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Jesus' Invitation to Follow – Br. Curtis Almquist

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Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Mark 1:14-20

The news is not necessarily good.  If you follow a newspaper or some online news source, or if you take in the news by TV or radio, you will not presume that the news you learn will be good news.  NPR reported not long ago on a study which researched the relationship between being well informed with the news, and being happy.  Are people who spend more time and energy getting more news more happy in life?  No.  It’s largely the opposite, an inverted relationship: the people with more news are more unhappy.  Well, I’m not about to suggest we become News Luddites; but I am saying that good news is remarkable, because there’s so much bad news, and that is as true today as it was in Jesus’ own day.  Which is why the news that people heard on Jesus’ lips was compelling: because it was so good.  He called it that – good news – and people voted with their feet.  If Jesus had been a political candidate, we could call it an enormous swelling of grassroots’ support.  They followed him in hordes.

The Gospel lesson appointed for today gives us a picture of the response to Jesus’ good news by two pairs of brothers, Simon and Andrew, and James and John.  These are career fishermen.  We know little else.  Were they happy?  Were they successful in their trade?  Were they in debt? Were they similar in temperament?  Were they honorable?  Were they healthy?  Did they have good family and social relationships?  Were they active and in good standing in their religious practice?  We have no idea.  What we do know is that something happened in their encounter with Jesus.  It’s like their souls had been primed for something more, or for something different, or for something new, and what they uniformly heard from Jesus was such compellingly good news that they dropped everything.  Literally.  The adverb used to describe their response to Jesus’ invitation is “immediately.”  All four of them.  “Immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus.”  And it’s not as if Jesus told them where they were going.  Jesus simply invited them to follow him, and, on the spot they did, with all their heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.

On the surface, these responses to Jesus are counter-intuitive.  Where’s the good news in Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, having just been arrested?  John the Baptist was Jesus’ “front man,” so this clearly does not bode well for other people associated with Jesus. In short order, John is beheaded by the authorities, which hardly good news for anyone.  The other curiosity, why people would find Jesus’ news so good and so immediately compelling, was his repeated use of the word, “repent.”  The verb “repent” has a little sting.  It’s a word of compassionate judgment.  To repent is about changing your mind.  Whatever you’re thinking, you’ve got it wrong.  You need to repent, to change your mind and believe something new, namely, some good news.1  Rather than believing the bad news, believe the good news on Jesus’ lips.

So here’s three good news clips:

1)     What’s so compellingly good is not about being exposed or found out by Jesus, but simply being found by Jesus.  Called by Jesus.  Included by Jesus.  Loved by Jesus.  No qualifiers are front-loaded in the relationship.  These four fishermen are not hearing Jesus say when they get their act cleaned up, when they get their boats in order, when they get their spiritual disciplines well honed, when they change their disgusting fish-stinking clothes, he will have time for them.  That would be mixed news.  No, Jesus’ compelling invitation is to them in real time, as we would say.  And it’s true for you, too.  There’s no kind of pre-existing condition that you must satisfy before Jesus will call you, include you, love you, make plans with you.  Jesus comes to us, like to these simple fishermen, and what Jesus finds in us he adores.  We need not change to be loved by Jesus; but by being loved by Jesus we will change.  Jesus’ love certainly changed Peter and Andrew, James and John, and it is true also for you.  Love makes us real.  Love, only love, heals.  And what we see and hear in Jesus is God’s love… for you: love without qualification.  And that’s really good news for you and for us all.

2)     Secondly, the verb “repent” gets bad press quite unfairly. “Repent” does have a little sting of judgment.  If someone has ever told you to your face, “you’ve got it wrong,” you will understand the sting.  You could rile to that judgment.  Except what Jesus is saying to these fishermen, and to us, is that you’ve unwittingly embraced bad news, and the bad news is about you, and it’s not true.  Give it up.  Change your mind.  I’ll use here a phrase from the psalms: you are “the apple of God’s eye,” and God adores you.”2  Jesus’ use of the verb “repent” implies a judgment on us all, but it’s a judgment of love.  Take that in; wrap your brain around that; change your mind. All that bad stuff you learned to think about yourself, your unworthiness, your hopelessness, your brokenness; how pathetic, inadequate, lost, and damned you are… all that bad news is absolutely not true about you.  Jesus is this eternal change agent come among us to convince you to change your mind, to convince you that you are lovable and loved for all eternity.  Jesus has come to personally deliver that good news.  In Jesus’ day this amazingly good news perked people’s ears, and changed their minds, and broke open their hearts, and they followed him in droves.

