Follow me/ Sígueme

Mark 1:14-20  January 21, 2018  by The Rev. Alfredo Feregrino

Have you ever received an unexpected invitation? Something out of the blue? Something surprising that you did not expect?

and in the end this invitation proved to be a transformative experience?

I have a short story to tell you …

When I was probably 9 or 10 years old, my mom took me to church.

I have to confess that I did not want to be at church that day.  As the priest was presiding, it just so happen that he did not have any acolytes to help him in the liturgy. So just before the offertory he said, “Is anyone here willing to help me at the altar?” Everybody at that moment looked at each other and a deep silence reigned over the place.

To be honest, I did not want to be in front of all the people.  But in the end, I accepted the invitation and served with the priest at the altar.  This turned out to be a transformative experience, and marked a very import moment in my life.

In the Gospel that we just heard today, Jesus called his first disciples, Simon, Andrew, James and John at the shore of the Sea of Galilee saying to them:  Follow me!

What is interesting here is that Jesus dares to break into the lives of these fishermen without warning and, what’s more, during business hours. They were busy… working, with their nets in hand when Jesus called them. And the fishermen, without discussion, without deliberation, all at once, leave their work and followed him.

Wow, this may seem unimaginable to us.

It is clear that Jesus does not force anyone to follow him, the fishermen freely accept Jesus invitation to participate in the coming of God’s kingdom without knowing what to expect.

Can you imagine that?

In this event the four fishermen who later will form the inner core of Jesus ministry, left everything and followed Jesus without hesitation.

It is worthy to note that nowhere in this text does it say that the four fishermen, are invited to become disciples, although Jesus will use this term later.

In this passage, Mark the gospel writer makes several points about discipleship and its meaning.

To be a disciple means to embrace the promises and hopes of the kingdom of God. The disciple must leave an old world behind. But the disciple cannot do this alone.

The disciple needs the support of others in their community and as a group, the first disciples left the world of their nets and boats and together they followed Jesus.

The fact that the four fishermen followed Jesus signifies a radical change in their behavior both individually and as a group. The act of following Jesus suggests a profound transformative change of heart, a new way of seeing the world.

There is a personal and an intentional decision to turn to Jesus.

If we examining this passage carefully we can say that  “To turn is to follow”

In order to follow we must turn, we must change direction. It is essential that we redirect our lives.

The later prophets in Israel expected each individual in Israel to repent and experience a personal change of heart. The prophet Jonah as we can see in the first lesson went to Nineveh to change the direction of the people and to turn them away from their evil paths.

“Repent, and believe in the good news.” These are the first words that Jesus pronounces in this gospel.

Repentance means true conversion, it means changing direction. This is what Jesus asks of us. Just to change direction.

Repentance means a change of mind that leads to a change in behavior. Repentance means that every old way of living is going to change.

I wonder if you recognize something in your life and behavior that you know you must change…we all have these things.

The verb repent here, is in the present tense and conveys the sense and notion of continuous action and timeless truth. You do not just repent once in your life and your work is done.  No.  The call for change and trust in the good news summons us to conversion on a constant basis.

My professor of systematic theology Mike Raschko said: “Conversion is not simply a matter of beliefs that we hold to be true.”

No, this is not conversion.

Conversion means changing our way of being in the world. Conversion involves a profound shift in how we see the world, how we approach the world and what is possible in life.

In our baptismal covenant and in the remembrance of our baptism,

a radical change of direction is requested from us.  In our baptismal covenant, we promise to resist evil, to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. We promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.

Our baptismal covenant is a synthesis of what it really means to follow Jesus.

So, I wonder, can you imagine a world in which we all are able to embody this covenant in a conversion to truly see the world differently…to truly see that justice is rooted in the respect and the dignity of every human being…to be a part of making this happen?

Can you imagine a world in which there are not prejudices due to economic status, gender or race because we…..all of us, individually and together, have actually succeeded in making a radical change in direction?

The same way that Jesus called his first disciples to follow him, he is inviting us to follow him. He is inviting  us to have a complete identification with his life.  A life full of compassion, love and justice.  This is what it means to follow, day by day, in the footsteps of Jesus.

Jesus is inviting us to follow him within our own contexts now, not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or just on Sundays.

Jesus is inviting us to make a difference now in the life of others, in the life of our families, friends and communities.

And we can start making a difference by making the call that we are afraid to make, by forgiving those who wounded us, by spending time with our kids , by visiting our parents, by giving flowers to our spouses or partners and telling them that we love them.

Jesus is inviting us to make a difference in the life of the others by  living justly and treating others with dignity,

by taking care of the sick, by feeding the hungry, by confronting the powers that want to benefit only the few and by speaking for those who have no voice.

The good news of God in Jesus, allows us to believe that a new world is possible, that a new world is feasible.

I still remember the day that the priest invited me to serve with him at the altar. That unexpected invitation was not in my plans and proved to be  transformative indeed.

Just like Jesus invitation, this invitation may not be in our original plans, it may be unexpected but I promise you if you embrace it,  it will be completely transformational. It will be a new way of seeing the world with fresh eyes.

So, please …..put down your nets, turn from the “work of the day” ,change your direction and come…accept the invitation to follow Jesus.  And In the breaking of the bread, recognize his presence and turn to him. He is waiting for you at his table.