Have any of you really thought about what it means to be fishers of people? This is one of those passages that is a Sunday School favorite, especially when it comes to evangelism. Jesus calls Andrew and Simon, James and John, and they immediately follow him and become fishers of people – but what does that mean? Especially within the context of Mark’s gospel. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya from the film The Princess Bride – I do not that this means what we think it means.Yes, it could – but I think read within the context of Mark’s Gospel – it means something different than what we have been told all these years.
This may be hard for some of us – to hear that our interpretation is not the only one. I am not going to discredit the reading many of us have grown up with – one very similar to the children’s message today. It makes sense. It fits nicely with the scene we are given – but I don’t think it goes far enough. I don’t thing Mark’s Jesus is simply saying, “come follow me and you will be a great witness.” I think Jesus is doing something much deeper and much more profound. He is calling these new disciples and us by proxy into a radical reorientation of the world. A radial reorientation that sits disparate groups of people at the same table to reflect the beautiful diversity of the Reign of God. A radical reorientation that takes us out of the stasis of our everyday lives and into the vibrant and prophetic Reign of God. A radical reorientation that shows us that when we repent – when we literally turn around – see the world behind us we are able to see God’s reign in our lives – and then we are able to step out of our boats and become the fishers, the net casters, that we are called to be – mirrors of God’s Reign on Earth as it is in Heaven.
In Mark’s Gospel the Good News of Jesus is not just words, but it is more importantly doings. Unlike the Gospel of Matthew, Mark understands Good News to be more than just preaching or proclamation, but also the physical actions of Jesus. In fact Mark is the gospel that has Jesus performing more signs than speaking. For Mark, Good News is a verb – an action word. And this is why I believe we are being called to a radical reorientation of our understanding of the wold.
Jesus in Mark is calling these first disciples to abandon all that is dear to them, for at least James and John, a life of relative wealth. You see, when we see the name of the father attached to someone – it is a mark of status (the sons of Zebedee) and add to that they left dad with with the hired hands – we are dealing with a couple of wealthy boys. And Jesus is calling them to walk along side the poor boys – Andrew and Simon – they were the ones in their boat doing the casting of nets – they had no hired hands. Jesus is calling the wealthy and the poor to the same table – radically reorienting the status quo that says those with money are held in higher esteem. Jesus is calling them all into the active Reign of God. Where all are equal. And all are responsible to cast the nets. And mend the nets. Naming the inequality, and restoring community. Jesus is bringing them into the active Reign of God – someone ongoing and continuing.
I saw the movie Selma the other night and I could not help but draw connections between that movie and this Scripture.
For those who don’t know Selma is about the 1965 civil right march form Selma to Montgomery, AL. It is the story of how, starting at a grass roots level, the African-American community of Selma began to fight for their right to vote – without the strong arm of Jim Crow blocking their way. They were fed up with the poll taxes, the vouchers, and the tests. In one scene there is a woman who is seeking to register and is forced to say the preamble to the constitution – which she does. Then to name how many county judges there are – 63 she says to the dismay of the white clerk. Then, to make sure she her application gets denied – he demands she name all 63 judges. This is the world in which the African American community of Selma were fishing.
They were casting their nets out of the boat, and pulling them in empty. They were working for the sake of the empire with no ability to change the system.
Then the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee began working in Selma to change the system.They began grass roots organizing of people to leave the boats and become fishers of people. They began to demonstrate against the unjust systems. They – in the words of Jeremiah 16 – were sent as fishermen to catch them – the unjust, those who sought to destroy the human personality, those who worshiped the false God of white supremacy instead of the true God of radical inclusion.
And as these fishers of people began to grow, they were seen by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And the SCLC was called into help organize even further. This led to disagreements between SNCC and the SCLC. The SCLC was led by Dr. King. And his call furthered the radical reorientation of the world by demanding federal action, not just local action. He cast the net further. And the further the net went out, the more uncomfortable people became. Because it was a radical reorientation of the world.