3)     Lastly, this is good news because it’s news.  That Jesus loves you may be old news stored somewhere in the archives of your soul.  If pushed, you might say Jesus used to love you, when you were more innocent and less complicated, or that Jesus’ love for you is theoretically true for the most part, or that it’s true with a qualification; however that qualification – something you know about yourself – keeps you from completely embracing the truth of Jesus’ love for you today.  Well, this is news.  This is not olds.  This is news for you, today, now.  Jesus loves you.  If you didn’t wake up today with that awareness, I’ve got news for you.  Actually, Jesus has news for you, good news.  God loves you.  Has big plans for you that span all eternity.  In the meantime, where will this good news lead you?  Where will Jesus lead you?  I wouldn’t know.  His invitation to all of us is simply to follow.  Your life will unfold day-at-a-time.  That’s pretty much all we can deal with.  Just take Jesus at his word: he loves you, and he is with you always.3  And between the two of you – Jesus operating and you co-operating – your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength will be infused by Jesus’ light and life and love.4  The truth of that good news will absolutely change your life for the better; much better.  It will give you hope for the future, what you cannot yet see;5 and it will make a world of difference.

 

1 To repent – metάnoia – from the preposition μετά (after, with) and the verb νοέω (to perceive, to think; metάnoia means “a change of mind.”  To believe – pisteuō – is to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to place confidence or trust, i.e., confidence in Jesus’ good news for you.

 

2 Psalm 17:8.

 

3 Matthew 28:20.

 

4 Mark 12:30.

 

5 St. Paul writes, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25.

 

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23 Comments

  1. Russell Kendall Carter on June 24, 2017 at 09:16

    We are trained from birth to mistrust everyone and everything. This causes egocentric behavior. Perhaps if we begin to trust others, we can learn to trust God. Another way to look at this is if we learn to trust God, we will learn to trust everyone. Truly, a two-way street.

  2. Ruth West on June 24, 2017 at 00:50

    This is the message of the gospel. I am so glad he included me when he loved the world and gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him may not perish but have everlasting life. He loves us all— rich, poor, male, female, all cultures, all political parties, children, adults, those who are well and those who are ill–ALL of us!! He is my light and my salvation! Such good news indeed!!

  3. Jaan Sass on June 23, 2017 at 15:44

    This reminds me and recenters me on the fact the only thing I’m required to do is love Christ it is he who changes me. That is an awesome concept and a way to forgive myself for my short comings truly good news.

  4. Gina Gore on June 23, 2017 at 11:15

    Absolutely, wonderfully true. Thank you! Well said for so many* to be able to hear!! *All, I wish!

  5. ros on June 23, 2017 at 10:59

    I heard it preached:

    “Jesus did not say “worship me”, Jesus said “follow me” “.

    Which is both harder and more important as it is about what we do in the world.

  6. rhode on June 23, 2017 at 09:58

    This message speaks to me how we are loved by the perfect parental love. I love that we are asked to call him Father. He loves us in all our states of incapacitation. The repentance (freedom) ) Jesus offers unburdens us to become more, love more, believe more and give more than we ever thought we could. This became my repentance – the turning to joy, the desire to do good and be good, the longing to live in the presence of God. Alas, I am human and easily thwarted…good thing His love and grace is deeper and wider than my comprehension.
    Thank you for reminding me.

  7. Harriet on June 23, 2017 at 07:09

    Your messages are clear and concise. Thank you for leading us to Jesus.

