel.  We, too, are called by Christ to be his “fishers,” to help one another discover the love of God in our midst.

The Gospel is about possibilities:  Christ came to show us how it is possible to love life to the fullest, if we dare to make forgiveness, reconciliation and selfless charity the center of our lives. 

For the poor Jews of Jesus’ time, the scribes were the voices of authority, the final arbiters of the Law in which God had revealed himself.  Their interpretation of the Law was considered absolute.

“Demons” are encountered several times in Mark’s Gospel.  Anything that the people of Jesus’ time could not understand or explain, such as disease, mental illness or bizarre or criminal behavior, were considered the physical manifestations of the evil one -- “demons” or “unclean spirits.”

Both demons and scribes are silenced in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ casting out the unclean spirit from the man possessed silences the voices of the demons that plague humanity.  In his compassionate outreach to the poor and sick, Jesus “silences” the scribes by redefining the community’s understanding of authority:  whereas the “authority” of the scribes’ words is based solely on their perceived status and learnedness, the authority of Jesus is born of compassion, peace and justice.  The casting out of the demons and his curing of the sick who come to him are but manifestations of the power and grace of his words.
Note that the people of the Bible viewed miracles differently than we do.  While we, in our high technology, scientific approach to the world, dismiss miracles as some kind of disruption or “overriding” of the laws of nature, the contemporaries of Jesus saw miracles as signs of God's immediate activity in his creation.  While we ask, How could this happen?, they asked, Who is responsible?  Their answer was always the same: the God of all creation.  Those who witnessed Jesus' healings, then, saw them as God directly touching their lives.

True authority is propelled by persuasion, not coercion; effective leadership is a matter of articulating a shared goal rather than warning of the consequences of failure. 
Jesus’ “authority” inspires rather than enforces, lifts up rather than controls; he sees his call to “lead” as a trust, as a responsibility to serve others by revealing the God who calls us to compassion and mercy for the sake of his kingdom of peace, instead of a God of judgment and vengeance. 
Authority comes not from power to enforce but from the ability to inspire. 
The ‘unclean spirit’ that Jesus casts out of the poor man in today’s Gospel serves as a symbol of the voice of evil that sometimes speaks within us -- the voice of revenge, self- centeredness, self-righteousness, greed, anger. 
We can be “possessed” by “demons” who discourage us and plague us with fear when we consider the unpopular position that we know is right and just; or the “demon” of rationalization that falsely justifies actions -- or inactions -- we know in our heart of hearts is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.  The compassionate Jesus of the today’s Gospel speaks to those "unclean spirits" as well, offering us the grace and courage to cast them out of our minds and hearts forever.
2.      Fr. Tony Kadavil: 

# 1: Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit?
Jesus' world was a demon-haunted world. Men and women in the ancient world believed in demons. Demons for them were intensely real. The first century world was one of pain and suffering. There was no relief from pain. It was a world of natural disasters that took a heavy toll on life. Disease, even the slightest illness, could be fatal. There was a high rate of infant mortality. Life expectancy was in the middle forties. Because they had no idea of the causes of natural disaster, calamity, or disease, the people associated them with demons. It is difficult for our modern world to realize the power and influence that demons had upon first century human life. But when it comes to evil and demons, is there that much difference between the first and twenty-first centuries? We cannot dismiss evil as a first century phenomenon. It operates as an active force in our world as well as in our souls. In one lifetime we have witnessed the Holocaust of World War II, the Jewish holocaust, genocide in Cambodia, Jonestown, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, child abuse in America, Branch Davidians, the bombings at New York's Twin Towers and Oklahoma City. Boko Haram and ISIS atrocities. Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit? 
# 2: Show him yer papers!
"There is an old story about some linemen who were busy putting up telephone poles through a farmer's fields. The farmer ordered them off his land, whereupon they showed him a paper giving them the right to plant poles wherever they pleased. Not long afterward a big and vicious bull charged the linemen. The old farmer sat on a nearby fence and yelled: 'Show him yer papers, darn ye, show him yer papers!'" To many Christians, Jesus' authority is only a paper authority. His word is something we study for inspiration, but we really don't believe that what Jesus teaches applies to our situation. For many of us, Jesus' authority doesn't extend to putting a marriage or a family back together. It doesn't mean curing an addiction or healing a character flaw. Maybe 2,000 years ago he had authority, but not today. 
# 3: Athletes proclaiming the authority of God.
Athletes with religious convictions are nothing new.  In 1954, the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded "to present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church." In a visit to the FCA's extensive Web Site, many familiar names pop up: Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Cris Carter, Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, University of Washington quarterback Brock Huard and Heisman-trophy-winner Charlie Ward. New Orleans Saints quarterback Danny Wuerffel is an active member of the FCA and a contributing writer to the FCA's monthly publication, Sharing the Victory. Wuerffel has said: “I am a Christian who happens to be an athlete, and not vice-versa." Courtney Chase declares, "For Christian athletes religion is part of the game." “Muscular Christianity" has been around since baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday loudly refuted the idea that Jesus was a weakling, a man of sorrows, a loser. The football stadium at Notre Dame is situated next to a huge library mural known as "Touchdown Jesus." It was big national news when Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders Sunday gave God all glory for the victories of his after the Cowboys' 37-7 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Professional athletes are getting saved, and sports writers are getting annoyed! There can be no doubt that the number of athletes publicly testifying to their faith has drastically increased in the last few years. When the Yankees won the 1996 World Series, for example, The New York Times quoted the team's born-again star receiver, John Wetteland, saying, "Jesus Christ is my point man." Increasingly, the athletes are attributing their victories to God. Such testimonies -- along with the Bible study sessions, chapel services pre-game and post-game group prayer -- have all become an accepted part of the game today, bearing testimony to the authority of God in all spheres of human activities. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus demonstrates this Divine power and authority in his teaching and healing ministry.

 #4: The en vogue theory:
During a discussion of William Shakespeare, a student asked the old professor about the en vogue theory that Shakespeare did not write the plays ascribed to him. The professor growled, "Young man, if Shakespeare did not write those plays, then they were written by someone who lived at the same time and had the same name!" It is a sure sign of desperation in the atheistic circles to speak of Jesus as a myth - the idea that Jesus did not even exist, much less conduct a ministry with Divine power and Divine authority as described in today’s Gospel. 

3. Fr. Jude Botelho:

Dear Friend,

Though most people do not like to be ordered about or told what to do, yet people listen to persons who speak with authority. Of course, people who flaunt their authority are often challenged, but people who exercise quiet authority are listened to. Sometimes authority comes from experience, for others authority comes from within, for still others it comes from who they are and how they live their lives. The prophets of old and the prophetic voices among us derived their authority from God.
 Have a discerning weekend recognizing the prophetic presence of God in our midst!
In the earlier part of Deuteronomy Israel was warned about using all kinds of soothsayers and magical techniques to find out the will of God. The divine will was to be made known only through the prophets. Prophesy was to be Israel's special means of communication with God, Yahweh's special gift to his people. The people asked to be spared the ordeal of hearing the voice of God directly. They asked Moses to intercede with God to let His prophets speak on his behalf. Yahweh granted this request and the prophet became a mediator for the people. In the first reading Moses foretells the coming of a prophet who will speak about God's word to the people. Deuteronomy presents Moses himself as the ideal prophet. The prophet can never speak on his own authority, but speaks on behalf of God. The Jews believed that God would raise up in the last days a prophet like Moses.
Commonplace Prophets
An Amos walks the beaten paths of Tekoa, but he hears a divine voice which no other vine dresser in Tekoa ever caught; a Bunyan tramps about England mending pots and pans, but above the din of this lowly task he catches voices that presently are to reverberate immortally through Pilgrim's Progress; a Lincoln steers his awkward raft down the Mississippi and ties up near a slave-auction block. But out of his rough routine labour a voice sounds which no other raftsman ever heard; a Riis tramps the round of a New York reporter in search of news, and out of the ugly tenements through which his duties carry him catches a challenge from the God of social justice which makes him a veritable prophet; and a lad of Galilee at a common carpenter's bench, shaping the same yokes of wood for the necks of cattle which countless other carpenters have shaped, dreams his way into a vision of the coming kingdom of God, when man shall wear the spiritual yoke which he shall shape for them as easily and as gratefully as these toiling bearers of burdens shall wear the wooden yokes which he is now making. In every case the majesty of the commonplace lies not so much in the task itself as in the spirit which the great soul brings to the task.
Frank S. Hickman in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'
 In the second reading Paul is advocating the unmarried state, namely celibacy as an ideal way of life for those looking for an opportunity for contemplation and the apostolate. Paul's contention is that the person who decides to offer himself to the Lord's service should give his undivided attention to the Lord and not be preoccupied with family matters, and that anything that distracts his attention from the Lord should be shunned by him. Paul believed that the duty of providing for a family clashed with one dedicating oneself fully to the Lord. This teaching of Paul may have also been influenced by his belief in the immediate second coming of Jesus. The time was short and one should not be sidetracked by worldly matters. Paul's teaching still holds good for all who wish to make the kingdom the top most priority of their lives.

