An act of worship at home
Reading 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 lake—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.
At a public meeting a member of the audience asked their MP why politicians spend all their time sniping at each other, and apparently just disagreeing with each other for the sake of it. The MP said that actually, that wasn’t true. That politicians of different parties might well agree with each other and support the efforts of the opposing party, but that such agreements weren’t reported by the press which was more interested in the fights and in bad news than in reported good news.
How different it was for Jesus. When he heard the bad news that John the Baptist had been arrested, he didn’t spread that bad news around, wringing out of it as much sensationalism and drama as he could, but instead took over John’s work and travelled throughout Galilee proclaiming the good news. And people flocked to listen to the good news. And the good news was that the time had come for God’s kingdom to be experienced here on earth. Mark uses a very economic style in his gospel, so that we’re only given the one phrase, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the good news.”
Jewish wisdom said that good fortune or wealth was the result of God smiling on someone, and that ill fortune or poverty was therefore the result of sin. So at the time of Jesus it was thought that only the wealthy would come anywhere near God or his kingdom, because clearly, they were specially blessed.
When Jesus told the ordinary people and poor people and outcasts that God’s kingdom was at hand for them, he turned the received wisdom of the ages on its head. The news that God was available even for ordinary people really was good news. And it was so unexpected and so welcome and so exciting that Peter and Andrew, James and John, the young fishermen working the Sea of Galilee from their hometown of Capernaeum, immediately left their work and followed Jesus.
But that was then. What sort of impact does the good news have today, in a time when the only news worth reporting is bad news? A time when good news isn’t news at all, and what is God’s kingdom, anyway?
Many people over the ages have thought of the kingdom of God as a place which we only enter after death. But Jesus said that the good news is that kingdom of God is at hand, is right beside you here and now.
The problem is that you have to experience the kingdom to know what it’s about. You can’t see it or feel it or touch it or hear it. It’s not a physical place that you enter, either here or after death.
It’s more a state of being in the presence of God, of living in the presence of God. It’s a state of knowing that when you speak to God he’s there listening to you and responding to you. It’s a deep, underlying happiness which never goes away, even through the bad times.
It’s not constantly living on a high, although sometimes there may be moments of ecstasy. It’s not escaping the pain and difficulty of life here on earth, although there is always support and a presence to help us through it. It’s not being so holy that we’re high above everybody else and barely human, but it is becoming more human all the time. It’s not knowing everything there is to know about God and about Jesus, but it is having an increasing desire to learn more and to constantly search for the truth, whatever that truth might be. Living in God’s kingdom here on earth is not a solitary occupation. It’s a communal thing and encompasses many, many different types of people with different ideas and coming from different directions. It’s the growing ability to live alongside such people, even though you may disagree and think their understanding is all wrong.
God’s kingdom on earth should be, and occasionally is, his church. The church on earth is far from perfect, but it does hold out the possibility of reflecting something of God, something of the love and the caring and the support and the outreach and even the excitement and the happiness of life lived with God.
“Now we see in a glass darkly,” said St. Paul, “but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). The closer a church is to God, the more its members will experience God’s kingdom here on earth. And after death, it will be but a short step beyond the veil into God’s very real presence in heaven. Thanks be to God, amen.
Thank you, Creator God, for creation all around us, for the peoples of the world and the life that we enjoy.
We pray for wisdom to use all that we have wisely, caring for the planet and for the lives of all people,
especially those affected by famine, disaster and war.
Thank you, healing God, for the care we receive from all who work in surgeries and hospitals.
We pray for those in need, for the sick and bereaved, for all whom we long to see transformed by the power of your Spirit.
Thank you, God of light, for all places of learning, nurseries and schools, colleges and universities.
We pray for those who learn and those who teach, especially at this time, that searching minds might find their way to you.
Thank you, God of love, for the places in which we live and perhaps work.
We pray that, by our choices, we will make a difference in the lives of our families, friends and neighbours.
Thank you, God of hope, for all who have died, the saints of our lives.
We pray for those who are near to death, and for those who care for them.
God, who we trust with our greatest hopes and fears, hear our prayers, those spoken aloud and those made in our hearts, and, in your mercy, bring all into your kingdom. Amen.
Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea,
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying, ‘Christian, follow me’:
As, of old, Saint Andrew heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home, and toil, and kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.
In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
‘Christian, love me more than these.’
Jesus calls us! By your mercies,
Saviour, make us hear your call,
give our hearts to your obedience,
serve and love you best of all.
Loving Lord, thank you that you meet us where we are, in the middle and muddle of our daily lives.
Help us to hear your call, to recognise your voice, and to respond to your invitation to follow you whatever we might be doing.