  8. David Cranmer on January 31, 2017 at 21:46

    It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that God loves me in my imperfection. And now I am having to learn to love me in my imperfection.

  9. Lucy Follk Nading on January 30, 2017 at 11:20

    Dear Brother Curtis,
    Thank you for the revelation of the Holy Spirit through you. “Deep calls unto deep” and my spirit is restored with hope after reading your words anew this morning.
    God bless you and refresh you this day as He has me by way of your clarity of message about the Good News in Christ.
    With grateful heart for you,
    Lucy

  10. Jennifer on January 30, 2017 at 10:31

    Thank you, Brother Curtis

  11. Janet on January 30, 2017 at 08:15

    I felt my soul leap for joy with a resounding, “YES”! Thank you!

  12. Richard W. Wheeler on January 30, 2017 at 08:13

    Dear Brother Curtis Almquist, you have provided us over the past days and years very clear messages that have provided us to be reinstated in our relationship and understanding of God’s suggestions. Thank you sooooo
    much and a wonderful day to you! Rick Wheeler

  13. Marguerite on January 30, 2017 at 07:50

    Thanks for the reading, (and the interpretation) Very encouraging.

  14. anders on January 7, 2016 at 10:43

    Thank you. To know that I am the apple of Gods eye and love is a wonderful means to repent. The crazies can carry their signs proclaiming: Repent the end is near! And I will agree how the end of fear and anxiety indeed is near. One thing I am less sure of is if our fishermen friends really needed to change their disgusting fish-stinking clothes. One verse speaks of them being naked as they were working. Could their nakedness have helped them be better fishermen, better feeling the forces of the waters below them? Could their naked vulnerability against the wind and sun have enabled them to really get it when Jesus addressed them? In what figurative ways can I throw off my disgusting fish-stinking clothes or not put up my guard and image to start with?

    • SusanMarie on June 23, 2017 at 08:27

      This sermon is wonderful and a real eye-opener. And your thoughts, Anders, about naked vulnerability and the “clothes” we wear that can hinder or set us free give me much to ponder in my own life and spiritual awareness. Thank you!

  15. Roderic Brawn on July 19, 2015 at 04:57

    Thanks, I needed that!

  16. fred adams on July 18, 2015 at 18:56

    Thanks, Brother Curtis. Your words often help me, and today as well. I’ve been contemplating lately the words of the hymn, “Just as I am without one plea.” It hit home again today, because if He knew me…..but He does! and so I can go forth in his path, “just as I am”. Thank you, and bless you brothers every day.

  17. Michael on July 18, 2015 at 12:10

    Who’s to navigate and who’s to steer? I find I constantly attempt to take God’s role in my life and inevitable wind up crushing. To think God loves me as I am, warts and all is difficult to accept. Thanks for the ncouragement

  18. jane goldring on February 23, 2015 at 18:55

    thanks for your message curtis. it makes you stop and think you can do things with the help our Lord. I am really grateful for all the help i have had with john. One thing i am thankful for that john hasn’t complained about the different moves. jane

  19. anders on January 28, 2015 at 14:52

    I’m struck by your words that “We need not change to be loved by Jesus; but by being loved by Jesus we will change.” Perhaps this is the key behind the verb “repent,” calling us to love others so that they can change. That`s not a love so people WILL change or, worse yet, a love for AFTER they change. Jesus’ idae of change stands in direct contrast to the exclusivism Christianity often purports—the set apart/city on a hill/good Christian spiel which serve neither Christians nor others well. Repent! The beginning is near.

  20. Jennifer on January 28, 2015 at 08:33

    This was a perfect message for me today. It is still sometimes hard to accept that Jesus loves me just as much when I’ve let myself become a spiritual couch potato for awhile, or let negative attitudes crowd out the positive. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lam. 3:21-23). Good news indeed.

  21. Vance Tilton on January 24, 2012 at 08:46

    Thanks Brother Curtis for this. My brokeness is an opening for The Light to shine through. May I become what I receive.

  22. Joy Cass on January 24, 2012 at 08:40

    Thank you so much, Curtis!

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