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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 24th January 2021 “Come, and follow” The Rev’d Mike Walsh
Welcome to worship with the United Reformed Church. I’m Mike Walsh, serving as a Pioneer Minister in Manchester, working with young adults in the local community.
Call To Worship
Come and see the grace of God, Christ our teacher and our friend. Come and see the son of God, Christ our healer and salvation. God is moving in this place. Come and see! Come and see.
Hymn The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy
Bryn A Rees (1911-1983)
The Kingdom of God is justice and joy; for Jesus restores what sin would destroy. God’s power and glory in Jesus we know and here and hereafter the kingdom shall grow.
2 The kingdom of God is mercy and grace; the captives are freed, the sinners find place, the outcast are welcomed God’s banquet to share; and hope is awakened in place of despair.
3 The kingdom of God is challenge and choice: believe the good news, repent and rejoice! His love for us sinners brought Christ to his cross: our crisis of judgement for gain or for loss.
4 God’s kingdom is come, the gift and the goal; in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole. The heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call and all things cry ‘Glory!’ to God all in all.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness
God who made us and loves us, we approach our time in prayer with you in response to your call on our lives, as people who yearn for your purposes to be made real in this world.
God, in Jesus, as we share in familiar words again today, may we hear them afresh and hear You call each one of us by name to be your disciples in the world. In Jesus you call to us ‘Will you come and follow me?’ Me we have the courage to respond.
In Jesus you call to us ‘Will you come and follow me?’ To bring only the skills which we have.
In Jesus you call to us ‘Will you come and follow me?’ May we have the strength of faith when the task is hard.
For the times we shy away in fear of the response, and close ourselves of from your Word, we seek your acceptance, and assurance that You call us as we are.
So forgive us we pray, and help us to be gentle with ourselves for the excuses we come up with, for the things that we cling onto, for the opportunities we shy away from.
Open our ears to hear your call afresh. Open our eyes so we may follow anew. Open our lips so we may share your good news. Open our hands to put faith into practice. Open our hearts in love for the world
Christ Jesus came into the world to make disciples and says to all in compassion and love, ‘Come, follow me.’ Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
So we gather as disciples of Jesus, to remember again the stories of our faith. In these words may we here your Word and your call, that Jesus says to us all, Come, follow me’.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”
So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
St Mark 1:14-20
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Hymn Lord You Have Come to the Seashore Fr. Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991)
Lord, you have come to the seashore, neither searching for the rich nor the wise, desiring only that I should follow.
O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me, gently smiling, you have spoken my name; all I longed for I have found by the water, at your side, I will seek other shores.
2: Lord, see my goods, my possessions; in my boat you find no power, no wealth. Will you accept, then, my nets and labour?
3: Lord, take my hands and direct them. Help me spend myself in seeking the lost, returning love for the love you gave me.
4: Lord, as I drift on the waters, be the resting place of my restless heart, my life’s companion, my friend and refuge.
What an explosion of interlocking themes the readings for this Sunday gift to us! A smorgasbord of the delights and demands, of daring to claim to follow Christ Jesus.
We focus our attention on the explosive introduction to the Good News of the Gospel of Mark, brimming with political tension, unsettling immediacy, and startling revelations of the kingdom of God. Hidden in the disarmingly familiar allegory of fishing for people – is the irresistible promise of change, of restoration and justice, and a transformative invitation to those first disciples and to us as disciples today, to join in Walking the Way of Jesus. And the even gooder of the good news, is we are told, that it has already taken place. The time is fulfilled, so turn your life around, by trusting in the God of all that is just, and true, and life giving.
As if all that wasn’t enough, our Gospel is playfully embedded between two accounts of the many ways human beings can react to what is essentially good news, as the church of Corinth struggles to accept what it cannot see, and poor old Jonah struggles to see what he cannot accept.
Our Gospel story begins with Jesus, picking up where John has so abruptly left off, proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”’
The unsettling immediacy in Marks storytelling, transporting us from John’s arrest, to Jesus seamlessly continuing John’s mission and message. It’s as if our story teller can’t wait to get John out of the picture, to put Jesus centre stage. Jesus is the one who is to come. And if he is the one, then this is the time. And if this is the time, no response is immediate enough! For the kingdom of God is close at hand.
For all Mark’s excitement and urgency, Jesus seems practically chill at this point, and makes his appearance wandering by the sea, talking with labourers and fisher-folk, asking them to accompany him on his mission. Calling people to repentance, as John did.
Metanoia, a word dripping with meaning – not just a change of heart, or a change of mind, but a setting out in a new direction. Repentance means an about turn, not merely in the negative, turning away from what is wrong, or ‘sin’, but in the positive, turning towards what is good and from God. Repentance isn’t only an acknowledgement of our frailties or an admission of guilt which requires God’s forgiveness. It’s an ongoing commitment, that this is a point of change in our lives, a continuing striving to become more like the one who says follow me.
In Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis, he explores in the chapter called Dust what on earth is going on in Jesus encounter with these fishing families. He paints a fascinating picture of those training to be rabbi’s, the rigour of the process which makes preparation for URC ministry look a walk in the park. That at each stage of the process, candidates will be sent home, told they are not good enough, that their future lies in learning the family trade, that they will never make the grade where a Rabbi invites them to be their disciple.
But this Rabbi, Jesus, cuts through all this, and says to the ones who were told they didn’t make the grade; those who’s skills included casting and fixing nets – come on, I could use a few people like you. Follow me, and I’ll teach you how to fish for people. The power of Jesus words are not only in what’s to come, but what they sweep aside. This Rabbi turns no one away.
