Friday, January 20, 2012

B, Epiphany 3 – Mark 1:14-20 “Salted against Assault”

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."(Mark 1:15 ESV)
The time is right! The kingdom of God is near! Time seems to be fleeting these days. No time for anything… anyone! How do you fulfil your time? Is your time… fulfilled?
Is your time… overcrowded, cramped, crazy, chaotic; perhaps passing by so fast it seems you can hardly get your breath? So much to do yet no time to do it! You feel exhausted from the demands on your time yet something is still missing. Your time is full yet you're caught out, catching up… unfulfilled!
Catching fish was the order of the day for the Galilean fishermen. They caught fish, they cleaned fish, they preserved fish, they salted fish, they sold fish, and they smelled fish! Now some here might think this would be great! A fulfilling holiday time, perhaps! But these men knew nothing else day in day out. They were salties; sailors of the sea! The name for fishermen is derived from the Greek word for salt. Yep old salties, insulted by seemingly smarter fish, and assaulted by the constant demands of their work!
These young men were net chuckers! Strong hardened fellows who could haul in the catch; hardened old salts who would have dragged in a whole heap of nothing at times. Sitting there on the bank of Lake Galilee fixing wretched nets, tangled and broken, probably just when the fish were schooling just out in front of them.
"The time is right and the catch of fish is at hand!" But your time is caught up in the race to fix your nets, and at the end of the day there's the possibility your nets will be unfulfilled!
Like a boat tied to the dock, these men were tied to the mundane frustrations of everyday life as fishermen. The joy of seeing a large haul of fish was not so much about holiday fun, but the need to fulfil the family's security for the future, and the rush to get the catch, cleaned salted and sold.
These were the everyday events Jesus came upon as he arrived at the Sea of Galilee. Simon and Andrew casting their net, James and John sitting in a boat fixing their net! I suspect their time was filled serving these nets. Looking at the nets, checking the nets, unsnagging the nets, fixing the nets, and if they were fortunate enough, taking fish out of the nets! As they say, fishing gear catches more fisherman than it ever catches fish.
"...the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."(Mark 1:15 ESV)
Jesus came proclaiming himself. "The King of heaven is near; stop and trust in what I will do!" Jesus walked onto the shore and into these men's lives. But their time was full, they had no time to stop; their nets deserved their full attention. They had too much to do!
And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17 ESV)
I wonder what it was! One too many tangles in the nets! Perhaps the fish weren't around that day! Or maybe they just had enough of fish scales and smelling like fish! What was it that made them leave and follow Jesus?
It wasn't any of these things! Rather, it was the powerful word of God, calling them away from themselves, their families, their father, their focus, and their frustration at finding fish.
Jesus was giving them time. Time to repent and believe the gospel! Would they have understood what was going on? No! Of course not! We know they didn't sort out what was going on until way after the resurrection, and even then the Holy Spirit was continually sent to cast light on the gospel, despite the gospel happening right before their very eyes on the cross outside Jerusalem.
What we can see here is none other than the powerful word of God at work. The King was near; the Word of God was at hand. And in him was the power to stop and enable these salties to trust him. It was the net of Jesus' word gathering them into the kingdom of God and turning them into fishers of men. This was good news for them and it's good news for us who are tempted in these times to believe the kingdom of God is not at hand. Well not just yet, anyway!
Perhaps you find yourself so busy preserving your way of life, that there is no time… for life. Too busy to stop and ponder the word of God and what it can do. Or what it has been seeking to do in your life all along.
You see Jesus gave these salty fishermen true salt, true preservation, the true light of life. No longer was it to be preservation of the fishing, the family future, fortune, or the family honour first. He netted them with his word. He promised to make them fishermen and preservers of people. They didn't know what the new net was going to be nor did they know how they were going to work with it. There was just the call to stop and trust this man proclaiming God was at hand.
And Jesus seeks to preserve you too. He seeks to make you fishers, salties too! He wants to fulfil your lives as he did the disciples. He wants to make you the salt of the earth.
We hear from Matthew, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?" (Matthew 5:13a ESV)
And again in Mark, "…everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." (Mark 9:49–50 ESV)
It's time to give time to God. To repent and believe in the gospel! To stop and trust in Jesus! To let him preserve you… to salt you for the fiery trials of life, so you might stand in him through the assaults of life.
Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Mark 10:29–31 ESV)
Therefore let Jesus salt you against assault! Let him give you the gifts of the gospel! Be still! Be salted in his word! Preserved eternally, trusting that the kingdom of God is at hand, that your time is now eternal. Let him show you are fulfilled with the fires of the Holy Spirit, so you might glorify God in your time. And even be used to salt others against the assault of sin and evil.
Lead us not into temptation that your kingdom is not coming to us, but in you let us persevere and therefore preserve us and those around us in times of holy peace. Amen.