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:
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.
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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 ready for surprises!
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Be on the lookout for where God is at work.
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, www.eSermons.com
________________________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.
____________________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.
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.