Freedom to serve
During the early days of the nineteenth century a wealthy plantation owner was attracted by the heartbreaking sobs of a slave girl who was about to step up to the auction block to be sold. Moved by a momentary impulse of compassion, he bought her at a very high price and then disappeared in the crowd. When the auction was over, the clerk came to the sobbing girl and handed her the bill of sale. To her astonishment, the plantation owner had written 'Free' over the paper that should have delivered her to him as his possession. She stood speechless, as one by one the other slaves were claimed by their owners and dragged away. Suddenly, she threw herself at the feet of the clerk and exclaimed: "Where is the man who bought me? I must find him! He has set me free! I must serve him as long as I live!"
Anthony Castle in 'More Quotes and Anecdotes'

 In the gospel we are told that Jesus in order to get his message across to the people, used the opportunity provided by the synagogue to address the people. Normally any member of the synagogue or an important visitor was given the opportunity to speak to the people. Jesus used this opportunity given to him. Jesus' words carried great authority with the ordinary people, because his words had a ring of truth. His teaching was given with authority and confirmed with miracles, the sign that God was with him. In today's gospel we see how Jesus spoke with authority, and how ordinary people recognized this. His teaching made a deep impression on the people. His authority, unlike the scribes did not come from an external source, like the quotations used by the scribes, but from within. His authority was not second-hand, what others had said but from his own experience. He had experienced what he was talking about. He did not have any official position but he spoke the truth and truth does not need external support. The scribes always quoted the official position and their authority was buttressed by the opinions of great legal masters of the past. Jesus quoted no one; he spoke for himself, with his own authority. There are certain human beings who possess an unaccountable spiritual superiority. This gives them enormous moral authority. They have this authority, not by virtue of an office they hold, but by virtue of the kind of persons they are. Jesus possessed this kind of authority. Jesus also revealed the kind of authority he had when he was interrupted in his teaching by a poor demented person. "Do not meddle with us, Leave us alone. Have you come to destroy us?" The possessed person thus testifies to the power that Jesus had over the power of the evil one. Jesus rebuked the evil spirit sharply. "Be quiet! Come out of him!" And the unclean spirit was forced to leave the possessed man and went out with a loud cry. The people were astounded at the power of Jesus and remarked: "Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it; he gives orders even to the unclean spirits and they obey him."

Speaking with Authority
Antiochus Ephiphanes, King of Syria, had a great interest in Egypt. He amassed an army and invaded that country in 168 B.C. To his deep humiliation the Romans ordered his home. They did not send an army to oppose him; such was the might of Rome that they did not need to. They sent a senator called Popilius Laena with a small and quite unarmed suite. Popilius and Antiochus met on the boundaries of Egypt. They talked; they both knew Rome and they had been friendly. Then very gently Popilius told Antiochus that Rome did not wish him to proceed with the campaign and wished him to go home. Antiochus said he would consider it. Popilius took the staff he was carrying and drew a circle in the sand round about Antiochus. Quietly he said, "Consider it now; you will give me your decision before you leave that circle." Antiochus thought for a moment and realized that to defy Rome was impossible. "I will go home," he said. It was a shattering humiliation for a king. But that was the power and the authority of the Roman Caesars. - In today's gospel we hear of another man who exercised authority; not the authority of brute power that subjugated people, but the power that comes from God. His authority was different from anyone else. His authority was divine.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

"Jesus spends the Sabbath at Capernaum with his first disciples. There he manifests his extraordinary authority, both by his teaching and by the healing of possessed and sick people. Thus from the beginning of his ministry his fame spreads throughout Galilee, this region which, after the first Easter, will become the place of universal mission. For the present, Jesus goes to the synagogue and teaches there. After the catechesis of the law given by a scribe, no doubt Jesus would have given the homily, as at Nazareth. He arouses the astonished admiration of his audience. Unlike the scribes, who were anxious above all to explain the letter of the text on the basis of commentaries received from their teachers, Jesus expresses himself like someone who knows what he is talking about, and is not satisfied to repeat what others have taught him. Referring to no one but himself, he appears to be free with regard to the law which he interprets with authority. The healing of a possessed man, who interrupts Jesus with his cries, confirms the power which the Holy One of God disposes of. It can only provoke the question: Who is this man? Let us recognize our difficulty with such an account. Today, medicine and depth psychology relegate to a purely pathological level what antiquity attributed to the supernatural world. 'Schizophrenia' is what we think of when confronted with this so-called demoniac, an explanation which may not explain anything at all. Why should Satan not sometimes act by means of the split in a psychotic personality? Let us not fall into the trap of the new conformity and look only to the human sciences and the philosophies of surmise! It is in order to liberate us from received ideas and reactions that Jesus comes, now as in the past, to speak to us with authority." -Glenstal Bible Missal

Speaking with Authority
In one of its issues Newsweek addressed in depth the Women's Liberation Movement. It observed that once the revolution was declared, the nation was flooded with books on the subject. Some books, like those written by Nancy Woloch and Phyllis Schlafly, were serious studies of the significance of the movement. Other books, like those authored by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, were more strident and dogmatic. The latter illustrate what often happens in a movement - self-styled prophets emerge who presume to speak with full authority. And so we have had such figures as Hugh Hefner as the spokesman for the Playboy Philosophy, guru Timothy Leary for the LSD cult and the militant Malcolm X for the Black Power movement. History shows that many of these movements die out and that their prophets fade away. But there is one movement that endures, one prophet who lives forever. The movement is Christianity and the prophet is Jesus Christ.
Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

Authority is a strange thing!
Authority is a strange thing. A fourteen year-old boy argues about the curfew imposed by his parents. Then the next day in the freshman baseball game, he dutifully lays down a good bunt, forgoing a mighty swing at the fence, because the coach flashed a signal from the bench. Instant obedience to the coach; reluctant submission to mum and dad! On an airliner the captain flashes the seat-belt sign and everybody complies. Four hours later in a rented car, the passenger disregards the seat belt. The irony: for the same distance travelled, the airliner is three times safer.
Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for all Seasons'

 May we discover in the word of God the power and authority of Jesus Christ!

For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. Legend has it that in 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right.
I believe that this illustrates perfectly what is going on in the world today. You could show the terrible ravaging effects of AIDS and people will have promiscuous sex anyway. You can show someone a diseased liver and cancerous lungs and people are going to abuse alcohol and smoke regardless of the facts.

You know what I wish? I wish someone would just climb to the top of the tower and push off a ten-pound argument and a one-pound argument and let's just see if they reach the ground first. That would finally prove who is right and who is wrong. But then I am reminded that when Galileo did that no one believed him. Even with the authority of obvious visible proof, i.e. the two weights reached the ground at the same time, the professors did not believe. The problem here is obvious. Most people are going to believe what they have always believed regardless of the facts.
But something different occurred in the life of Jesus. Something persuasive... 

There are two things we absolutely crave in our lives: predictability and spontaneity. 

We crave the comfort of predictability. We work long and hard to grow life in a steady job, a certain career, a consistent source of income.  We earn degrees, save money, buy insurance, invest for retirement. We have a home, a family, a schedule, which gives structure and meaning to our days and nights. We build our lives on the secure foundation of predictability.  

