The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire



Sermon - January 21, 2018
Scripture Reading:
Mark 1:14-20
Sermon Title: ďFollow meĒ

The Rev. Robert Vodra

     Galilee?  I know a bit about Galilee because that is where I used to live.  Not the one in Israel, but in many of the Galilees we have around this country.  I grew up in Brookfield, CT.  Donít know where Brookfield is?  We will just call it Danbury, you can find that on a map.  When I got married my wife and I lived for a short time in Centerville, Virginia, we can just call that Washington DC.  My first real job was in Gowen, Michigan.  Donít know where that is, donít worry, near Grand Rapids.  Moved to Newport, North Carolina, near Morehead City.  And now live in Pembroke, just outside of Concord.  And now working in Marlborough, near Keene.

     And this is where Jesus started his ministry.  Now if Jesus wanted to make it big, he would have started his work in Jerusalem; that was where it was all happening.   Donít know where Galilee is?  Near the Sea of Galilee, you know, way up North?  Now it is not too far from Galilee to Jerusalem, probably about 60 miles, so maybe a long 2 day or 3 day walk.  Jesus had been baptized by John down much farther South on the River Jordan, so would not suggest that is a good place, but Galilee is a ďno place.Ē  Didnít have the reputation of Nazareth, but was just like Marlborough or most places I have lived, not good, not bad, just nobody except for those in that area know that town.  There were many places that this man, who we call the Son of God, could have chosen to start his ministry, but he chose his first disciples in Galilee.  Jerusalem, Athens, Rome would have been logical places, not Galilee. 

     A few weeks ago I preached on the passage just before this one, where Mark starts his Gospel with ďThe beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Son of God.Ē  I suggested that, rather than the first sentence in the book of Mark, that was intended to be the title of the book.  The beginning of the Good news is not Jesus being Baptized, but the whole story, all the way to the cross and empty tomb.  And at the end of the book of Mark, before the two possible endings, the women run off and tell nobody, leaving the story open.  But what does the Angel tell the women who go to find the empty tomb?  He tells them to go back to Galilee, that Jesus has gone before them, and will meet them there.  With Jesus starting this ministry in Galilee, the ďgo back to GalileeĒ makes sense.  That is where Mark ends his gospel, and where the story of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Son of God, continues through all those centuries and today.  Starting and ending in our own Galilees.  

     In todayís reading Jesus is walking along the banks; he comes across Simon and Andrew.  And what did Jesus promise them, that they will be rich and famous?  No, just that he will make them fishers of men.  I donít read too much into that.  They were fishermen, they knew fishing.  If they were carpenters, Jesus could have called them builders of the heart or something like that.  But what the heck, they were common working men from a no-place town, anything has to be better than where they are now and so they follow Jesus.  Jesus goes along farther and sees James and John, invites them to join him, and they leave their father in the boat still mending the nets with the hired help.  They also were common working men, fishermen, making an honest living, but will not be remembered for anything if they stay in their comfortable place doing what they have always done. 

     Maybe they thought fame and fortune had come their way.  Or at least an opportunity for something better had come along.  Maybe they just wanted to get out of Galilee and see other places, experience new things.  Jesus didnít promise anything, just offered the invitation.

     I would like to think that I love spontaneity, but honestly, I like spontaneity with a plan.  When I was just out of college, I met up with a guy who was going to seminary.  He had two weeks of free time, I had about the same amount of time, so we decided to go on a trip.  The first night we flipped a coin, heads we went North and tails we went South.  It was tails, so we ended up in the Carolinas, turned North and made it to Maine, then back to Connecticut where he was starting a summer job.  After a busy few years of school, I got married.  It is harder to be spontaneous with two people working.  Then we had kids.  We can still be spontaneous and go to the movies or go bowling, but just to take off for a time with a tent, some sleeping bags and a cooler does not cut it now.  Any trips now require hotel or campground reservations, meals or an idea of where and what we will eat, and what we will do when we get to wherever we are going.   We now always have a destination, not just going for the journey.

     I would like to think that the trip these fishermen were setting out on was spontaneous.  No plans, no idea when, or even if, they would ever return, but a quick evaluation left them thinking, why not? 

