Reflection on Mark 1:14-20

Bishop Jim Jelinek and I, clergy at Trinity Church Newport Rhode Island, decided last week that we would write daily meditations during this time of pandemic and isolation. We want to offer you a connection as we share what is on our minds and hearts.

If something we say creates a question or a thought in your mind, please know that we are readily available to talk with you by telephone or skype or whatever platform you use.

What we want to do is create social nearness in the Spirit while respecting the urgent call for physical distancing.

My reflection today continues in Mark’s Gospel; chapter 1, verses 14-20

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
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. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 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. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Our reading begins with the phrase “now after…”. There are many “now afters” in the Bible… now after the flood, now after Moses died, now after Joseph is taken into Egypt, now after… the Crucifixion. It seems to be a dynamic embedded into the words of Holy Scripture but I think it is also a dynamic embedded into the spiritual life. Challenging, terrible events occur but there is, in the economy of God, always a “now after”. It has been said that God (and therefore goodness, righteousness, justice and life itself) will always have the last word. So “now after John was arrested… Jesus came to Galilee”. This psychic dynamic will surely reveal itself as the weeks and months unroll, but we also need it to shape our hours and our days. We need to nurture the belief that no matter how tough a day there is a “now after” tomorrow.

And Jesus went about “proclaiming the good news”. Here the Greek koine word kerugma is used for proclamation. I’ve just finished reading an extraordinarily well written book by Erik Larson on Churchill and the London Blitz and I’ll restrain from Churchill impersonations. Imagine the exuberant joy when the end of war was proclaimed… this is kerugma. The proclamation of good news. Friends, there will come a time when the awful present exigencies of our current days will end and then what a glorious experience there will be of “proclamation of cessation of war and conflict and inauguration of peace and health.”

Years ago I had the privilege of working with a retired priest who used various mantras. One was “Jesus always comes to where we are…”. In my early days of parish ministry, I was instructed to visit parishioners and non-parishioners throughout the week and then present a record (with notes) of my visits. The point was to visit where people are, not wait until they came to you. Hence the phrase (I refuse to call it antiquated) that a “home-going parson makes for a church-going people”. Jesus comes to where Simon and Andrew, James and John are working; and he comes to them as they are (fisherman) and uses their inherent skills for the Gospel.

Whatever state of mind or soul in which we find ourselves, Jesus has and is and will come to us “just where we are” (Emmanuel – God is with us). We need present no false façade… Jesus loves me, Jesus loves, this I know… for the Bible tells me so.

A Prayer
Lord Jesus,
Be present and remain in our weakness and doubt, in our questions and concerns.
And, Lord, may your presence open us (carefully and gradually) to believe that a good future is always next in the Kingdom of God.
May those who feel alone and without value be transformed by looking, listening and talking to you.