But conversely, we also crave spontaneity. We hunger for those unexpected moments that bring uncontained joy and unconstrained excitement to our day-to-day existence. We ache to be astonished and amazed. That is why God made ESPN.
There is nothing like the unscripted, uncut, unpredictable moment-to-moment excitement of a live sporting event - whether it is football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis, golf, bowling or curling. That adrenalin anticipation is why no one will be staying for "coffee hour" today. We are running home to watch the Super Bowl.  
That is not such a bad thing, really. The Super Bowl brings family and friends together. It lets us eat lots of good-tasting, bad-for-you food. It is just plain fun. And as a sporting event it has absolutely no predictable outcome. Your team might win big, or your team might lose by a whisker. Bad calls, nasty weather, one momentary misstep can change everything. Even though the game is ordered by rules and stopwatches, guarded by referees and instant replays, it is still an anything-can-happen event.  
Life is unfair and unpredictable. We try to tame life's uncertainties with long-range plans and short-term check-lists. But it's the very uncertainty of life that makes every day such fun and so frightening. It is the reason why faith drives us to utter dependence upon God's promises, provisions and providence... 
 The Authority of Jesus 

The church in the world is a lot like the story that E. Stanley Jones tells of the missionary in the jungle. He got lost with nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He finally found a small village and asked one of the natives if he could lead him out of the jungle. The native said he could. "All right," the missionary said, "Show me the way." They walked for hours through dense brush hacking their way through unmarked jungle. The missionary began to worry and said, "Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?" The native said. "Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path."
Our path out of the jungle of this world is God in Christ. We may have some Rabbis, Masters, Father's, Teachers, and Reverends but we are all like the missionary. We rely not upon men but Christ who is our path. 

Brett Blair,
Don't Forget Your Dance Partner! 

C.S. Lewis once penned some thoughts on worship, particularly in the face of liturgical innovators in England who seemed to think that every worship service needed to be a kind of variety show with each week being different from the week prior. Lewis had no truck with that kind of thinking. Worship, Lewis wrote, should be a bit like dancing. Once you have learned how to dance and have become good at it, you are able to immerse yourself in the dance and just do it almost without thinking about it. But if you must constantly look down at your feet, if you have to think about each movement before you actually make it, then you can't dance yet but are just learning how to dance. 

Worship is like that, Lewis thought. A believer should be able to move through the liturgy without having to check his every movement first. An ideal service would be one you hardly notice in the sense of your simply being immersed and caught up in a set of actions and a series of thoughts that are fully a part of you already. Overall, Lewis makes a good point. Still, I would throw in a cautionary note to his analogy: worship may be like a dance that you are so good at you can just do it freely and flowingly, but we dare never forget who our dance partner is!

Scott Hoezee, Center for Excellence in Preaching
Help in Facing Our Fears 
Leslie Weatherhead once told a parable of a little boy who fled from a witch who had turned herself into a cat. As the boy ran, he kept glancing fearfully over his shoulder. The first time he looked back, the cat was the size of a calf. The next time he looked, it had grown to the dimensions of an elephant. Then the boy fell, and was unable to go farther. Resolutely he got up and faced the pursuing horror. It stopped. So he took a step toward it. It backed away. As he continued to advance toward it, it began to shrink in size as it retreated from him. Finally it changed into a mouse and ran under the door of the witch's cottage to be seen no more.
The moral is clear: it pays to face up to your fears. But sometimes that is hard to do. That is when we need to turn to Christ. He can help us stand up to our fears and conquer them. He can cast out demons.
Adapted from Leslie Weatherhead.
 Christ Has Come to Free Us 

That man with an unclean spirit understands who Jesus is better than anyone else in the room. He is on the margins of society and the margins of sanity, but he knows exactly who Jesus is. Remember that the disciples don't figure it out until Chapter 8, when Peter says, "You are the messiah, the one sent by God." This man of unclean spirit is way ahead of everyone, and he wants to know, "What are you going to do with people like me? Are you going to destroy us?" 

"Be silent and come out of him!" And then the man convulses and cries out loudly and the unclean spirit leaves him. I still have no idea what an unclean spirit is, but I am impressed. Mark still hasn't told us a thing about what Jesus taught, but he has showed us that Jesus had a power over things that people label as unclean. Mark is making this point: that the will and purpose of God present in Jesus is engaging and fighting against the purposes of evil that exist among humanity. This battle is not fought just at the highest levels of government or industry, but right in the midst of common folk like us. The battle of good versus evil, right versus wrong, life versus death happens amidst the people who are gathered for worship. Christ has come to shatter the domineering designs that shackle people to lower standards for life than God intends. Christ has come to free us from the demons like prejudice and pride, greed and guile. Christ is among us, whenever we gather in church, to demonstrate a power among us. If we devote ourselves to anything less than a divinely directed destiny, we have missed the goal of faith.
Todd Weir, What Will You Do with Us, Jesus?
 Authority without Relationship 

A young second lieutenant at Fort Bragg discovered that he had no change when he was about to buy a soft drink from a vending machine. He flagged down a passing private and asked him, "Do you have change for a dollar?" The private said cheerfully, "I think so, let me take a look." The lieutenant drew himself up stiffly and said, "Soldier, that is no way to address an officer. We'll start all over again. Do you have change for a dollar?" The private came to attention, saluted smartly, and said, "No, sir!"
James W. Hewitt, Illustrations Unlimited, p. 42.
 My Best Demons
 Kathleen Norris writes, "When I think of the demons I need to exorcise, I have to look inward, to my heart and soul. Anger is my best demon, useful whenever I have to go into a Woman Warrior mode, harmful when I use it to gratify myself, either in self-justification, or to deny my fears. My husband, who has a much sweeter nature than I, once told me that my mean streak grieved him, not just because of the pain it cause him but because it was doing me harm. His remark, as wise as that of any desert Abba, felt like an exorcism. Not that my temptation to anger was magically gone, but I was called to pay closer attention to something that badly needed attention, and that was hurting our marriage. It confirmed my understanding of marriage as a holy act: one can no more hide one's true faults from a spouse than from God, and in exorcising the demon of anger, that which could kill is converted, transformed into that which can heal." 

What are your best demons? To name them for what they are and how they bring suffering, is half the battle. 
Kathleen Norris
 What an Understatement! 

Now comes the understatement. The people in the congregation, having witnessed a scene to rival anything in The Exorcist, look around at each other and say, "What is this? ... A new teaching!" 
A new teaching? If this had happened in any congregation I know, they may have sat for hours in stupefied silence, they may have rushed to the altar in sudden repentance, or they may have jumped out of the church windows in terror, but the last thing they would have done was to comment on how this casting out of a demon constituted an innovation in Christian education. A new teaching? Indeed.

To call such an extraordinary event of the casting out of a demon a new teaching, well, I think that constitutes understatement for most of us because our ordinary experiences of teaching are so dull. So much of our teaching and learning involves stuff that is on the periphery of our lives. We may need to know it, but it doesn't exactly hit the core of us, the things which most centrally define us as persons. It doesn't move us, change us, make us new persons. 
Christ's teaching, on the other hand, transform us. Just ask the demon-possessed man, ask the apostle Paul, ask Martin Luther, ask John Wesley. You could describe this as a new teaching but better yet describe it as God with us. For if God is with us, that changes everything.
Brett Blair, Adapted from an unknown source.
What's The Other Reason? 
A few years ago a teacher noticed one of her students, a shy young girl, was having trouble working out her arithmetic assignment. The teacher went to the child quietly and asked if she could help with any questions knowing the girl was timid about asking for help. 

When the problem was sorted out the little girl thanked the teacher. The teacher told the little girl not to be shy about asking questions, "That's one of the reasons I am here." 
The little girl thought about that for a moment and asked quietly, "What's the other reason?" 

 The Church Dare Not Have an Influence 

In his penetrating book The First Circle, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous Russian author who defected to America, makes an interesting observation about how the Russian authorities handle the church. He writes: "No one stops them from ringing their bells; they can break communion bread anyway they please. They can have their processions with the cross. But they will in no way allow them to have any connection with social or civic affairs." The church was allowed to go through the motions; it could have a presence, but it dare not have an influence.

