Prayer before reading:
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you
To know you
To follow you. Amen
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
As we listen to the reading in Mark this week, and then enter into this gospel narrative, we find ourselves on the road leading north to Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The news of John the Baptist’s arrest has cast a shadow across the path, and Jesus withdraws into the “land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15). The same rejection and violence which chased Jesus out of Bethlehem as an infant, now dogs his steps in the arrest and rejection of John Baptist. It is Matthew who sees the epiphany in this shadowy narrative:
“. . . the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)
And it is Jesus, captive to his heavenly Father’s voice and purpose, who comes to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come
near; repent – turn and listen my voice, follow me rather
than the voices in the world—believe in the good news.” Mark 1:15
His forty-day sojourn in the wilderness (Mark 1:11,12) has washed the lens of his soul, and he sees clearly. The ways of the world, the desire for success and influence, doing the spectacular to prove God’s presence, will never work. He is leaning into God, into the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Like the psalmist he can pray:
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He along is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress, I shall not be shaken . . . .
Trust in him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before him,
God is refuge for us. Selah. ( Psalm 62:5-8)
The good news sounds along the beaches of the Sea of Galilee; echoes through the streets of Capernaum, a city known for its fishing industry and as a center for Roman taxation. The gracious rule of God is now here, among us. Turn from the painful and constricted ways you have walked this side of Eden, and listen to Jesus who shows us the way to live alongside each other, and who shows us the way to God.
As we follow Jesus along the seashore, we discover that he looking for a few men whom he has met earlier; some who are disciples of John Baptist and who are now back in Capernaum, engaged in their fishing business: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew; James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Upon seeing them, casting their nets into the sea, and sitting in their boat with their father mending nets, he calls them:
“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
As we stand knee deep in the Galilee waters, we watch as these four men leave their nets, leave their father’s business, and turn to follow Jesus. No longer will they depend on an income from selling fish. No longer will they be under the tutelage and authority of their fathers. Not longer will they be engaged in the daily, monthly, and yearly rhythms of the fishing business. Now they will follow Jesus. It is his voice and guidance which will shape who they are, what they do, and how they will see the world around them. Now the gracious rule of God will be the Great Reality in which they live and move, even as they too walk and suffer and seek something more this side of Eden.
Such is the call of Epiphany, as God shows up among us in Jesus: this Jesus who calls us to leave our nets and to follow him. We too gradually learn that those who are poor and those who are rich and powerful are “together lighter than a breath” in the heavenly scales. We are called to relinquish our desire for power, prestige, and wealth.
“Put no confidence in extortion,
and set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”
Rather, in this leaving to follow Jesus’ call, we begin the long journey of trust, deep trust, in the God who created and gave us Eden, where there was always enough. We learn to relinquish our hold on things, on people, on power, on wanting our own way. Finally our heart – the interiority of who we are – recognizes God’s kindness, care, and presence.
And we are at rest as we invite others to learn to hear and follow this Jesus, present among us through the Holy Spirit, and through the body of Christ – the church.
As the church, the body of Christ, we too are called to let go of power, prestige, and dependency on money and programs to make the kingdom of God happen among us.
It is in simple, deep trust and obedient following the way of Jesus, that the kingdom comes among us. That is epiphany. God showing up in us, among us.
Whose voice(s) seem to dominate your life?
In what way is the voice of Jesus sounding within you?
As you enter the lectionary narrative, what do you sense that Jesus is calling you to leave, to let go of?
As you read Paul’s counsel to the early believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:29-31), what do you hear?
Be with the words of the psalmist in Psalm 62 now. Simply wait, and be present for God, for Jesus. Listen. Trust.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
You are God
Showing up among us
By your Spirit
Help me to see you
To know your voice
Among the many voices
To hear you
As you see and hear the deepest
Desires of my soul.
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
- 1/16 Monday: Mark 1:14-15
- 1/17 Tuesday: Mark 1:16-20
- 1/18 Wednesday: Psalm 62:5-12
- 1/19 Thursday: Jonah 3:1-10
- 1/20 Friday: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
- 1/21 Saturday: Mark 1:14-15
- 1/22 Sunday: John 1:16-20