A Provocation: Third Sunday After the Epiphany: January 21, 2018: Mark 1:14-20

Mark 1:14-20
1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,

1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

1:16 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.

1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

1:18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

1:19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.

1:20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

A Question or Two:

  • Why did all this happen after John was arrested?
  • Where was Jesus before this?

Some Longer Reflections:

…after John was arrested…

This past week I heard a man on the radio.  He was talking about getting arrested back in the 1960s because he sat down at a “whites only” lunch counter.  I also heard on the radio about the death of the man convicted in the deaths of civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.  In 1964, as part of the Freedom Summer Drive, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were working to register voters in Mississippi.  They were young, about the same age as my youngest son.  And they were killed by white supremacists.  Some people today might call the killers “fine people.”  I would not.  Killers are killers, and those who join groups that supported the killers are not fine people.  I might call them “accomplices-after-the-fact.”

Showing up and announcing that the world was about to change did not bring safety (or even success) for John the Baptist.  It did not bring safety or success for the Freedom Riders back in the 1960s.  A member of the congregation I served 30 years ago was one of those Freedom Riders.  She told me about her experience when I had expressed frustration at the state of civil rights issues in our country.  “Nothing changed,” I had said.  Then she told me her story.  “A lot changed,” she said, “but we are not done.”

I wonder if that is what Jesus said “…after John was arrested…”?

It is clear that my teacher, the Freedom Rider, was correct.  We are not done.  Not even nearly.  The people who refused to serve Black people at their lunch counters believed that any “race mixing” violated their religious principles.  The Supreme Court has been asked to consider whether “religious principles” allow people to refuse to serve people to whom they object.  Lunch counters or wedding cakes, it’s the same issue.

We are not done.  

Federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map this past week because it was obviously drawn to create and preserve a political advantage.  Take a look at the map ( go to https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/09/us/north-carolina-gerrymander.html).  If that is not gerrymandering, the word has no meaning.

We are not done. 

Read through the tweets (some of them perhaps generated by bots?) that erupted when Doug Jones won the special election in Alabama.  They are full of claims that lots and lots and lots of Black people voted illegally.

We as SO not done. 

There are many things with which we are not finished: affordable health care, protection from harassment in the workplace (and any place), protection for people who come to our country for political freedom, religious liberty, and economic opportunity.  This is just the short list.

So listen to what Jesus says after John was arrested: “Their time is up,” he says.  “The new day is on the horizon.”

Well, actually that was Oprah, but Jesus says the same thing.  He even uses the same basic metaphor to talk about how near the Reign of God has come.  The word translated as “has come near” (ἤγγικεν) is the word you would use to describe the moment just before the sun breaks above the horizon.  Get up early, an hour or two before sunrise, and wait for the sun. Watch the horizon.  It is still night, and will be for a long, cold time, but you can see the sky getting lighter, even two hours before sunrise.  Watch the horizon.  Just before the sun actually rises, the horizon looks as if it were boiling.  And then the first edge of the sun pops up, and the whole sky changes.  In the next few minutes, I swear I can feel the earth turning under my feet, and then the sun breaks free and rises.  Even on the coldest winter day, you can feel the warmth.  

Do you suppose Oprah knew what the text for this Sunday would be?

You don’t have to like Oprah, or want her to run for president to feel the rightness of what she said.

Before you preach, listen to the old song, “Here Comes The Sun.”  You could listen to the Beatles version (you can find it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/NI5iR52f65o).  Or you could listen to Paul Simon sing it with Graham Nash and David Crosby (https://youtu.be/muFOeZSIC2U).  Make sure that you listen to Richie Havens (https://youtu.be/VBbXKsKXyNU).

But above all, wait and watch.  The Christian faith does not teach you to put up with the way things have always been.  As my teacher taught me: “A lot changed,” she said, “but we are not done.”

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