Reflections on the Scriptures and Christian Living
by Halley Low (with a lot of help from God)
Jan. 21st, 2006
Jonah 3:1-5 “Get up, go…and proclaim…the message….And the people…believed God…everyone, great and small…”
1Cor 7:29-31 “The appointed time grows short…for the present form of this world is passing away.”
Mark 1:14-20 “…Jesus came…proclaiming the message that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near, repent, and believe in the good news”…casting a net into the sea…mending the nets…Jesus called out to them, “I will make you fishers of people”…immediately they followed Him.”
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Have you ever thought what it would be like to be caught in a net? Imagine a second, if you will, you are a fish swimming freely in the ocean, feeling secure as a part of a great school of fish gliding through the vast waters. Suddenly you are caught up in a mass of congestion and confusion, you and your companions are pulled tight together and lifted up, up out of the water and hauled onto the floor of a ship, the net is opened and you and your friends flip flop about struggling to survive, dazed by the passing of the world as you knew it.
Is this what Jesus meant for us to do when He said “I will make you fishers of people”? Are we to pull people into the church without knowledge or consent? No. Jesus is not comparing us to fish. The point of the gospel story is that we, like Simon and Andrew and John and James, are called by Jesus to follow Him, AND TO DO HIS WORK. We are not to use nets made of rope and tied together with knots, we are to use God’s nets, made of grace and tied together with the bonds of love. We are the fish saved from the terrors of the ocean depths to live a new life in the light of day, and in this new life we are called to grow in the kingdom and to work for the kingdom.
Paul writes that the “present form of the world is passing away”, and truly the present age is always in transition, the world is forever passing, in a very real way this happens everyday. Yet at times, this changing world does so in big and dramatic ways, and there is no bigger or dramatic change than when Jesus came and proclaimed “that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand”. All that had happened up to the time of that proclamation, and all that has and is to happen from that point in history onward, would be, is, and will be, forever changed. The connections we hold with one another, our understanding of the world and our purpose in it, and most important of all our relationship with God has been forever changed. Unlike the fish trembling on the floor of the boat, we are caught in the net of God’s love, and in our new found freedom we cry out in joy.
The fulfillment of this freedom and joy is found in the work we are called to, the work of building God’s kingdom, through doing our part in His plan. We are many people with many gifts and coming from many different life experiences. Yet as diverse as we may appear on the surface we are called into unity in Christ, and we work in the unity of God’s love. For in Christ all are one, and God’s love has one purpose – to bring all things back into harmony. Christ came for the whole world; God is the God of all nations and all peoples.
But exactly where is this kingdom of God and how do I know what my work for it is to be? The kingdom of God is universal, and yet the beginning of the kingdom occurs in us each time the seed of the kingdom is planted in our hearts. The seed is the Word, and as the Word lives and grows in our hearts the Word manifests in us and in our world. In ourselves by exposing that within us which is false, bringing about an inner transformation, and through this process (what Wesleyan theology calls sanctification) we grow in our hearts and minds in the knowledge of God’s kingdom, the realm of kindness, mercy, peace, and love, which flows unceasingly from the heart of God through Jesus Christ.
As we change within, as the kingdom of God grows in our hearts and minds, as we come to reflect God’s kindness, love and mercy towards all persons and all things, so the kingdom of God grows in our world. As the seeds of the kingdom, planted in our hearts and watered by God’s grace, grow into strong trees that bear much fruit, the world is blessed by our actions and the kingdom grows stronger. And as each different tree bears different fruit, one an apple, one a fig, one a pine nut, yet each tree and each fruit has its place and its purpose to fulfill in God’s plan. No one is left out of God’s plan; no one is beyond the reach of the net of God’s love. In the book of Jonah we are told that God’s message was to be proclaimed to all people, and that “everyone believed God, both the great and the small”. And so it is, God’s message is for all, the great and the small, and we, like Simon, Andrew, James and John, and yes, even our reluctant friend Jonah, are called to work for the kingdom and to share the good news of God’s love with all people, the great and the small, and yes, even the ones we don’t like or think are worthy of His love. Oh for sure, we can be at times like our friend Jonah, deciding for ourselves who God should love and be merciful to. But like Jonah that is NOT part of our work, we are called to be agents of God’s love, servants to our fellow humans just as our Lord served us, and not to play the judge, it is not our job to decide who can or can not have God’s grace. We ARE called to proclaim the GOOD NEWS of salvation to all people, we ARE called to work for justice, to live in peace, to show kindness and mercy, and to respect, even cherish, our differences; for within these differences lay the gifts of God to be used for the betterment of His kingdom. Each has his/her gift to share, working together in love, honoring each other’s contribution, and respecting one another for the unique blessing that God has created each of us to be, only in this measure do we manifest the kingdom of God in our world, only by this transformation in thinking and acting can the seed of the kingdom planted in our hearts bear much fruit. No one said the work would always be easy, growth is NOT without pain, but Jesus has promised us that if we trust in God and in Him that He would send us a helper, to guide and comfort us, during this transforming of mind and action. With His help let us be fearless, like Simon and Andrew, in casting the net of God’s love over all those we meet, sharing the joy of Jesus through loving words and loving actions. And let us be patient with others, and with ourselves, like John and James, taking the time to mend the net when the bonds of love have been broken, fulfilling our call to be healers, and following our Lord in seeking the reconciliation of the whole world, with all its lost, lonely, and frightened people, into harmony with God through Jesus Christ. Amen.
© 2006 Halley Low
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