November 16, 2018

Epiphany III: Bada Bing Bada Boom?

Landscape on the Coast, with the Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew. Jan Brueghel the Elder

Sermon: Epiphany III — Bada Bing Bada Boom?
• Mark 1:14-20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

• • •

The Lord be with you.

I have an idea that this morning’s Gospel text is one that pastors enjoy preaching. It comes across as simple and clear cut. Jesus brings the Good News and calls us to follow him. And here we have clear examples of people who heard that message, left everything, and followed him.

  • A message.
  • Decisions of faith.
  • Changed lives.

The scenario we see here portrays why most pastors go into ministry. This is the pattern they try to replicate week after week, sermon after sermon, in ministry program after ministry program.

  • Proclaim the message.
  • See people respond in faith.
  • Watch as God changes lives in an instant.

Bada bing. Bada boom.

This text can sound like an especially good model to fit our American can-do, consumeristic way of looking at things.

  • You’ve got a problem.
  • I’ve got a solution.
  • Buy my solution and, voila, your problem is fixed.

It’s infomercial Christianity.

Entire churches and church traditions are built on this pattern. This Midwest region where we live became famous in the 1800s for revivalistic forms of Christianity that were all about the change. They were all about the moment of decision. The dramatic conversion. The instantaneous transformation of a person’s life from darkness to light. Make a decision for Christ. Pray the sinner’s prayer. Walk the aisle or the sawdust trail and come to the altar.

Bada bing. Bada boom. The Spirit falls from heaven and you’re born again, a new creation, the old has vanished and the new has come.

I lived and ministered in that revivalistic world for many years. My particular brand was more focused on teaching than on evangelism, but in some of our fellow churches and denominations it was not uncommon for pastors to be fired for not having enough conversions, not enough believer’s baptisms, and not growing their churches sufficiently through having people make decisions for Christ. Not enough action. Not enough people making dramatic decisions to leave everything and follow Jesus. Not enough fire falling from heaven. Not enough bada bing bada boom.

It was expected that what we see here in Mark 1 would happen regularly and consistently. This was the pattern of ministry. Proclaim the message. Call for decision. Watch as God changes lives in an instant.

Bada bing. Bada boom.

I think differently about all this now.

First of all, I think what we see here in Mark 1 is the beginning of a long process of conversion in these disciples’ lives.

Please notice what Jesus says to them. Follow me. That signifies the beginning of a journey. They are not transformed here at this moment. They are being redirected onto a new path of ongoing transformation. I will agree that it was an important first step for them to get on that path. But that was just the start. We’re still in chapter one, and there is a long and winding road before these disciples.

Also notice that Jesus says, “I will make you” into something. The point of their following was to initiate a process of change as they interacted with Jesus. He would change them and the change would come along the way. It was in the following itself, in the long journey, in the involved process of living and walking with Christ that they would become new.

A second thing I want to note is that Jesus was calling these particular people to a particular vocation.

These were fishermen who were about to become disciples who would eventually become apostles. When Jesus says that he would be making them become fishers of people, he was saying that they would become his apprentices. He was going to show them how to do the same job he was called to do in the world. They were being called to vocational ministry here, to ordained service — to be ministers, evangelists, pastors, religious leaders. They were called out of the ordinary realms of life to special service. They were being asked to leave behind good and necessary vocations such as being fishermen to pursue religious vocations.

Now most of us are not called to that. And this story can mislead us if we don’t read it carefully. Most of us here this morning are not going to have an experience like this, where we’re called to abandon the world of everyday work to follow Jesus into a religious vocation. We are not going to leave behind our families, our jobs, and the places where we live and take up extraordinary assignments.

And we are not to envy people like Peter and Andrew and James and John and think they have something better than we do. God values each vocation and calls each of us by his grace to our own work, and by that work we each make our own unique contributions to his kingdom.

So when one of you hears Jesus say, “Follow me,” it may be to let him make you a more faithful farmer or electrician or schoolteacher or insurance salesperson or engineer. You may do your work in the home, raising children, providing for the needs of a household. You may work in a restaurant or in the construction trades. You may be a student. You may be retired from working for a living and now have the freedom to spend extra time with your family and with friends, helping them.

Whatever it may be, following Jesus is not a matter of leaving these ordinary ventures behind, but rather of moving more deeply into them with him, learning how to infuse those duties with faith, hope, and love by the grace and strength God gives you. God is calling most of us to stay on the boat and follow Jesus there.

This text is not bada bing bada boom anything.

This text opens the door to a long process of conversion, a journey with Jesus that enables us to become what he has created us to be, in whatever vocation he calls us to pursue.

May God guide us on this journey each and every day. Amen.

