January 14, 2018
Jesus begins his ministry. That’s what we talked about last week, as we celebrated “The Baptism of Our Lord.” It was very cold that day, and a number of us were not here. So, if you want, you can go back and read my message on line. Or I can get you a copy if you’d like. Oh, and if you feel like you missed out on being “re-introduced” to the waters of Baptism, I can help you out there, too!
So, Jesus begins his public ministry. And one of the first things he does as he begins, is he chooses his disciples. We read the account of that from Mark’s Gospel this morning.
Now the first thing I want to say about that is that disciples were traditionally chosen by rabbis. They all had disciples. So right from the start, Jesus was very much establishing himself as a rabbi. And throughout his ministry, many of the things he did were very “rabbinical” in nature.
This was the first, choosing disciples. But there was some question about it. There was an oddness about it, just like in his Baptism. In that, there was the question of who should be baptizing who, John or Jesus. And we talked about that last week. In this case, the oddness is a little more subtle. And the oddness is, that ordinarily, when a rabbi would choose his disciples, he would select them from among the best of the best of his students. I once heard a great talk about that!
Well, the question here – the oddness – was about who Jesus chose. Did he choose from among the best educated people, like the other rabbis did? No. Jesus chose as his disciples (?) fishermen. And later he would expand that circle to include revolutionaries, and tax collectors. The choice that day, and the oddness of it, would not have been lost on those who were there, and those who were reading about this later. “Really?” “He chose who to be his disciples?!”
Think about it. There are many times when the religious authorities were questioning Jesus. They were challenging him on some of the things he said, and some of the things he did. And there were a few times when they questioned the actions of his disciples. And they would say, “‘Teacher’, your ‘disciples’ are not doing such and such.” And I wonder which of those words “teacher” or “disciples” was spoken with greater sarcasm?
That’s the picture we have here of this new “rabbi,” Jesus, and his “rag-tag” group of “disciples.” And yet the irony of history is that both he, and those men, would end up having the greatest influence on the history of the world than almost anybody else, ever! And yes, eventually statues of them would be carved of them. There would be paintings of them. Halos would be added to those paintings. But they were still halos around the heads of… fishermen – some of the lowest people on the social scale.
And why not? Their “rabbi” was a (?) carpenter. And no offence to the tradesmen of our day, (or fishermen!) but carpenters in that day were not very high on the social scale, either. And not only that, but that word translated “carpenter” in the Gospel could also mean “one who sharpens and tends the tools of a carpenter.” And there is evidence that that may be what Jesus and his father were. And those who tended the tools of a carpenter were among the lowest on the social scale.
Just think about that. The messiah came from a family of low social standing! And he himself may well have been a person of low social standing! How would we have felt if such a person were to become an important figure in our day? And what would that low social status be? And I don’t want to name any, because I really don’t want to show any disrespect. But I want you to think of who the lowliest people are in our society, and then imagine the Messiah starting out like that.
With all of that in mind, with perhaps a mental image of “rabbi Jesus” and his “fishermen disciples,” I want you to think about how God often calls and chooses people. His tradition is that the people he calls are not often the most prestigious, famous, or talented people. Think about it. Moses, Jeremiah, Samuel, David, Mary, Joseph. They were people who were not great, but through whom God did great things!
The Apostle Paul brings this out so beautifully in his letter to the Corinthians. This is one of my all-time favorite passages, and I’ve talked about it often. But hear it again. “For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” (I Corinthians 1:26-28)
So the bottom line here is, (and I’m sure you’ve seen this coming!) you too are called! You too are chosen! Oh, you may not be called to go into the mission field. Then again, you might! But remember, the mission field begins, not overseas, but right outside that door. You may not be called in big, publically visible ways. But then again, you might! But regardless, you are called by God into his kingdom! You are called to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ, the beginnings of which we are reading about here at the start of a new year.
So I want you to consider that. Last week, I asked you to remember your baptism, and to renew the vows you made. And you did. I heard you! Now I want you to think about how you will serve in God’s kingdom in the coming year. Each one of us needs to know we are called. Each one of us needs to know we have been chosen. No matter how unworthy we may feel, no matter how unimportant we might think we are, we matter in God’s kingdom. He knows us, he loves us, and chooses each one of us.
I’d like to close today with the words of my first Senior Pastor, when I was right out of seminary – When I was right at the beginning of my ministry. It was the Reverend Ernest Moritz at the Neshaminy Church. And Ernie had a simple benediction that he liked to use. And I’ve used this myself over the years. And it was this. “Be God’s people where ever he calls you.”
God knows you. God loves you. God calls you!
Eternal God, we thank you for the call to be part of your kingdom. Help us to answer. Help us to serve. Help us to be the light of the world that you have called us to be. May the joy of your kingdom be evident in our lives in this coming year. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.