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Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, Series B

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3rd Sunday after Epiphany, January 25, 2009 “Series B”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we have gathered hear this morning because you have called us through your Son, Jesus the Christ, to worship and praise you for your gift of grace. We are here, not because we have searched for you, but because you have searched for us and claimed us as your own to do the work of your kingdom. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, give us what we need to do the work to which we have been called, and to this end, strengthen us in faith. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen

Dr. David Granskou, one of my professors in New Testament studies at seminary, believed that in order for us to truly grasp the human dynamic of scripture, we have to be open to the humor contained in the Gospels. His contention was that we often approach reading scripture with such a serious desire to learn the Word of God, to have these sacred writings inform our faith, that we often fail to understand the human context in which they were written.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of those texts in which Dr. Granskou would urge us to see the humor of the situation. In fact, it is a text which could supply Bill Cosby with enough material for another recording in the tradition of his interpretation of “Noah and the Ark.” Just think about our lesson, with an open mind to the humor it conveys.

Following the death of John the Baptizer, Mark tells us that Jesus began his ministry, proclaiming that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near…” Then Mark asks us to picture Jesus, strolling down the beach along the Sea of Galilee, perhaps taking a respite, or contemplating upon the direction his own ministry might take.

But as Jesus walks along the shore, he notices two men preparing to go fishing. Now these were men of strong stature, who had a great love for the sea, preparing to cast their nets into the water, and then settle back for a few hours of soaking in the rays, before the sweat of having to retrieve their catch. It was their daily routine, their means of earning a living.

But their daily routine was about to change. For into their lives walks Jesus, this man whom they had never seen before, who calls out to these two men of the sea to “come and follow him, for he will make them fish for people.” And now, we encounter the humor of this text. If I might borrow a word from Bill Cosby’s rendition of “Noah and the Ark,” these two brawny men of the sea simply say “Right!” And they immediately drop their expensive nets to float away tot he sea, and fall into formation behind this stranger.

From there, the three of them walk further down the beach, apparently not even speaking with one another, until the stranger spies two other young men of the sea, who are mending their nets with an older man, who happens to be their father. Then Jesus, this stranger walking down the beach, calls out to the two younger men, but not to their father, with the same invitation. And without hesitation, or explanation, these two men say “Right!” They drop their nets for their father to mend by himself, and fall into line behind the others as they continue to stroll down the beach until they are out of sight.

Now one might think, out of common appreciation for the trade of fishing, that the first two men who fell in line behind this stranger, would have told the father of the second two, that if he would just walk down the beach a ways, in the direction from which they came, he would find a net that didn’t need to be mended. But no, they were just so awed by this stranger that they dropped everything, including their common sense.

I can just hear Bill Cosby’s “Right!” echoing through my mind as I read this text. The truth is, our Gospel lesson from Mark, when taken literally, is quite strange, if not down right humorous. It is certainly a different picture of the calling of the Jesus’ first disciples than that provided by John’s Gospel, which we encountered last week.

In John’s Gospel, the Baptizer pointed Jesus, attesting to his divinity, and encouraged his own disciples to follow Jesus. Then, after spending time with Jesus, two of his disciples go and invite their brothers to come and see if Jesus might not truly be the Messiah. John’s Gospel seems a little more believable, since his first disciples come to follow Jesus in a more rational means.

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