What bothered the scribes was not that Jesus prayed and preached. It was the fact that his prayers and his sermons were moving the people to action. I wonder if the church still has that concept of authority. So often our problem is not that we do not have authority, it is that we do not use the authority that we have...

6. Sermons Illustrations:

These illustrations are well known but here it is for the record:
In U.S. Navel Institute Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, Frank Koch illustrates the importance of obeying the Laws of the Lighthouse. Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."
"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.
The lookout replied, "Steady, Captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: 'We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the signal, "Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees."
The captain said, "Send: "I'm a captain, change course twenty degrees.'"
"I'm a seaman second-class," came the reply. "You had better change course twenty degrees."
By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send: 'I'm a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."
We changed course.
Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 153.

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
"Excuse me," Governor Herter said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?"
"Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person."
"But I'm starved," the governor said.
"Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer."
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around.
"Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state."
"Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister."
Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 5-6.

For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten- pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right. 
Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 22-23.

Amy Carter brought an assignment home one Friday night while her father was still President. Stumped by a question on the Industrial Revolution, Amy sought help from her mother. Rosalynn was also fogged by the question and, in turn, asked an aide to seek clarification from the Labor Department. A "rush" was placed on the request since the assignment was due Monday. Thinking the question was a serious request from the Prez himself, a Labor Department official immediately cranked up the government computer and kept a full team of technicians and programmers working overtime all a reported cost of several hundred thousand dollars. The massive computer printout was finally delivered by truck to the White House on Sunday afternoon and Amy showed up in class with the official answer the following day. But her history teacher was not impressed. When Amy's paper was returned, it was marked with a big red "C." 
Campus Life, May, 1981  p. 59.


God-ordained authorities:
Government: Rom 13, 1 Pt 2:17
Employer: Eph 6, 1 Pt 2:18
Husband: 1 Pt 3:1, Col 3:18, Eph 5:22
Parent: Eph 6
Elders: Heb 13:17

3 Sunday B - Come, Follow me

1. From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection:

1: The management forgives you:

J. Edwin Orr, a professor of Church history has described the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Protestant Welsh Revivals of the nineteenth century resulting in real metanoia. As people sought to be filled with the Spirit, they did all they could to confess their wrongdoings and to make restitution.  But this created serious problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales.  Over the years workers had stolen all kinds of things, from wheelbarrows to hammers. However, as people sought to be right with God, they started to return what they had taken, with the result that soon the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property. There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the yards put up signs that read, "If you have been led by God to return what you have stolen, please know that the management forgives you and wishes you to keep what you have taken."  In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges each one of us to revive our lives with a true spirit of repentance.   

2:  Deep-sea fishing:

How many of you have ever been deep-sea fishing? I was shocked to learn that more than 2.4 million people participated in this sport last year, resulting in retail sales of almost $2.4 billion dollars and a total economic impact of almost $4.5 billion dollars. Deep-sea fishing provides jobs for nearly 55,000 people. You may be asking what deep-sea fishing has to do with the Church. You are going to see over the next four weeks that deep-sea fishing is a picture of the deep-soul fishing we are to be about as Church. "As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow Me, and, I will make you fishers of men.'" (Mark 1:16-17). That one statement tells us what our primary business is as Church, both corporately and as followers of Jesus individually. If you are a follower of Jesus I want you to understand that every day Jesus Christ wants fishermen-disciples to launch out into the sea of humanity and go deep-soul fishing, because the Church's primary business, the Christian's primary business, is the fishing business, and no matter what else we do nor how well we do it, if we ever get out of the fishing business, we are out of business. Your neighborhood is a lake full of fish. Your office is a lake full of fish. Your school is a lake full of fish. When Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of men,” He was saying, “I will take you, with your personality, your background, your testimony, your influence and I will use you to catch men and women and boys and girls and bring them into my family.” 

3: An epitaph to God’s grace:

In the small cemetery of a parish churchyard in Olney, England, stands a granite tombstone with this inscription: “John Newton, clerk [pastor], once an infidel & Libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the Faith he had long labored to destroy.” You may not remember his name, but all of us know the song he wrote as a testimony of his life:  Amazing Grace.”

4. Four reasons why people do not catch fish:

I have come to the conclusion that there are basically four reasons why people do not catch fish:
(1)Some people are using the wrong bait.
(2)Some people are fishing in the wrong lake, that is, they don't know where the fish are.
(3)Some people have got the right bait and they're in the right lake, but they don't know how to fish.
(4)Then there are some people who have the right bait, and they're in the right lake, and they know how to fish but they're just not going fishing. 

The Lord Jesus came not only that we might put our faith in Him, but that we might go fishing with Him. You see, our problem is not that we have the wrong lake. The water is full of fish. The problem is not that we have the wrong bait. We have the gospel which can hook any fish. Our problem, I believe, is one of ignorance and apathy. There are many Christians who believe they do not know how to share the Lord Jesus, and then there are many who just don't want to go. (Rev. Maxie Dunnam) 

5. Then we can have the greatest renewal:

A few years ago Richard Cardinal Cushing wrote: “If all the sleeping folks will wake up, and all the lukewarm folks will fire up, and all the disgruntled folks will sweeten up, and all the discouraged folks will cheer up, and all the depressed folks will look up, and all the estranged folks will make up, and all the gossiping folks will shut up, and all the dry bones will shake up, and all the true soldiers will stand up, and all the church members will pray up, and if the Savior of all will be lifted up . . . then we can have the greatest renewal this world has ever known. Amen.”

6. "Follow the Leader"

Have any of you ever played "Follow the Leader?" Of course you have! I played the game when I was a child -- my father played the game when he was a child -- his father played the game when he was a child. Follow the Leader is a game that is played and enjoyed by children all over the world. The rules are very simple. You choose a leader and you follow him wherever he goes -- and do whatever he does. In our daily lives, too, we play follow the leader. In school, in Church, in sports, in any activity we join, there are always leaders. Every day we are faced with making a choice of which leader we will follow. But we must be sure to choose a leader who will lead us in the right direction. Today’s gospel tells us how Jesus selected his first disciples and instructed them to follow him as the leader. As Jesus was walking along the sea shore he saw two fishermen, Peter and Andrew and called out to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." The gospel tells us that they laid down their nets and followed Jesus. Jesus went a little farther and he saw two more men, James and John sitting in their boat mending their nets. Jesus called out to them and the Bible tells us that they left their boat and followed Jesus (vs. 19-20). Jesus is still calling people to follow him today. He has called you and me to follow him. Now it's up to us to decide if we will follow the Leader.

7. "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken."

Purdue Farms had the same problem when they tried to expand their chicken business. Their popular slogan tried to appeal to women by making men prepare a chicken dinner. Do you recall the slogan? It was, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken." Desiring to reach into the Spanish market they translated their slogan and announced to the entire Latino world, "It takes a virile man to make a chicken affectionate." Now that's a personal touch but not the kind I had in mind.  

How can we reach others for Christ? We can do it by speaking their language – understanding their jobs, taking an interest in their hobbies, speaking to them about their families. We can do it with a personal touch. 

8. "Come to the Chapel," and "Jesus Sets the Prisoners Free!"

Some of you are familiar with the name Charles Colson. Chuck Colson was, at one time, a power player in Washington politics, a member of President Richard Nixon's inner circle. He was one of Nixon's most enthusiastic "hatchet men." Those who knew him best described him as a man of few principles. But his involvement in the infamous Watergate scandal led to his disgrace. It was while serving time in prison for his role in the scandal that Charles Colson came to an authentic relationship with Christ. After his release, Colson founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry to inmates in prisons around the world. Many years ago, Colson started a Prison Fellowship group with just eight young inmates at a maximum security prison in Delaware. One young inmate was deeply affected by what he learned in the Prison Fellowship Bible study. When a judge reviewed his case and unexpectedly set him free, this young man asked to be allowed to remain in prison until he had finished the study. About a year after Colson's first visit to the Delaware prison, he returned for an Easter morning service. Dozens of prisoners stood outside the chapel and held up signs announcing, "Come to the Chapel," and "Jesus Sets the Prisoners Free!" Hundreds of inmates packed the chapel that morning to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. [Charles Colson. Loving God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), pp. 21-24.] Christ reaches out to all kinds of people. They don't have to be special people. But he turns them into special people. All they have to do is say, "yes." Here's what we need to see: it can happen to us. Christ can turn us into someone special if we will let him. 

