Good morning and welcome to this celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the Third Sunday after the Epiphany. We’re so glad you’re here!
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“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
What comes to mind when you think of the word “evangelism”? Perhaps you think that’s not very Anglican—doesn’t that have something to do with those Evangelicals? Maybe you think of a missionary on a faraway continent or someone standing on a busy street corner with a bull-horn and placard.
I came across a description of evangelism recently that I think is rather good. It is from William Temple, once Archbishop of Canterbury. He said, “to evangelize is to so present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that men and women shall come to put their faith in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour and to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” Presenting Jesus. In the power of the Holy Spirit. So that people put their faith in God through him and enter into life in the church. That’s evangelism. It is a Bible thing, it is a gospel thing, it is a Jesus thing, and it is very much an Anglican thing.
In our reading from Mark this morning we encounter Jesus at the beginning of his earthly ministry. He comes proclaiming the good news and inviting others to believe in it and to join him in this ministry to the world.
One of the things that is so interesting about Mark’s gospel is the quick succession of events that give the impression that Jesus is always on the move, as in our reading this morning. He came to Galilee proclaiming the good news. Two verses later he, “passed along” the Sea of Galilee where he finds Simon and Andrew. Then he “went a little farther” and found James and John.
In Mark’s gospel Jesus is not a stationary figure, like a spiritual guru that sets up shop and is sought out by travelers from near and far. Of course, people do seek Jesus out, but they do so within the framework of a Jesus who is on the move, traveling about, coming and going, never stopping over for very long. Why? Because Jesus has a mission and that mission is to seek and to save the lost.
And as Jesus went about what did he do? According to Mark he was “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.” This is more than an announcement, it is an actual irruption of the presence and reality of God into human history. Everything in human history leads to this moment and is derived from it. Now everything we think we know about the human situation needs to be reevaluated. Now is the time for human beings to reorient their lives in light of this day which has dawned. That is what it means to repent and believe the good news.
As Jesus continued along he found Simon and his brother Andrew. They were fishing, “And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. The same goes for James and John—Jesus called and straightaway they left everything to follow Jesus.
An immediate response to the call of Jesus. No doubting or second guessing, no weighing the cost to see if it’s worth it, they simply get up and go. What trust. Do I trust Jesus in this same way? Am I willing to prioritize him over everything else in my life? Do I see in his face and hear in his voice the same beauty, truth, and goodness that they must have seen and heard?
Notice that, like last week, when Jesus invites them to follow him he gives them a new vocation: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” You and I have been caught up in the net of God’s kingdom but there are others, other fish in the sea, that Christ wants to gather into his kingdom and he intends to bring us along with him for the ride as co-workers. That is what evangelism is: accompanying Jesus as he proclaims the nearness of God’s kingdom to men and women and invites them to follow him.
I want to challenge you, as you stay close to Jesus this year pay special attention to how he is at work in the lives of people around you. Really pay attention. Listen attentively to your neighbours, your colleagues, your friends, your family. Listen and pray and wait for the Lord to open a door. And when he does, come alongside that person, full of compassion, full of the love of Christ, and take a risk—open your own mouth and tell them about the hope that you have in Jesus Christ and the love that he has for them.
So, to re-cap, Jesus is on a mission to seek and to save human creatures by calling them to turn around and trust in him. And, he enlists his followers as co-workers in this. This is the work of evangelism and it is at the core of what it means to be the church. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”