The Ticky Tacky Problem
Week of Sunday January 22
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
10 And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ 11then you shall say to them: It is because your ancestors have forsaken me, says the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshipped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law; 12and because you have behaved worse than your ancestors, for here you are, every one of you, following your stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. 13Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favour.
14 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt’, 15but ‘As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their ancestors.
16 I am now sending for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall catch them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17For my eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from my presence, nor is their iniquity concealed from my sight. 18And I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
16 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.17And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
This sermon is being written for a congregation which makes extensive use of a data projector. While the bible is being read, there will be a loop of several slides, including the (in)famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a little child being stalked by a vulture during a famine. Every second slide is of "little boxes" suburbs, rows upon rows of houses. The other slides show the dystopic nature of our cities; dirt, riots, pain.
After the reading we will hear Malvina Reynolds singing her song, "Little Boxes." I'm using a You Tube version by Claymation. The sermon makes reference to these slides.
The time is fulfilled...
the Kingdom of God has come near...
and believe in the Good News...
What does this mean?
Well, Good News, in the original Greek text of Mark, is one word. The word is euangelion. Euangelion was news of victory in battle. You probably know the legend of the battle of Marathon. The Greeks defeated the vastly superior Persian forces, and Phidippides ran the 26 miles from Marathon back to Athens. “Good news. We won. We have the victory!”
This is such good news, that you would run to tell people even if it cost you your life.
So... let’s unpack what Jesus said.
The time is fulfilled: Listen up, people! It’s now. Now is the time! Not next week, or next year; now!
The Kingdom of God has come near. It is at hand. The world is starting to run the way God wants it to run—now! That little girl being stalked by the vulture, the riots, the fires... all that is not in God’s plan for the world. God has other plans, and God has started. It’s happening now!
Repent! Stop what you are doing. Turn back! Go the way God wants; live life the way God wants. Stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution!
Believe in the Euangelion; the good news. Believe doesn’t mean to say, “That’s right. That’s correct.” Believe means, “Yes! I’ll do it! I’ll put my money where my mouth is. I’m on board. I’m joining the kingdom.
Well.... just how do we do that?
What we see is that Jesus comes and invites people to join him. “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” he says to the fishermen. In this story, we are the fishermen. If he were here today, it’s us he would be calling. He is... calling us.
But there is something we can miss in all this.
We understand the bit about follow me, that’s clear. But what about fishing for people?
Fishing for people was an idea that conjoured up images of bad news! In that reading from Jeremiah, fishing for people was an image of judgement! Jeremiah saw that God was going to fish out and hunt down all the evil doers and punish them, and set the world to rights. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? You have to get rid of the bad people to make the world a better place.
So the disciples are thinking, OK!!! Now it’s happening. The kingdom of God is starting. We’re off to fish out the bad people. Bewdy... you little ripper; about time they got what’s coming to them!”
So Jesus goes off to fish for people. He goes off to bring the kingdom of God near to people. And the disciples go with him.
What does he do? Does Jesus lay into people? Does he punish them?
If you listen to the gospel in this year of Mark
and if you act like a disciple and follow Jesus
you will find that, instead, Jesus heals the people.
He takes pity on them. He loves them.
The only people Jesus gets stuck into are the religious people who think they are the ants pants and know what God wants.
What religion was doing was meeting a thief, or a gossip, or an alcoholic and saying, You’re wrong, you’re evil; GET OUT! Don’t let me ever see you again.”
But what Jesus was meeting a thief, or a gossip, or an alcoholic, and saying, “Mate, what you’re doing is making you sick. And it’s not helping anyone else, either. Follow me, and I’ll help you stop, and you’ll meet God. You’ll become one of God’s people.”
The first lesson of being a Christian is that we’re not going fishing by sorting people out and putting them straight about right and wrong. We are simply there to do good, and to love them. If we don’t get this, we’re dumber than the disciples, and we’re part of the problem.
You see, Good and Bad are not tools they use to measure us up in the kingdom of God. Jesus looks at us and says, “Are you trying to help, or are you still part of the problem?” And if we’re part of the problem, then he offers to help us become part of the answer.
So, Jesus is asking us, “Are you trying to help, or are you still part of the problem?”
If we’re not trying to help, and if we refuse to try and help; it we’re just doing our own think because basically we think we are number one; the most important person in the world; do you know what?
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how rich we are, how healthy, how pretty, how much people respect us; we’re just ticky tacky, like the song says; shallow people living in little boxes; products of the sausage machine. We’re the probem!
But when we do what Jesus would do if he were here in our shoes;
when we are compassionate,
then we are part of the solution. And you know what?
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how rich we are, how healthy, how pretty, how much people respect us; because we are part of the kingdom.
We are part of God’s solution.
We are part of the Victory; doing God’s work.
Don’t Just be ticky tacky.
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!
Andrew: Thanks. And yes, that photo is terrible. I nearly used it once before but backed out; Sudanese folk in the congregation. This is a different place and different situation, but still very brutal.