Comments

  1. Great message, CM. Thanks for sharing your new insight and wisdom on this particular passage. Seems to me it’s a lot healthier in the long run than the more traditional, Americanized interpretation.

  2. A single clap.

    And another. And another, growing in intensity and speed.

    Soon two people join in the clapping, then four more. Now the entire audience has joined, the volume growing to a roar.

    Everyone sharing in the profoundness of the moment.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      I remain fascinated by the mutation of Christianity 1.0 “Church based” to Christianity 2.0
      “Bible based”. It happened at a specific place – the western frontier of the United States – and at a specic time – the first three decades of the 19th century. I don’t think Europe even notced. The Christianity that died in Europe was Christianity 1.0 even though there was a successful importation of Christianity 2.0 by American evangelists in England.

      The reagents for the change appear to be American self-reliance and the Jacksonian spirit- the plain man with his open Bible speaking the unadorned TRVTH. You can say what you want about revivalistic Christianity, but it was an admirable adaptation of the message of Christ to a new social environment.

  3. I know that correlating Gospel passages is not theologically cool anymore… but I’m a nerd. Coolness doesn’t mean Jack Manure to me. 😛

    In the Luke parallel to this passage, Peter and his friends have just had a long and unproductive night fishing. As morning approached, an itinerant Preacher happened by and asked if He could use the boat as an impromptu pulpit. Sure, why not? The Preacher gets on board, they put off a little from shore, and the Preacher preaches to the crowd. When He’s done, He tells Peter “Up for one last round of fishing, friend?” “Man, we fished ALL NIGHT and caught nothing! But… if you say so.” They lower the nets… and every fish in the Sea of Galilee jumps in.

    “Who… ARE YOU?”

    “I’m the One Who wants to hire you as a fisherman. To catch people. No pay, no benefits. So… what do you say?”

    It makes MUCH more sense that four redneck fisherman would just pack up and leave everything when you remember this.

  4. Thanks for this Mike. I visit the site regularly but rarely comment but this reminds me a lot of some verses from Titus that I’ve been struck by recently:

    “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (NIV)

    I think this is a great summation of the gospel but I have been particularly caught by the emphasis on grace teaching us to say “no” etc – it reminds us that sanctification is not an overnight happening but a process we are going through as learners (disciples) for the rest of our lives here “in this present age”.

    Cheers

  5. I”m slowly learning that I’m not transformed/converted by any half-baked decisions I make to follow, but by Jesus Christ again and again calling me to follow him. His call creates my conversion, over time.

    Jesus said, Follow
    me, Jesus said, Follow me,
    Jesus said, Follow

    • Christiane says:

      hence our referring to Him as Our Saving Lord Who leads us from death into life . . . . it’s a process, yes, and sometimes a very, very painful one

  6. Profound and beautifully written. Thanks, Mike.

  7. Ronald Avra says:

    Grateful to wake up to this.

  8. Christiane says:

    ” . . . . what Jesus says to them. Follow me. That signifies the beginning of a journey. They are not transformed here at this moment. They are being redirected onto a new path of ongoing transformation ”

    Bada BINGO!

    It’s about ‘the journey’ . . . . . and maybe an understanding that God doesn’t operate strictly on our version of ‘time’, He may do something ‘in an instant’, or over the frame of millenia.

    We don’t ‘get it’ that the miracles are all around us . . . we take them for granted in our blindness, we assume too much and overlook too much . . . . we judge and point the finger even though we can only ‘see through a glass darkly’ in this life

    ‘the journey’ towards the Light is not well-understood by many, who keep turning back to dwell on the darkness

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What “journey”?
      Walk the aisle, Say the Sinner’s Prayer, AcceptJeesusChristAsYourPersonalLOORDand Savior (all one word), and get your Individual Fire Insurance Policy with free complementary Rapture Boarding Pass. After which, there is only Wretched Urgency to Sell That Fire Insurance, Always Be Closing.

      During my time in-country, I Heard Nothing Else.

      • Christiane says:

        and then you were ‘saved’ and they issued you directions on how to point the finger at ‘those other sinners’, the collective ‘how to’ manual that illustrated the ‘Christian’ way to practice homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, racist, et al, WITHOUT accepting responsibility for being a homophobe or an Islamophobe, or misogynist, or racist . . . . .

        I am still in shock over the evangelical support of Trump, but when they rallied for Joe Moore, it was too much for me . . . . . I still can’t believe that the percentage of support was as high as was claimed

        I don’t WANT to believe it, no.
        Wish I could wake up from this nightmare.