Maybe the Markan immediacy tells us something of the power of Jesus words after all, as these men immediately leave their nets and respond to his call?
But these words of call, of fishing for people, are not just calling individuals to faith or service. Once again the words spoken by Jesus carry much more meaning than that which is plain to see. Jesus invitation to ‘fish for people’ are first found in Jeremiah Chapter 16, verse 16 where it is used to indicate Yahweh’s intentions to restore Israel by removing those from within who have played a part in its demise, those who have steered Israel away from The Way. Elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures, in Ezekiel, Amos, and Habakuk the concept of ‘hooking a fish’ is used as a metaphor calling out the oppressors, for taking judgement on the corrupt and powerful. For catching those who are doing harm to God’s people.
So is this what Jesus meant? He’s planning to pick off the rich and powerful, the greedy and the corrupt, one by one? No. Nothing so unambitious as that. Have you noticed the change in imagery? Jesus call first those who know how to fish, but he calls people who fish with a net, not a hook.
A net doesn’t use bait, it doesn’t target or trick. A net catches more, it vastly increases the scope and scale of Jesus ambition. It holds whole systems and communities to account. But it doesn’t catch everything. The smaller fish are not caught up in it.
A net needs to be maintained if it is to continue to be effective. There are different nets for different conditions, requiring knowledge and skill to achieve a good catch.
So God calls people who know how to cast, and where to cast. How to mend and maintaining, adapt and learn.
Jesus call is to cast the nets that will challenge the corruption at all levels of our society. From discrimination within our church, to oppression and violence to people, Gods people the world over; exposing inhuman systems, not individuals, for their arrogance, selfishness and disregard for Gods people.
Jesus asks the common fisher folk to join him in this struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege. To overturn the order of power which wasn’t just financial oppression from Rome, but was the religious, racial, sexist, political and economic oppression that theirs and every society suffers from.
Much more attractive than the ambiguous call to save souls!
When we cast out lines loaded with bate driving hooks into the oppressors of society to hold them to account; that offers no chance for heeling, nor does it show that the God who calls us all to a continuing repentance, is a God of compassion and love.
When we cast nets fairly, with justice and joy, people have the chance to humble themselves – to truly repent. To make ourselves small enough to slip through the net. Not to evade punishment, but as real change and ongoing repentance.
How can people change if they are not offered forgiveness and a place in our lives afterwards? The thing that poor old Jonah got so wrong.
The kingdom has dawned, and the call to the oppressor is the same as the call to the oppressed. Come, follow me.
HymnHelp Us Accept Each Other Fred Kaan
Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe: we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.
2: Teach us, O Lord, your lessons, as in our daily life we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith. Teach us to care for people, for all – not just for some, to love them as we find them or as they may become.
3: Let your acceptance change us so that we may be moved in living situations to do the truth in love; to practice your acceptance until we know by heart the table of forgiveness and laughter’s healing art.
4: Lord, for today’s encounters with all who are in need, who hunger for acceptance, for justice and for bread, we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on: renew us with your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one.
Affirmation of Faith
In Jesus of Nazareth, true humanity was realized once for all. Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, lived among his own people and shared their needs, temptations, joys, and sorrows. He expressed the love of God in word and deed and became a brother to all kinds of sinful men and women. But his complete obedience led him into conflict with his people. His life and teaching judged their goodness, religious aspirations, and national hopes. Many rejected him and demanded his death. In giving himself freely for them, he took upon himself the judgment under which everyone stands convicted. God raised him from the dead, vindicating him as Messiah and Lord. The victim of sin became victor, and won the victory over sin and death for all.
God, who we see in Jesus, who lived a life of compassion and love. We pray now for others, and for much that is broken and hurting in our world. We pray for planet and people, the whole of you creation, that all may learn to live in interdependence. Till the day your kingdom comes, as it is in heaven, may we respond to your call on our lives, to be your love and compassion in this world, for all those least able to protect themselves.
May your call on our lives, make us ready to challenge injustice and greed, exploitation and abuse, thoughtlessness and neglect. To stand with those who feel powerless against inhuman structures and the vested interests in our world. May we be sensitive too, to those when in positions of power the Gospel brings more challenge than comfort that challenge and choice are never easy. So in a moment of quiet we offer our prayers for our fragmented world, for unjust structures and broken relationships. (silence)
In our relationships with others, we pray, help us to imitate your love and compassion for all, as shown in Jesus. Amen.
Loving God, out of the fullness of your gifts we bring all we have to offer, in response to your call. Amen.
HymnWill you come and follow me / The Summons John L. Bell and Graham Maule sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name? Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
2: Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name? Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same? Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare, will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
3: Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name? Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same? Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around through my sight & touch & sound in you and you in me?
4: Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name. Let me turn and follow you and never be the same. In your company I’ll go where your love & footsteps show. Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
The blessing of God be upon us, the One who loves us, the Christ who calls us, the Spirit who sends us into the world, today and always. Amen.
Thanks and sources
The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy – Bryn A Rees (1911-1983) Sung by the choir of St Barnabas Church Dulwich
Thanks to Alison Jiggins, Marion Thomas, Christopher Whitehead, Christine and David Shimmins, Kath Haynes, Ray Fraser, Phil, Carys and Lythan Nevard, Dan Morrell, Sarah Wilmott, Mandy Hibbert, George Faris, Jill Stidson, Steve Lee and Graham Handscomb for reading spoken parts in the service.
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762