Sunday, October 26, 2014

New Humanity // What Compels You?


sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 09/28/2014

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14Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the good news of God 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!”


16As he was going along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. 17And Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you become fishers of people.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.


19Going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in a boat, mending their nets. 20Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and departed to follow him.

Mark 1

[show Colin airplane video…] Mark’s gospel has something like that kind of pacing. We’ve just passed a slow motion section with Jesus’ baptism by John, and the heavens open up before he heads into the wilderness, but now the action starts fresh. The pace picks up, gets brisk. Jesus is on his mission now, and things are happening.


Jesus came,

he’s going along,

he saw and said,

immediately they left,

going on,

he saw,

immediately he called,

they left.

+ a whole mess of “ands”


This breathless passage is the hinge text for us. Like a door on its hinges, everything hangs on it, and turns on it. Right there in the middle… for they were fishers. And Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, I and will make you become fishers of people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him…

What’s going on is dramatic. The first of the new humanity – Jesus – encounters members of the old humanity going about their business, and invites them to join him, with the promise to make them like he is. And they leave their old lives behind, representing their old humanity, and follow after him into the new. In other words, Jesus’ good news about God’s kingdom coming near goes off like an Electro Magnetic Pulse bomb, disabling the circuitry of the old humanity, and human beings begin turning away from everything they’ve known about navigating life via their knowledge of good and evil and embark on a journey to eat again from the tree of life.

Let’s dig into the story and see what we can see.


I suspect the first question most of us have when we read this passage is this: why do these fishermen leave to follow Jesus so quickly, and with such little hesitation? They leave the lives they’ve known – their nets, their boats, their businesses, their livelihoods, their villages, their families, fathers, mothers, wives, children – and they do it immediately. At once. Without delay.

And more than that, maybe, they leave leave. The word for left is sometimes translated “forsake.” This isn’t a “hey, just a minute, I’ve got to go grab the mail, pick up a gallon of milk at Kroger. Save a hot pocket for me.” This is more like some kind of sleeper agent in one of those spy movies where they hear a code phrase on short-wave radio and something clicks in their brain and they are activated.

Except they aren’t sleeper agents. They are the normal-est people, living the normal-est lives, and yet they do something so not normal when Jesus comes along. They seem compelled. Almost as if something had been sleeping in them, and now is wide awake.

Why? What woke up, or what did they wake up to? What compels them?


One way to say the answer would be to say that their hunger compels them. Just like their hunger has always compelled them. Except that now their hunger is driving them to Jesus for him to address their needs instead of driving them to depend on themselves or to win the favor of others. The good news Jesus has announced has woken them up to the fact that Jesus has satisfaction for their hunger unlike any other thing they’ve gone after.

Think about it.

What is the very first thing that compels us as human beings? What drives our first actions, the actions we uniquely own ourselves? It’s our hunger. Hunger that comes from our experience of neediness, awareness of our vulnerability.

Our hunger drives us to our moms, assuming they are available. We’ll accept substitutes, of course, because as babies we don’t have a lot of mobility or wherewithal, but it’s our moms we want and seek out. Because mom means good food. Mom means comfort. And that goes on for quite some time, barring circumstances that make it impossible.

It’s not until we’ve grown up a certain amount that we start to ditch our moms and go after food and comfort for ourselves. We talked about that some already, but it’s worth keeping in mind. Our first “sins” in many of our memories are going to get unauthorized food on our own, aren’t they?

Who took those cookies!? Who started eating before I said it was OK? Why is it so hard to just wait a minute!? Or just to ask me before you take something? Do you think I’m going to let you starve or something!?

We human beings stopped relating to God as our mother or father, though, when we abandoned the tree of life and started eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We stopped having child-like faith, and figured we’d be better off if we had a grown-up faith in our own ability to figure out what was good for us and what would satisfy our hunger best, according to our own developing tastes.


So if you’re Simon, or Andrew, or James, or John, you are born on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and your parents – along with the whole community around you, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, village elders, religious authorities – teach you that the absolutely best life you can live and have is as a disciple of a famous Rabbi. Those are the honored people, they’ve got the support of everyone and God himself. They are like the professional athletes or fighter pilots or musicians or world famous surgeons or attorneys or self-made entrepreneurial millionaires of our day.

Only the best of the best get selected for those positions, so you’ve got to prove yourself, give everything you’ve got.

You try. You try to memorize the Bible, every waking moment reciting. Showing off your progress at holiday celebrations. You have big dreams, you’re going to make something of yourself, have an amazing life.

But you’re not the best; others are better than you, and they get picked by the Rabbi’s, who say to them, “Come, follow me.” You don’t make the cut. Your parents still love you, but you can tell they are just a little disappointed, even though they try to hide it. They hoped you’d bring honor to them through your excellence.

You settle for joining the family fishing business. You throw yourself into it, reluctantly at first, but then, eventually, you embrace it. Day by day, it’s a struggle, catching enough fish. It’s hard work, but you make a life for yourself, the best you can. It’s probably what you were made for, anyway. It would be silly, juvenile to think otherwise. You marry the girl your parents pick for you, have a couple kids, are successful enough to provide for them.

It’s a pretty good life; everyone would say the same thing. And you can’t argue with them. Even though you wish you could. The part of you that wants more, the dreams you had as a kid, you have to shut that down. Put them to sleep, deep sleep. If only you could kill them off completely, life wouldn’t be as painful.

Can you identify with them at all? The truth is, this is the condition of the old humanity. All of us are settling, one way or another, even if we’re lying to ourselves about some aspect of it. Some of us have tried to be the best of the best, to have the amazing lives we dreamed about as kids, only to come up short and embrace (or spend forever resisting) the best life we can make for ourselves, given the circumstances. And a few of us have succeeded in being the best of the best, at least at some level, but we’ve discovered what everyone else discovers sooner than we do. Being the best of the best doesn’t really buy you what you thought it would buy you. You’re still hungry, never truly satisfied. So all of us, as we talked about last week are either still pushing for harder, better, faster, stronger, or we’re worn out enough that we gave up.