9. Do you remember "Top Gun"?

Remember how planes took off and landed on aircraft carriers? These sleek, large, worth-more-than-their-weight-in-gold jets sit on even bigger, more expensive ships. In order for both pieces of equipment to function without disaster, a bond of complete trust and genuine teamwork must be established between those who fly and those who remain grounded. Those trained to pilot the most powerful and sophisticated aircraft in the world must rely upon and wait for a series of "go-ahead" hand signals from their always-grounded "air boss." Each step must be carried out in proper sequence before the big jets can set off on their appointed missions. The first duty of the air boss is to signal the removal of the "chocks," the small clamps that lock in place the aircraft's wheels and keep them from rolling. When Jesus utters his first proclamation of the Good News, "the kingdom of God has come near" (v.15), he follows it with the command to "repent." Before anything else can happen, even before he urges listeners to "believe in the good news," Jesus preaches repentance. Jesus knows that our sins and shortcomings, prejudices and preconceived notions can effectively block us from making any headway in our search for God's kingdom.

 10. Word of mouth evangelization in a world of commercials:

One of the biggest industries in the United States today is the production of advertising. Billboards, signs on benches, magazines, newspapers, placards on the sides of buses, messages on the insides of match books, "junk" mail, computer phone calls, radio and, of course, television, all seek to commercial-ize us, to sell us something. Commercials make a host of promises. We're told that if we just use what they sell, people will notice us; we'll be healthier, happier, sexier; smell better; look better; feel better; get just about everything we want. I'd hate to add up the amount of time each day that is ruined by commercials. Kids, especially, are fascinated with them and affected by them (most of the time affected badly). About forty years ago there used to be an automobile named the Packard. Packard was the last car manufacturer to get into advertising, It didn't happen until old man Packard died, because whenever he was approached to buy some advertising for his cars he always said, "Don't need any; just ask the man who owns one." Our Lord Jesus Christ is also known through word-of-mouth advertising. That's how the word about him gets out. Only the Shepherds at the first Christmas heard the good news from angels. Only the Wise Men were led by a Star. Just a comparative few were touched by miracles. Almost everybody came to know Jesus Christ, and is still coming to know him, through word-of-mouth advertising, one person telling another. There are other names we use: preaching, witnessing, sharing, testifying, evangelizing. Basically, however, all it is is word-of-mouth advertising, one person telling another. Our Gospel lesson reminds us that John the Baptizer was one of the first to get the word out about Jesus.

11. “Unlike a religious fanatic, a football fanatic can be perfectly harmless."

A man in one church recalled how during football season he and his son watched football on television the whole weekend. On Saturdays it was college football, on Sundays professional football, and then to cap it off professional football on Monday evenings. This same father was uncomfortable with his son being away for a weekend religious retreat, fearing his son might turn into a religious fanatic! I asked him if he thought being a sports fan was okay for his son. Of course, he replied. But when I pointed out that "fan" is the shortened form of "fanatic," he was taken aback. His long-neglected wife, a football widow of the first rank, wondered aloud why it was perfectly acceptable to be a football fanatic and not a religious fanatic. "Because," replied her husband without thinking, "unlike a religious fanatic, a football fanatic can be perfectly harmless." "Yes," said the long-unnoticed football widow, "I can vouch for that!" Neither fanaticism nor academism by themselves will do for discipleship. The word "disciple" means "learning follower." It is the root of the word "discipline." And the discipline required of Jesus' disciples is thinking and acting, learning and following. Jesus calls all to renewed discipleship, to follow him toward new goals and priorities, to be faithful fishers of men, like Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And look how they changed the world.

 12. Just 6 were about the Bible,

4 about Jesus, and 3 about evangelism. In the “prosperity gospel” that has gripped so many of our churches, and most of our minds, “conversion” is less a turning toward Christ than a turning toward success or fame or fortune, especially a turning towards self. Just check out “best-seller Christianity,” which has become ladder-climbing wrapped up as spirituality. A survey of CBA's best-selling books as we began the 21st century found that family and women's topics accounted for nearly half of the titles, with the rest focused mainly on success and the self. Of the top 100 books, just 6 were about the Bible, 4 about Jesus, and 3 about evangelism. The rest of them were about how to climb higher and higher on the ladders of success. "The Christianity of the bestseller lists tends to be personal, private, and interior," writes Gene Edward Veith in World magazine (July 2008), "with little attention to objective theology or to the church." We have even made conversion primarily about ourselves, a finding of ourselves and a fulfilling of ourselves, a journey of self-discovery rather than a journey of God discovery. “Any version of the gospel that substitutes the message of personal success for the cross is a manipulative counterfeit,” writes A. C. Thiselton in his commentary on The First Epistle to the Corinthians.

13. There are people who are unhappy with their lives & situations.

In 1957, as John Galbraith was about to describe us as "the affluent society," our per person income, expressed in today's dollars, was less than $10,000. Today it is more than twice that – making us The More Than Doubly Affluent Society. Compared to 1957, we have more than twice as many cars per person; we have digital TVs, satellite dishes, cell phones and $15 billion a year worth of brand name athletic shoes. So are we happier than fifty-five years ago? We are not. In 1957 thirty-five percent of Americans told The National Opinion Research Center they were very happy. By 1991, our per capita income had already doubled, and yet only thirty-one percent said they were very happy. And the trends continue. "Judged by soaring rates of depression, the quintupling of the violent crime rate, the doubling of the divorce rate, the slight decline in marital happiness among the marital survivors, and the tripling of the teen suicide rate, we are richer and unhappier." [Adapted from James Merritt, Friends, Foes & Fools, Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holmes, 1997.]The first disciples of Jesus were probably dissatisfied with their lives. So when Christ showed them something better – when he offered to give them a dynamic new purpose for their lives – they did not hesitate. They dropped everything and followed him. 

14. Decide between a new car and getting engaged.

There are some issues too important to put off. A decision has to be made. Once an Ann Landers column told about a dilemma faced by another young man: "Dear Ann, I have got to decide between a new car and getting engaged. I really love this wonderful young lady. But every night when I go to sleep, I dream about the car."  

When we hear an invitation from Christ, we often find two conflicting inner voices within our spirit. One is telling us, look before you leap; don't get involved; you can always do it later on. Then there is a voice urging us to trust and be obedient to the call. We can't have it both ways. We must respond to one voice or the other. We can't waver between two opinions. The disciples were teachable; they were decisive.

15. "And those who quit will be doctors, lawyers, and captains of industry."

Some of you football fans will remember when Bo Schembechler was the coach of the Michigan Wolverines. It's said that Schembechler used to work his players especially hard during spring practice to see what kind of young men he had, winners or quitters. He made a sign with a slogan on it and hung it above the locker room door. The sign read like this: "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions." Of course, not everyone stayed. One morning Schembechler came to the office and looked at the sign. Underneath the words "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions," someone had written, "And those who quit will be doctors, lawyers, and captains of industry." Not everyone has what it takes to answer the call to be a champion, regardless of the field or profession. Well, you get the idea. Not everyone is cut out to play football. Not everyone will be happy as a sailor. And not everyone was called to be among Jesus' original twelve disciples. Jesus calls many, but only a few heed his summons. In most churches, only about twenty percent of the congregation is really involved in the life of the church. Another twenty percent are relatively faithful in worship, but can't truly be counted on for anything else. Another twenty percent are sporadic attenders. And then there are about forty percent who are of the hatched, matched and dispatched variety. That is, they are here when they need to be baptized, married and finally buried – hatched, matched and dispatched – but they couldn't be much more nominal in their devotion. So the fact that these first disciples were willing to not only say "yes" to the Master, but also to leave their nets and follow him is no little matter. As they say, "showing up is half the battle."

