All hands on deck!
Mark 1:14-20

Have any of you ever thought about the busyness of being church?
At this time of year the rosters and programmes are all being renewed, flowers, church care, children’s address, prayers, PA, projection, H2H, KYB, you name it.  Some of them haven’t been done yet as some of you have noticed the TBC on the roster on the News.

When you look through those lists it takes an awful lot of people and a large amount of work just to be a worshipping congregation, then when you add to that the study groups and fellowship groups and other activity that goes on around the place there is a lot to cover isn’t there?

Our drama today depicts that beautifully by listing all of the things that the Dad had signed up for.  But there were a couple of deliberate flaws in the scenario.  Firstly he was signing up for things that weren’t in his skill set and maybe even his sense of call and secondly, where was the rest of the congregation?  Why was he doing everything?  And should all of these programmes and activities even be running if there isn’t really anyone with the time and the skills to run them?

Last week we heard about Samuel and his call to admonish Eli on behalf of God.  Surely in the situation depicted someone should be called on to correct the father and release him from the burden of all or some of those activities?  If everyone were stretching themselves to that point, surely burnout wouldn’t be far away, and then of course family life is being neglected and maybe even the guy’s work might suffer.  Someone would need to give this guy some urgent attention and support.

In our gospel today we see Jesus embarking on a new phase of his ministry, his cousin John has been thrown in prison and Jesus heads off into Galilee to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near; it is time to repent and believe the good news.  Does Jesus take it all on himself?  No, he gathers around a team of willing helpers. 

First he calls Simon and his brother Andrew, “Come and follow me and I will send you out to fish for people”, then they left what they really knew and went to follow him – immediately.  Then down the track a bit they encounter James and John, who are also fishermen and immediately he called them and they followed Jesus.  There’s a bit of a pattern forming here isn’t there?

These men knew nothing about ‘fishing for people’, they didn’t even know what that meant, but they knew that Jesus would equip them for the task at hand.  So within a short walk Jesus had multiplied his workforce, what was once one was now five, and we know that the multiplication continued.  The task of winning souls was and is huge and requires people power to get it done, with of course the help of God.

So if Jesus needed many helpers for his task, surely we do too.  I read this week that Jesus probably knew all of these guys before he called them and that was probably why they were willing to drop everything immediately.  If that is the case they knew him and trusted him and his judgment.  I guess it is the same for us in the church today.  We don’t just put a notice in the news and hope people will put up their hand for a task that is deemed necessary, we generally target an individual and approach them based on their skill set and gifts and the stage they are at in their life journey.  Besides that most people don’t just volunteer for a role, especially one that is a position of responsibility, they usually need to be approached and encouraged a little.

Jonah was one of those kinds of people, he had to be asked twice to go and tell the people of Nineveh to repent.  He REALLY didn’t want to go and tell these scary people that he didn’t much like that they had forty more days to sort themselves out or their city would be wiped out.  Eventually God was able to work through Jonah and the job was done and the city of Nineveh and its people were spared.

There’s a message there for us too.  Sometimes we get so busy being church and making sure that everything is running like clockwork and neat and tidy and that our traditions are being followed that we forget the other part of God’s command to us.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.  We get so busy trying to make disciples of those already in the church, teaching, baptising etc that we forget to be fishers of people.

It’s not an easy balance to find is it?  The importance of doing worship well and having a spiritual and social life in the church should never be under-estimated.  We need to worship and study the Bible to enable us to go and make disciples of others by spreading the good news.  But we should also remember that unless others hear the good news of Jesus Christ, that through him their sins are forgiven and that eternal life is there for them too, then when we die the church dies.

There’s a sense of urgency to that, a bit like the immediately that Mark uses so often in his gospel.  We do know from the Bible that darkness will never prevail over the light, so we can rejoice in that knowledge, but not rest on our laurels.  Let’s not just live in our own little aquarium and smugly look out at the world and think, we’ve repented, we’ve got it right, we’re saved.  Once again that’s a bit like Jonah, wanting to keep God for himself, not share him with those awful Ninevites.  We have good news, it doesn’t belong to us it is meant to be shared; it’s God’s good news for the whole world, the kingdom of heaven has come near.  Let’s rejoice in that, let’s share in that, and go and make disciples of ALL nations.

But this isn’t a task for just one person; it’s a joint task, for each to join in on according to their gifts and calling.  The challenge is there to find the balance to support and build up the church while reaching out to others.  Are we up to the challenge?  Yes we are!

Amen.