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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 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 sea—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. (NRSV)

The first character on the stage of Mark’s drama about the life and ministry of Jesus is John the baptizer. Yet Mark quickly clears the stage with John’s arrest, so the lead character, Jesus, has no competition. The message of this Jesus is clear and compelling: “The time is fulfilled and the realm of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”

There are several opening scenes in Mark’s very fast-paced play. The next scene takes place near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus encounters four fishermen with a concise, compelling command: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately (Mark’s favorite word) they followed him.

I have always struggled with the abruptness of this scene. There is no room for deliberation and discernment on the fishermen’s part. How could they have made this life-transforming decision so quickly?

Perhaps my struggles have to do with my own perceiver tendencies. I have always valued reflective action, thinking through alternatives before making a decision. Yet there have been sudden, mind-changing moments as well.

Many years ago, I was confronted with the need to choose, very quickly, whether to pursue ministerial studies at a divinity school in Boston or one in Chicago. While my decision to come to Chicago was abrupt, it transformed my life and the path of my pastoral vocation. Looking back, I am deeply grateful for this decisive moment in my response to a compelling call.

I invite all of us to reflect on our own life circumstances. Where and when, in our meandering paths following Jesus, have there been “Sea of Galilee” moments where our experience and our discipleship have taken a sudden turn?

Surprising God, we thank you for the courage of our convictions, especially in sudden moments that shape our discipleship. Strengthen, we pray, our trust in your guidance and your companionship, wherever our call to follow Jesus takes us. In the name of our brother and our Savior. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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