        • john barry says:

          Headless Unicorn Guy, Joe Moore probably siphoned enough votes off Roy Moore to defeat him. Joe Moore was probably moore qualified than Roy but Roy had a horse and a gun but both Doug themselves into a hole. I was moore surprised at the amount of evangelical support for Romney than Trump but there is no headline there.
          I do think the evangelical strongholds of Mi, Wi and Pa. were the difference if we still want to go back a year. If you want to get homophobia, misogyny and racism down you have to practice. Like the old NYC joke, how do you get to Carnegie Hall asked the lost visitor, the jaded New Yorker had the answer practice, practice, practice.
          I think Joe was moore qualified than Roy but to many he was the just an average Joe but Roy was moore known due to his work with disadvantaged youth. At least Roy Moore was not an ageist. I think his campaign song of She Was Only 16 was a poor choice..

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          This was the mid-Seventies, well before “Islamophobia” became a word.
          Closest equivalent of the period was “Anti-Communism”.

          • Christiane says:

            human nature, Headless, human nature . . . . . in ten years, there will be other ‘enemies’ to label and hate and be ‘better than’ and look down on

            (sigh)

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    My particular brand was more focused on teaching than on evangelism, but in some of our fellow churches and denominations it was not uncommon for pastors to be fired for not having enough conversions, not enough believer’s baptisms, and not growing their churches sufficiently through having people make decisions for Christ. Not enough action. Not enough people making dramatic decisions to leave everything and follow Jesus. Not enough fire falling from heaven. Not enough bada bing bada boom.

    How many of them survived by cooking their books/padding their numbers?

    (Obvious side effect of such Wretched Urgency — If you don’t have it, FAKE IT!)

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    It was expected that what we see here in Mark 1 would happen regularly and consistently. This was the pattern of ministry. Proclaim the message. Call for decision. Watch as God changes lives in an instant.

    Bada bing. Bada boom.

    JMJ over at Christian Monist (formerly http://evangelicalinthewilderness.blogspot.com/ now https://jmichaeljoneswriter.com/blog/ ) wrote often how this expectation of instant transformation into utter perfection leads to (1) a lot of faking and pretending in God’s Always-Victorious Speshul Pets and (2) deep despair in those who are not.

    • –> “…(leads to) deep despair in those who are not.”

      Agreed. Like I said in my initial comment, CM’s interpretation is so much healthier to a majority of Christians, and dare I add ultimately even to non-believers.

    • Christiane says:

      that ‘Christian Monist’ looks like an interesting site, Headless

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’ve been following his site for years, with occasional direct correspondence.

        Some years ago, I tried to send him a copy of Mary Hanson-Roberts’ graphic novel Here Comes a Candle but all my sources were sold out and I’ve never been able to track down another copy.

        (HCAC is a graphic novel telling the story of the French Revolution using animal characters, primarily centering around le Marquis de Carabas, descendant of Puss-in-Boots. Kinda satirical with lotsa dark humor.)

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    So when one of you hears Jesus say, “Follow me,” it may be to let him make you a more faithful farmer or electrician or schoolteacher or insurance salesperson or engineer.

    Otherwise, you’re right back into the Heresy of Clericalism, right in with the Medieval church where only Priests, Monks, and Nuns mattered in the sight of God and the laity could all go to Hell.

    • Christiane says:

      well, perhaps the ten percent of the clergy who ‘survived’ the plague that ravaged Europe . . . . it was during the Plague years that 90% of the Catholic clergy perished . . . . . maybe it had something to do with those ‘hospitals’ that the Church opened for nursing the sick, and maybe it had something to do with the anointing of the sick which was considered then (and even now) as a holy sacrament and that certainly brought many clergy into contact with contagion . . . .

      I wonder how many of the ten percent that survived actually had a natural immunity or were just plain ‘too important’ to nurse and bless the sick and dying?????

      No doubt the plague impacted the Church in those days and many of the clerics and nuns who WERE ‘servants’ of God perished along with those they cared for
      . . . . . I’d like to think some of the 10% of the clergy who survived were those with natural immunity, but the truth is the good guyz probably died and it was many of the cowardly bums who lived who took over the leadership of the clergy, having been ‘too important’ to personally minister to plague victims

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        What gets me is that the Neo-Cals and Non-Denoms who are still fighting the Reformation Wars against Romish Popery and its Priestcraft are way farther into Clericalism (“Full Time Christian Ministry” as Highborn Caste) than the Medieval Church ever was.

        Guess if you don’t call it Clericalism or Priestcraft, is isn’t Clericalism or Priestcraft…
        KYLE: But Dad, isn’t that Fascism?
        KYLE’S DAD: No it isn’t, Son, because we don’t call it “Fascism”. Do you understand?
        KYLE: Do you?
        South Park, “Sexual Harassment Panda”

  12. T I M E! D’aint no gitten ‘round it. Might as well settle in.