Lenten Reflection for March 17

Photo of fern along a river

Scripture: Mark 1:14-20

There are three significant ideas expressed in this passage.

First, what does it mean to repent and believe in the good news of God?  The experience of repenting is often a dark, bleak exercise wherein we confess to all the things we have done wrong, pray for forgiveness and hope we will not experience the wrath of God.  But repentence does not have to be viewed in this manner.  Instead, a call to repent may be seen as having two components:  an opportunity to examine our attitudes, our behaviours and our pre-suppositions and (additionally and equally as important), a time to turn toward something more.

In his opening statements, Jesus is not only calling us to repent, but is also providing us with a resource that we can use.  He says, “Believe in the good news of God.”  I believe that the good news of God refers to a kind, compassionate, loving God who provides the support and guidance to help us maneuver through the peaks and valleys of life.  To borrow two definitions of God from the Rev. Dr. Grant Dawson:  God is “the more in life” and “God is that Voice that calls us beyond who we are to explore who we may yet become.” In essence, repentance is a call to re-examine, re-flect, re-consider and re-assess our lives in the light of a loving God who desires and enables us to transform and grow toward who we are intended to be.

Second, there is something very compelling about the immediacy and unquestioning willingness of the four disciples to follow Jesus.  The good news of God must have resonated powerfully in each of them, as I think it can speak to each of us.  “Every human interaction offers us the chance to make things better, build up, or to make things worse, tear down” (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Alter in the World). We can take our belief in a compassionate, loving, transforming God and utilize it in all of our daily encounters with others to “build up” instead of “tear down.”

Third, the phrase “I will make you fish for people” is a tricky one which I would have preferred to omit, but it is an essential element in the ministry of Jesus.  So!!! what does it mean to fish for people?  It does mean to share the good news of God, but, in that sharing, are we to suggest to others that our belief system “is the only way” and that to understand God, it is necessary to understand Him within our Christian religious framework?  Or does it mean something much larger?

There is a growing body of individuals who name themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.”  This speaks to the fact that there is still a desire within many people to connect with the Divine, to be “filled with something beyond themselves” (Bokma, Anna,“Devoutly Unchurched,” The United Church Observer, January, 2015, pg 16).  Therefore, in light of this changing approach to understanding God, perhaps “fishing for people” means to share our belief in a loving, compassionate, transforming God through our actions.  The traditional approach to welcoming seekers has been Believing, Behaving, Belonging.  Perhaps it is now time to transform this approach to one of sharing a vision of the good news of God so that others might experience the redeeming power of a loving God and use it in their daily lives to become the best possible person they can be.  The invitation now becomes Belonging, Believing, Behaving.

By Ellen Lang


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