     Sometimes I think that we over analyze things in our lives, our church lives and our personal lives.  A little while after I arrived here in Marlborough, I decided to trade in a mini-van we owned and buy a car.  It is quite a little drive down here, and my truck does not get very good mileage.  For about a month, I did all sorts of research, what cars get good mileage, what kinds of repairs do they need, what is the initial cost of a used car of a certain type and how long should I expect it to last.  I had pages by the time I was done, year, make, model, estimated miles per gallon.  I knew that Glenn was going to start driving in a few years, so safety was a concern.  We got to the dealership with a list of 5 cars I had narrowed it down to.  Two of them had not been sold yet.  We ended up with a fine car, but it was certainly not worth the days of work I put into it. 

     I did the same thing with a washing machine a few years ago.  Load size, water usage, cost.  Bought what I thought was a great washer that lasted just over 3 years.  It came with a 3 year warrantee; thatís how I know it lasted just over 3 years.  When the repair man told me the cost to replace the motor which had gone, I realized we could buy a new washer for about the same amount.  This time, spent half an hour online, found the least expensive washer I could buy, and still working like new. 

     In our churches we do the same thing.  I have been working with your search committee to put together the profile for the church.  This is the result of all the small groups, interviews, phone calls, and surveys you were invited to participate in this past year.  This is a huge document, about 35 pages I think.  And there was a lot of discussion about which word to use here or there.   All words have meaning, but can mean different things to different people.  Something written a particular way can be taken, often, in many different ways.  But at times I think we over analyzed every word.

     I wonder what churches would be like if we approached life like James, John, Simon and Andrew.  They had been working hard, and probably doing OK in life.  But, like most of us, after a few generations, will become just a name in a book our great, great, great grandchildren will read.  But they saw something in Jesus.  I donít believe it was seen as an opportunity for them to get ahead, but rather an invitation to be involved in something greater than themselves. An invitation to step out from their OK lives and perhaps see even greater things.  An invitation to step away from the way they always did it, out of their comfort zone, for something new.

     There are a lot of things that hold us back today from following Jesus like James, John, Simon and Andrew did.  Letís be honest, there are some things in the Bible that are counter cultural.  Just read any of the gospels and you will find things that are very hard to do. But maybe if we start to see all those teachings from Jesus as invitations, rather than instructions, we can start to fully appreciate what Jesus is inviting us to do.   Like the invitation so long ago, that invitation is for us today.

     And what do we get when we accept that invitation?  Like those early disciples, I donít think we are promised anything.  Too often today we assume that if we donít get something out of it, it is not worth our time doing.  There is some truth to that.  Last week Glenn went ice skating with his youth group.  He has been ice skating once before, several years ago.  He made it all the way around the rink twice, and only sat down on the ice a few times.  That is two more times around than I would want to do it.  I can watch ice skating, and I can even understand how some people enjoy doing it, but I donít really get anything out of it, and if I never put on ice skates again in my life, I will be OK with that.  Some truth to not doing something that is not going to bring you enjoyment.

     But there are also things that I do, not because of what I get out of it, but because I think I am helping someone else.  Keri volunteered to help with the school ski program this year.  For 5 weeks, on Tuesday they go over to Patís Peak.  The kids ride in the bus, but they are not allowed to transport their skis, snowboards and other equipment on the bus.  So Keriís job is to pick up all that stuff at the end of the school day, bring it over to the ski area, drop it off, then when the day is over, load it back into our truck and drive it back to the school where parents pick up the kids.  The first week I rode along, she was going to be away the second week, so I wanted to see how it worked.  When I got into the lodge, all the kids started to get ready, needed help putting on their boots, help getting the boots and the skis attached, help getting to the spot where their lesson was going to start.  I did this in order to help out the school program, but have found that it is really kind of fun.  Now that the kids have been through this a few times, they can do a lot of it themselves, donít need as much help.  I didnít do it thinking I would get anything out of it, just to help out, but has turned out that I do get enjoyment out of it.

     So what is Jesus inviting you to do?  Starting right here in Marlborough.  Just like Jesus starting out in Galilee, we donít have to go to Concord, Boston or even Keene.  Right in this little town that nobody outside of this area even knows exists.  What task is Jesus inviting you to try, not because of what you are going to get out of it, but because it is the right thing to do.  Where is Jesus asking you to serve, without over analyzing every possible outcome of your decision?

     Jesus has offered us the same invitation that he offered to John, James, Simon and Andrew.  Come, follow me.