Then Jesus shows up.


Good news, Jesus announces. And the good news is that God’s kingdom is near. Which means that the place or world where everything works according to God’s good desires is right here, coming close, available to us. And God’s made his desires clear to us, so if we’re Simon or Andrew or James or John, we know that means that God loves us, and wants to provide for us, if we’ll just bring our needs to him to address. It means, if God’s kingdom is here, all that struggling to take care of ourselves through our own strength, to win the favor of others so we can have their support and aid, to protect ourselves from evil and our vulnerability, all that struggling is over. We can be like kids in God’s kingdom. Our hunger not pushing into the rat race, but driving us into his loving arms with our needs, for him to address as we wait for him to respond out of his perfect love for us.


Repent, Jesus says. Which just means turn around, or turn away from one thing and face a different direction. For Simon or Andrew or James or John, that means stop trying to satisfy your hunger by being as strong as you can and by getting as many other people as you can to love you or fear you or respect you. It means turn towards God like a child would turn to a parent, and let him satisfy your hunger.


Believe in the good news, Jesus says. Which means have confidence in the announcement I’m making that God is really here to embrace you and address your needs in his perfect timing if you’ll just bring them to him and wait for his response, following his leading in the meantime. For Simon or Andrew or James or John, that means it’s safe for the part of you that you’ve put to sleep to wake up. It’s safe to feel what you’re really hungry for, deep down, in life, and bring it to God, and trust his promise that he loves you like a son and will move heaven and earth to satisfy your hunger. It’s safe to stop playing it safe (if that’s what you can call doing what everyone else expects and demands of you and has always done to survive in this world ruled by the prince of this world) and do what the God who made you and loves you is leading you to do, because there will be pure, sweet, true life in that direction, because his kingdom is here now.


Come, follow me, Jesus says, and I’ll make you fishers of people.

This is a two parter; we’ll take it one part at a time, and then be done for today.


Come, follow me. This is the biggest surprise for Simon and Andrew and James and John, because this Rabbi is inviting them, and they are the dropouts, the ones who didn’t make the cut. They’re hungry, as hungry as anyone else in this world, but they figured they’d have to wait their turn because they hadn’t earned a spot at the front of God’s line. Only Jesus is showing up and saying, You! You follow me. Can you imagine the thrill that must have run through them? You’re the next contestant on God’s Going to Meet All Your Needs, come on down!

And the other thing about it, beyond the surprise that they qualify, is that following Jesus is how all this happens. They don’t have to bring their needs to the Temple, or fill out some kind of form on some complicated website. They bring their needs and vulnerability to Jesus himself. They don’t necessarily understand it all yet, but they do get that what it actually means to repent and believe in the good news is dead simple. It’s to recognize that the God who is offering to address all their needs and lead them to life like no one has ever known, has come to them personally in this Jesus person, and all they have to do is say OK, I’m in.

What a burden lifted off! The weight of struggle to survive, to win, to provide, to protect themselves, to worry about the future, to cover up all their failings, to live up to expectations, or to bear the heaviness of judgments, it’s all gone. Every morning, to wake up and not think about everything that’s got to get done that day, but rather, where’s Jesus and what should I tell him I want to do today? I’m hungry, let me find him and tell him what I’m hungry for, he makes the best breakfasts.


They are kids again! That’s it. Child-like faith in Jesus. The new humanity God is making in the world is woken up by the good news and the invitation of Jesus to Come, follow me. You can tell they are like kids. They’ve forgotten about all their responsibilities, they are leaving their rooms a mess, they aren’t telling anyone their plans, they are just running out the door because the world’s greatest ice cream truck has just rolled into town.

And we could eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and condemn them to hell for it, couldn’t we? Think of the accusations we could lob. They left their dads. They left their wives. Their kids. Their employees. They are deadbeats.

But they wouldn’t have ears to hear it. Because they are kids again, and the new humanity is out of earshot of the accuser. And the truth is, we’d just be yelling at them because we’re jealous.

Wouldn’t you drop everything and go after him?


Which brings us to that last little phrase. I’ll make you become fishers of people.

The old humanity works hard for the sake of solving its own hunger and vulnerability. We fish to get food for ourselves, to survive. We build boats to protect ourselves from the sea. But the new humanity fishes because that’s what Jesus is doing, and we love hanging out with Jesus. Because Jesus. Is awesome. Meets our needs. Plays with us. Takes care of us. Is fun to be around. Cleans our room. Is funny. Fill in the kid’s note to mom from pre-school and you’ll get the gist.

And Jesus is fishing for people because people in the sea, under water, can’t breathe. Jesus is fishing for people because we need to be rescued from drowning. And the old humanity – all of us struggling to survive on our own, fighting a losing battle against shame, pursuing perfectionism and busyness, wearing masks to impress others, hiding our flaws, wearing ourselves down to the bone – all of us are drowning, aren’t we?

Good news! God’s kingdom is here. Turn, trust in the good news. Come, follow me. Yes, you, you follow me. I’ll make you become like me. Breathing clear air, in deep breaths, unafraid, without shame, alive, compelled not by the need to survive, but by Love for life, like a child.


Practical Suggestions:

1. Do something spontaneously and possibly irresponsibly fun this week (on your own or with your family or friends). Notice what you have to let go of to do it. Notice how it feels. In what ways is your experience of beginning to follow Jesus similar or different for you? What might need to change in your conception of faith or Jesus to close the gap?

2. Come, follow Jesus.

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