16. Radical conversion of Honest Jake:

Former Massachusetts congressman Tip O’Neill tells the story of a metanoia or change – the story of a man named “Honest Jake.” Honest Jake became well known in the Boston area because of his assistance to three generations of immigrant families. He owned a little variety store and would extend credit to the poor immigrants to help them get started in their new land. As Honest Jake neared his sixtieth birthday, a group of people he had helped decided to give him a party and a generous gift of money. Jake received the money gratefully and began to use it for his own makeover. He had his teeth capped. He bought a hairpiece. He invested in a diet and exercise program and lost a lot of weight. He purchased a whole new wardrobe. Then he boarded a plane and a few hours later the new Honest Jake hit the beach at Miami. He met a beautiful young woman, asked her for a date, and she accepted. But before they could go out on the date, a thunderstorm came up, and Honest Jake was struck by a lightning bolt and died instantly. In heaven, he said to God, “After all those years of hard work in your service, I was just trying to enjoy myself a little. Why? Why me?” And God said to him, “Oh, is that you, Jake? I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you.” The scripture for this Third Sunday in Ordinary time is about change – about the radical change by repentance – not in the way of Honest Jake, perhaps, but making ourselves over into the image that the love of God and the ministry of Jesus Christ call us to. (L/12)

17. Good News and Bad News:

An old man visits his doctor and after thorough examination the doctor tells him: "I have good news and bad news; what would you like to hear first?” Patient: "Well, let me have the bad news first." Doctor: "You have cancer. I estimate that you have about two years left." Patient: "Oh no! That's just awful! In two years my life will be over! What kind of good news could you probably tell me, after this?" Doctor: "You also have Alzheimer's. In about three months you are going to forget everything I told you." 

18. Jonah and the whale:
There was this Christian lady that had to do a lot of traveling for her business so she did a lot of flying. But flying made her nervous so she always took her Bible along with her to read and it helped relax her. One time she was sitting next to a man. When he saw her pull out her Bible he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing.
After a while he turned to her and asked "You don't really believe all that stuff in there do you?"
The lady replied "Of course I do! It is the Bible."
He said "Well what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?"

She replied "Oh, Jonah. Yes I believe that; it is in the Bible. The Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and I believe it. And if it had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale, I would believe that too!"
He asked "Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?"
The lady said "Well I don't really know. I guess when I get to heaven I will ask him." "What if he isn't in heaven?" the man asked sarcastically.
"Then you can ask him when you reach the hell," replied the lady.  

19. The best prayer I ever heard was:

"Lord, please make me the kind of person my dog thinks I am."  

20. There was a young boy who wanted to go down to the lake and fish and his mother asked him to take his little sister with him. He said, "Mom, don't make me take her with me. The last time she came with me I didn't catch a single fish." The mother said, "I'll talk to her and I promise this time she won't make any noise." The boy said, "Mom, it wasn't the noise. She ate all my bait!" 

2. Fr. Jude Botelho: 

Dear Friend, 

Often in a fit of anger or irritation we say to people, “You’ll never change!” Yet we sometimes notice that people have really changed and are not what they used to be. Is it possible to change? Conversion and repentance is the same as change. We know that we are constantly called to repentance. Since we keep slipping back into our old ways, what can really bring about a conversion? Does God expect us to change as well? 

Have a transforming weekend! 

In the first reading we hear of God asking Jonah to go to Nineveh to ask the people to repent. We know Jonah’s story -he was a reluctant prophet, so he went in the opposite direction, wanting to escape the Lord’s command, with disastrous consequences. Finally chastened, he went to the people and preached to them. He threatened them and warned them: “Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.” He did not expect the people to listen to him and believe him, but the people listened and believed and repented! God accepted their repentance and saved them from the disaster. Strangely, Jonah was disappointed that the people were not punished, upset, that they had repented!

Turning Evil to Good

 A lady once showed Ruskin a costly handkerchief on which had fallen a large blot of ink. “What a shame!” she moaned. “It is absolutely good for nothing now. It is totally spoiled. Ruskin said nothing but asked to borrow the handkerchief for a day. The next day he handed it to her without a word, and the lady delightedly saw that, using the blot as a starting point, the great artist had designed an intriguing pattern on that corner of the handkerchief. Now it was actually worth more than it had ever been before the blot had disfigured it. God can change evil into good!

Bruno Hagspiel from –Tonic from the Heart in 1000 Bottles 

 Today’s gospel stresses Jesus’ call to repentance, it is the same call that Jonah preached to the people of his time and yet it is different. While Jonah threatened them of the impending disaster, Jesus on the other hand invites everyone to turn away from sin, to enable them to enter the Kingdom of God. We notice that there are two distinct parts to this invitation: ‘to repent’, that is to break away from sin, which is what the word conversion means, and the second part: ‘to believe in the good news’, namely to accept Jesus and follow him. Both go hand in hand and one without the other does not make sense. If we are to follow Jesus Christ we have to repent and be converted. Conversion means changing one’s direction, retracing one’s steps and if by sin we have moved away from God then we are called to turn around and walk in God’s direction. If we persist in our old ways, then we have not really been converted. For some this conversion is a radical right about-turn, for others it is a gradual moving away from doing our thing to doing God’s will and living fully for him. This conversion is a life-time process and implies a true change of heart. Sometimes we might be complacent with external peripheral changes but our heart is really not converted. The last part of the gospel gives us an example of conversion and believing in the good news in the call of the apostles. Jesus sees Simon and his brother Andrew casting their net in the lake and he says to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. And at once they left their nets and followed him.” Just as Jesus saw Simon and Andrew and called them, Jesus sees us and calls us by name to leave behind, the things that we are used to, the things that we feel we cannot live without, the things that we sometimes feel are our life. This is the call to conversion that often is very difficult. “Surely, the Lord is not asking me to change something that is so much a part of my life?”  “Lord you are asking for the impossible, ask me anything else, not this!” Yet the Lord does not force us or threaten us with disaster if we do not respond. He is ready to wait for us to change and do what will ultimately be the best for us. Conversion should not be seen as a ‘giving up’ but a ‘giving into his hands.’ We change so that we might follow him. Our conversion is seen in our readiness to act for Him and for His kingdom.

They can’t take away my thoughts!

 A girl had been quite naughty. Because she wouldn’t say she was sorry, her mother had punished her by taking away her toys and sending her to bed. When her father came from work he went upstairs to see her, and said he was sure, if she would only apologize, mother would serve her supper and return her toys. The little girl looked up with a determined look, quite unrepentant and said, “Daddy, they’ve taken away my toys, and they’ve taken away my supper, but they can’t take away my thoughts! She insisted on keeping ‘her thoughts’ no matter what! Yet, just that is essential for repentance…

Dr. Purnell Bailey 

Those who care and those…

It was a crowded day at the Jersey shore: the weather was hot and the beach overflowed with bathers. A woman was splashing in the surf when she accidentally stepped off the sandbar and dropped into a swift undertow that dragged her under the water. Frantically, she struggled to escape the strong current, yelling for help. At least twenty adults watched from the shoreline, apparently paralyzed, until a young man sprinted into the surf, swam out to her and helped her back to the beach. A witness to the event described the episode to the beach patrol. He spoke of his admiration for the young man who responded so quickly, and of his contempt for all those who stood by and failed to act. “The woman had been in a dangerous situation and those people didn’t even seem to care,” he grumbled.  The officer looked at the man and said. “The world often seems to be divided between those who care and those who don’t care enough. But don’t judge too harshly. It takes courage to care greatly.”

Brian Cavanaugh in ‘Sowers Seeds of Christian Family Values’ 

History Changed by One Man

 In September of 1862, the Civil War tilted decisively in favour of the South. The morale of the Northern army dipped to its lowest point of the war. Large numbers of Union troops were in full retreat in Virginia. Northern leaders feared the worst. They saw no way to reverse the situation and turn the beaten, exhausted troops into a useful army again. There was only one general who might be able to work this miracle. That was General McClellan. He had trained men for combat, and they loved and admired him. But the War Department didn’t see this, nor did the Cabinet see it. Only President Lincoln saw it. Fortunately, Lincoln ignored the protests of advisors and put McClellan back in command. He told him to go to Virginia and give those soldiers something no other man on earth could give them: enthusiasm, strength, and hope. McClellan accepted the command. He mounted his great black horse and cantered down the dusty roads of Virginia. What happened next is hard to explain. Northern leaders couldn’t explain it. Even McClellan couldn’t quite explain it. McClellan met the retreating Union columns. He waved his cap in the air and shouted words of encouragement. When the tired men saw their beloved leader, they began to take heart. They began to get the unexplainable feeling that now things could be different. Now things could be right again.  Here’s how Bruce Catton, the great Civil War historian, describes the excitement that grew and grew when word spread that McClellan was now back in command. “down mile after mile of Virginia roads the stumbling columns came alive, and threw caps and knapsacks into the air, and yelled until they could yell no more…. because they saw this dapper little rider outlined against the purple starlight. And this, in a way, was the turning point of the war…. No one could quite explain it.” And whatever it was, it gave Lincoln and the North what was needed. And history was forever changed because of it.

Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ 

Work of Love

 A grandma was standing at a store with a friend watching an artist demonstrate the work he was doing when she became aware that a man was staring at her. She though he must be lonesome or that she reminded him of someone. She gave him a friendly smile. At that he came over and with a shy smile of his own, opened the brown bag he was carrying. “I would like to give you a present,” he said without any introduction. And he put into her hand a beautifully carved little wooden horse. He would have left right then if grandma had not insisted on asking questions. He refused to tell her his name but said he worked as a night watchman at a factory. He carved such figures in his spare time from scrap lumber. When they were finished, he would walk along the street until he would find someone who looks as if he might like a horse….as he put it. He explained that he had never had an art lesson. “But where I come from everyone whittles.” Grandma’s friend who owns a small gift shop, grew quite excited about the carving. “It’s beautiful!” she exclaimed. “If you can bring several to our store, I know we can sell them for you.” But the man shook his head. “If I sold them,” he said simply, “then making them would be just a chore. I get more pleasure this way.” Grandma has never seen the man since. But this little horse is one of her most treasured possessions. Whenever she looks at it, she thinks of the giver and prays that the generosity of his heart and spirit has found its reward. To her it is a perfect gift. It was given to a total stranger without thought of gratitude or reward. In the purest sense, it is a gift of love.

Lovasik in ‘Tonic for the Heart’ 

Waiting on God

 A young man presented himself to the local expert on gems and said he wanted to become a gemologist. The expert brushed him off because he feared that the youth would not have the patience to learn. The young man pleaded for a chance. Finally the expert consented and told the youth, “Be here tomorrow.” The next morning the expert put a jade stone in the boy’s hand and told him to hold it. The expert then went about his work, cutting, weighing, and setting gems. The boy sat quietly and waited. The following morning the expert again placed the jade stone in the youth’s hand and told him to hold it. On the third, fourth, and fifth day the expert repeated the exercise and the instructions. On the sixth day the youth held the jade stone, but could no longer stand the silence. “Master,” he asked, “When am I going to learn something?” “You’ll learn,” the expert replied and went about his business. Several more days went by and the youth’s frustration mounted. One morning as the expert approached and beckoned for him to hold out his hand, he was about to blurt out that he could go on no longer. But as the master placed the stone in the youth’s hand, the young man exclaimed without looking at his hand, “This is not the same jade stone” said the youth. “Ah, now you are learning” said the gemologist.


May we discover the call of His kingdom and gladly respond to it! 

3. The connections:

What’s in a kiss . . .

A mom learns about the power of a mother’s kiss:

 “My youngest daughter always had me kissing her boo-boos.  I did it because, as every mother knows, it makes it feel better.  What I never understood was the thought process behind the action.

“One day my daughter asked me to kiss her boo-boo when I was pressed for time, so I hurriedly obliged.  She cried, telling me it wasn’t any good because my kiss didn’t have any love in it.  I realized that kissing boo-boos was really about loving the pain away.

“This simple truth, along with the value of mindfulness my daughter taught me, has encouraged me to slow down, to become more aware and present in the moment.  Slowing down is a conscious decision to live at a gentler pace and to make the most of the time I have.

“When my own mother passed away, I did not forget the love she gave me; it will live on in my heart forever.  She gave me life, but beyond that, she gave me love . . . 

“With that errant kiss, I realized it was my responsibility as a mother to watch over my child’s spiritual growth . . . By simply showing my child kindness through listening, I believe I have satisfied my child’s earliest spiritual needs.  By being genuine — that is, personally connected and physically present — I have satisfied my child’s developing spirit.”

[Mary Ann Rollano, writing in Spirituality & Health, November/December 2005.]

Christ entrusts to each one of us — whether we are a fisherman or a mom — the work of discipleship: to extend, in whatever our circumstances, the love of God to all; to proclaim, in our own homes and communities, the compassion, the forgiveness, the justice of the Gospel.  As God is present to us in the person of Jesus, we are called to be present to one another in our love and care.  To be the “fishers” that Christ calls us to become is to “cast the net” of God’s love that we have experienced upon the waters of our time and place, to reach out and grasp the hand of those who struggle and stumble, to “love” away the hurt and pain and fear of those we love.  


The day of the Messiah has dawned; but newness demands change: a “turning away” (the original meaning of the word repentance) from business as usual and a complete trust in the life and love of God.  Simon and Andrew's “abandoning” of their nets and James' and John's "abandoning" of their father in today's Gospel illustrate the total trust and commitment Jesus demands of those who would be his disciples. 


Jesus began his ministry by calling simple fishermen to be his most trusted friends.  Although the Twelve were hardly scholars or men wise in the ways of the world, Jesus saw beyond their gruff simplicity to call forth from them faith, sincerity and integrity.  As Mark’s Gospel unfolds each Sunday this year, the first disciples will misunderstand Jesus (if not miss the point entirely), desert him and even deny and betray him. 

To follow Christ means “abandoning our nets” of self-interest to embrace the needs of others; Jesus calls us to follow him along the difficult path of humility and selflessness.  If we are going to realize his call to be “fishers of men,” we have to be willing to cast our nets into waters that are deep and turbulent, waters we do not know, waters that threaten the safety and security of our small boats. 

 But Jesus entrusts to them, for all of humankind, the proclamation of his Gospel.  We, too, are called by Christ to be his “fishers,” to help one another discover the love of God in our midst.

 The Gospel is about possibilities:  Christ came to show us how it is possible to love life to the fullest, if we dare to make forgiveness, reconciliation and selfless charity the center of our lives. 

4. From other Sources including 

Today's Gospel is about Jesus' calling of his first four disciples. It is about the first people who were called to hold the job which we hold today. Mark's story is not very elaborate. It is short and to the point. There is a certain note of adventure as the four men leave their fishing business to go with Jesus, but there is not much in the story that seems terribly upsetting.

What the story doesn't tell about is what those men were getting in for by becoming followers of Jesus. To find out what was really in store for them, we have to keep reading. And what we discover is that being a disciple was not glamorous. In fact, it was downright dangerous.

Later in Mark we hear Jesus say, "Whoever loses his life for my sake and the sake of the gospel will find it." Matthew includes another comment: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Those are disturbing statements, especially for those of us who are today's disciples.  

He was saying that being his disciple is not an easy task. He was saying that the gospel is a disturbing force in the world which can upset individuals and nations alike. It brings change and new experiences to all who hear it. Being his disciple will not be easy because the task of the disciple is to be the bearer of this revolutionary gospel message.  

We know what happened to Jesus. His message disturbed those in power and they tried to silence him. Of the four men in this gospel text, three were also executed for their witness. The powers that ruled the ancient world were upset by the gospel, and they tried to silence its voices. I'd like to be able to say that's all ancient history, but there are still governments today which oppose the gospel.

It is important for us to realize that the truth of the gospel is like a two-edged sword: it is both comforting and disturbing. The messengers of this gospel may find themselves similarly regarded by those who don't want to hear that message, even in countries where Christianity is protected by law.

 Jesus' two-edged sword also strikes close to home... 

How would you describe a color to someone who had been blind since birth?

[This would make a great moment to walk down into the congregation and turn your "audience" into "participants," or you can continue on probing the question yourself.]
What can you say about "blue" or "red" or "green" to someone who has no concept of color, of bright, light, or dark?  