Before the SCLC, Sheriff Jim Clark was able to mostly retain his cesarian Pax Selma through force, but when confronted by the non-violent means of the SCLC – he overreacted and when the nation saw the events of Bloody Sunday – they saw the world for what it was. And for what it could be.
And beloved, this is the radical reorientation of the Reign of God. When we are at the shore line with Jesus we are able to see the world as it is and we are able to see the world as it can be. And when we are fishers of people we are casting our nets – not alone, but with Jesus. We are casting our nets and closing the chasm between the two.
We see the world as it is. And what it can be.
We see the pain in the world. We understand the heartbreak and the heartache. When we see the world as it is, we come face to face with the brokenness of the human condition.
We see the sin of racism and racialized polices that do not thing to build up the human personality, but rather denigrate and degrade the person. The rose colored glasses of a “post-racial” America are removed and we see that persons with black and brown skin are treated differently that those of us with white skin. Those like me are able, to see our privilege – small as it may be. We are able to say that it is wrong when someone is profiled just because of the color of their skin, or the way their religion requires they dress. We see the world as it is.
And we see what it can be – radically reoriented, we see the world with compassion and equality. We cast our nets out to close the chasm, by naming the racism – the profiling – the denigration of personality. We see the world as it can be and we close the chasm by living the Good news of Jesus. By living and seeing the Reign of God actively in our midst. We challenge the status quo. We sit with those who are always told they are not allowed at the table.
We are present with the hurting and the broken. We walk hand in hand with those discriminated against because of the color of their skin, because of their sexual orientation, because of their religious affiliation. We when are radically reoriented, we see everyone we encounter – friend or enemy as one called by Jesus into the Reign of God.
And that is the good news, beloved, that through it all – Jesus keeps calling us. He keeps at the sea shore until we leave our boats. He waits for us, and when we are ready he walks with us. He casts the net along side us. He embodies the Reign of God in which we are now living.
The radical reorientation of the Good News of Jesus is that the Reign of God is not something far off. That the reign of God is something that is not attainable unless we say the right words and know a five point plan of salvation – no the Good News of Jesus is that the Reign of God is near! The Reign of God is within reach and that when we turn around we are able to see how it has been near all along. And that Jesus is in our midst with us.
The good news of Jesus is that already, we are near the reign of God. Just come and follow. Reorient yourself to the Radical love of Jesus. Reorient yourself to the radical love of a God who keeps calling to you. Who keeps calling you by name. Who wants to be your fishin’ buddy.
The good news of Jesus is telling us to Go fishin’.
Go fishin’ – knowing that God’s reign is near. And when you cast your and close the chasm, you are there.
Go fishin’ – bringing the present and near Reign of God to those whose personality has been destroyed. Remind them they are beloved of God. That they are jsut as worthy of God’s love as anyone. That they are part of the Reign of God.
Go fishin’ – and cast your nets wide. Touching all aspects of life. Experience the world that makes you uncomfortable. See the world as God’s reign, not as something to fear. Be present in God’s Reign.
Go fishin – be patient and wait. God is here.
Go fishin’ – turn around and see that Jesus is always at the shore. Even when you go back to the comfort of your boat – Jesus is there. Turn around and see how the Reign of God has already been with you and you will see how it is with you.
Go fishin’- turn around a see Jesus walking with you. Next to you. Know you are not alone. Because the Good News of Jesus is an on going action. You are never far away.
Go fishin’ called to cast your net and close the chasm of the world as it is, and as it can be. Radically reoriented to the Reign of God.
You are not in this alone. You are not call to walk the shore by yourself. You are called into a community of believers that extents 2,000 years. You are called to join a cast of characters that has included thief and rogues, sinners and saints, heartbroken lovers and joy filled mothers. You are called into the Reign of God that is nothing but love. Love that reorients us to the light. That draws us together rather than apart. That closes the chasm of the broken world and the glorified world to come.
Beloved, it is time to go fishin’.
Thanks be to God.