Jonah 3:1-5,10; I Corinthians 7:29-31; Psalm 25; Mark 1:14-20
In our Gospel lesson this morning, from St. Mark, Our Lord says to Simon and Andrew, “Come after me; I will make you fishers of men.” We, like the Apostles, are to be “fishers of men”, we are to draw people to the Church, to the Kingdom of God. But what do we use as bait? How do we lure people to the truth of Christ? How do we gather them in the net of the Gospel? Our bait, our lure is, as Our Lord proclaimed, “This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the good news!” As Rev. Sister said last week, the heavens have been blasted open, God is among us. This is the Good News, the Gospel of Christ that we are to declare to the world. But once someone is interested in the Good news, is willing to, at least, listen – what next? What is a strong enough witness to overcome the enticements and entertainments of the world? This is the scary part, because the best witness is our own lives. Not that we are in any way perfect, that is not the point. People of faith have lives that are as full of failure, sorrow, stress, loss and struggle as those of unbelievers. The difference is not that we don’t have troubles, but how we cope with them. We witness to someone whose life of trouble is making them miserable, by sharing that, in Christ, our life of trouble is also a life of grace, of peace, of forgiveness, of fellowship and friendship with God and God’s people. Even when we are down we are not alone or abandoned, even when we weep, we weep in faith and trust. The Good News is that God is near, wherever we are, in the heights of success or the depths of failure, God is with us.
The key to this, for ourselves as well as those to whom we witness, is to focus our lives on God, not on the things of this world, even the good things. St. Paul writes, in his letter to the Church at Corinth, “I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on let those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” This does not mean that we are to ignore our responsibilities, but that we are not to place our trust, our faith, or our happiness in things that are passing away. The things, and the people, of this world will fail us, and if our happiness is dependent on them, then we will be miserable. This is as true of ourselves as of other people, if our happiness depends on our own strength and accomplishment, our success according to the world’s standards, we will be miserable, as well. We are to live in the world, but not live for the world, we are to live only for God, and God’s Kingdom.
How do we do this? And, how do we do it in a way that witnesses to our faith? First we must pay attention to our own interior life, how we respond to people and situations. And ask ourselves these questions, “Do I act as if my only happiness is in God?” “Do I accumulate and cling to the passing things of this world as if my happiness is in them?” “Do I allow the decisions and moods of other people to determine my happiness?” “Do my own circumstances of health, money, housing, employment, family life, determine my happiness or peace of mind and heart?” How we answer these questions will give us an idea of what areas we need to work on, repent of, or surrender to God. I want to make it clear that by happiness I don’t mean momentary pleasure, or mindless giddiness, I mean that heart deep sense of knowing I live in the Caim. That God is present to ME, that God loves ME, that when I repent, God forgives ME. True happiness is the joy of being in Christ, which nothing can take away from us.
As “fishers of men” the Good News of Christ is the bait, the witness of our lives is the line that will draw others into the net of the Gospel – lives not different in many ways than those in the world, but so different in effect and result. Living for God puts all the things of this world in their proper perspective, we see them clearly, blinded neither by their glitter nor their darkness. Living for God also puts us always in the right place, the right time, in God’s time and God’s presence where we can always serve righteousness.
The choice is before us, as it was before Simon and Andrew, James and John, when Christ says, “Come after me…” will we follow? Will we lay down the life we were living and pick up our life in Christ? This is a choice we make every day, sometimes many times a day – that doesn’t matter – what matters is that we choose, and keep choosing to follow Christ. (+)
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