Well, you would almost have to use examples from the sense the blind person did have - touch, scent, sound, taste.
Blue is "cold" compared to a "hot" red.
Green is smooth and sweet, while yellow is sharp and pungent.
Purple has the depth of a bruise.
Orange may not rhyme with anything, but is feels like the sun on your face on a warm day.
Explaining the impossible to the unknowing describes much of the mission and message of Jesus.
How could he communicate the vastness of divine love to individual human hearts?
How could he present the fullness of time to a world parsed into days, hours, minutes, seconds?
How could he reveal the unity of all creation to warring nations, cracked communities, and fractured families?

To get his message across Jesus clothed the utterly unique work of God through Christ in language that seemed deceptively familiar. Jesus' preaching and teaching was all about "the kingdom of God." The first-century world understood the concept of "kingship" all too well. The nations of the world were ruled by kings, and kings were absolute authority figures with unquestioned control over their subjects. The Old Testament refers to the kingship of God more than any other divine quality. Israel was God's first kingdom, but in an eschatological future all the nations would recognize God's ruling status and bow down before him.

So when Jesus spoke of the "kingdom of God' his audience, especially the Torah-learned Jews, thought they knew what he was talking about.

Surprise. They didn't.  

Jesus was not talking about establishing a place with borders, a kind of divine fiefdom. The kingdom of God wasn't a political polis or an eschatological, pie-in-the-sky, far-and-away dreamscape...
Saving the Shipwrecked 

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew. 

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now, the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. 

Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired life-boat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in this club's decoration, and there was a symbolic life-boat in the room where the club initiations were held.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. 

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did. 

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

That's a pretty graphic tale of some folks who forgot what they were supposed to be about. Sometimes I think we are like those folks. It's as if we think Jesus didn't really mean it when he said, "Go fish." We think other things he said are surely important, but not reaching out and bringing people to Jesus Christ. 

Mickey Anders, Go Fish
The Need for Courage 

Years ago Richard Cardinal Cushing wrote about the church's need for courage. He said:

If all the sleeping folks will wake up, and all the lukewarm folks will fire up, and all the disgruntled folks will sweeten up, and all the discouraged folks will cheer up, and all the depressed folks will look up, and all the estranged folks will make up, and all the gossiping folks will shut up, and all the dry bones will shake up, and all the true soldiers will stand up, and all the church members will pray up, and if the Savior of all will be lifted up . . . then we can have the greatest renewal this world has ever known.

Eric S. Ritz
Three Fishing Stories 

1. An old-timer sat on the river bank, obviously awaiting a nibble, though the fishing season had not officially opened. A uniformed officer stood behind him quietly for several minutes. "You the game warden?" the old-timer inquired.


Unruffled, the old man began to move the fishing pole from side to side. Finally, he lifted the line out of the water. Pointing to a minnow wriggling on the end of the line, he said, "Just teaching him how to swim."

2. Mark Twain once spent a pleasant three weeks in the Maine woods. On his way home making himself comfortable in the train to New York, a sour-faced man sat down next to him, and the two struck up a conversation. "Been to the woods, have ye?" asked the stranger.

"I have indeed," replied Twain. "And let me tell you something. It may be closed season for fishing up here in Maine, but I have a couple of hundred pounds of the finest rock bass you ever saw iced down in the baggage car. By the way, who are you, sir?"

"I'm the state game warden. Who are you?"

Said Twain, "Pleased to meet you. Who am I? Only the biggest liar in these United States."

3. Two ardent fishermen met on their vacation and began swapping stories about the different places they had fished, the kind of tackle used, the best bait, and finally about some of the fish they had caught. One of them told of a vicious battle he once had with a 300-pound salmon. The other man listened attentively. He frankly admitted he had never caught anything quite that big. However, he told about the time his hook snagged a lantern from the depths of a lake. The lantern carried a tag proving it was lost back in 1912. But the strangest thing of all was the fact that it was a waterproof lantern and the light was still lit.

For a long time the first man said nothing. Then he took one long deep breath. "I'll tell you what I'll do," he said slowly. "I'll take 200 pounds off my fish, if you'll put out the light in your lantern."  

Fish stories. Gotta love 'em.  

Jacob M. Braude, Braude's Treasury of Humor, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964)
Tips for Fishing 

What are some of the tips we need to remember as we fish for disciples?
Go where the fish are. Be with people on their own turf.
Be real, be vulnerable, and be honest.
Be creative. We don't have to do things the same old way.
Be spiritual, but not "churchy".
Be patient
Be ready for surprises!
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Be on the lookout for where God is at work.
Be praying. 

Linda A. Jacobus, Forgetting How to Fish
His First and Last Words to Peter 

Jesus lived three years with his disciples. They went everywhere together and did everything together. They ate, slept, and breathed the life of Jesus and yet it was difficult for them to make the transition in their minds from a Messiah who would be a mighty King of Jews to a Messiah that would die for the sins of mankind. But Jesus never wavered in his mission. Throughout his entire ministry among the people and his training of the disciples he held in his heart this hope: That Peter along with the rest of his disciples would lose their earthly ambitions and become feeders of sheep--fishers of men.

The very first words of Jesus when he and Peter met at the waters was, "Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men." His very last words to Peter, again down at the waters of the Sea of Galilee, and after his resurrection, were, "Feed my sheep, Follow me." From beginning to end this is the mission of the Church.

Brett Blair,
Pelicans Caught Unprepared 

I recently read an article about some pelicans in California. If you've ever seen pelicans in action, you know they're great fishermen, or fisher-birds, I guess. These pelicans were hanging out near a fleet of fishing boats. The fishermen on the boats would pull into the little harbor, and clean the fish right on the spot, throwing the heads and the rest into the water. The pelicans picked up on this, and began eating the leftovers without having to go out fishing. And if you're a pelican, that's good eating. So for weeks, they just sat by the harbor and waited for the fishing boats to come in.

After a while, the fishermen found out they could sell the fish waste, and so they stopped chucking it into the water. The pelicans were caught unprepared. They continued to sit and wait for the fishing boats to come in and throw free food in the water. And they grew thinner and thinner and seemed able to do nothing about their situation.

Wildlife officials came to check out what was going on, and concluded that the pelicans had forgotten how to fish. So what they did was to bring pelicans in from another area to join the flock and teach the starving birds how to fish again.  

Gary Nicolosi
Reexamining Our Basic Assumptions 

In Merle Miller's biography of Lyndon Johnson, he quotes President Johnson saying in 1969, after he had left office, "I never felt I had the luxury of re-examining my basic assumptions. Once the decision to commit military force was made, all our energies were turned to vindicating that choice and finding a way somehow to make it work."

And, of course, it was that failure to reexamine the basic assumption that formed the tragedy of the Johnson administration - at the expense of tens of thousands of lives.

THAT is what REPENTANCE is about - not just acting sorry, but going in and looking at the basic assumptions and then making real changes.

Nostalgic Fishermen 

Someone suggested that we imagine this fishing club where the members merely sat around swapping fish stories about the big one they landed, the whopper that broke away, but they never stepped into a boat or cast their line in the water. What kind of a fishing club would it be whose members were content to admire the trophies on the wall but never go out and actually go fishing?

A lot of churches are like that. They sit around bragging about the days when their boat was full of fresh fish. They look nostalgically to the days when the main purpose of their church was to go fishing, to reach others for Christ. But they never actually go fishing; they merely talk about going fishing. That's not what we're about as a church.

Mickey Anders, Go Fish
A Job and A Ministry 

Do you have a job in this church and this community . . . or do you have a ministry? There is a difference!
+ If you are doing it because no one else will, it's a job. If you're doing it to serve the Lord, it's a ministry.
+ If you're doing it just well enough to get by, it's a job. If you're doing it to the best of your ability, it's a ministry.
+ If you'll do it only so long as it doesn't interfere with other activities, it's a job. If you're committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it's a ministry.
+ If you quit because no one praised you or thanked you, it was a job. If you stay with it even though no one seems to notice, it's a ministry.
+ If you do it because someone else said that it needs to be done, it's a job. If you are doing it because you are convinced it needs to be done, it's a ministry.
+ It's hard to get excited about a job. It's almost impossible not to get excited about a ministry.
+ If your concern is success, it's a job. If your concern is faithfulness, it's a ministry.