Let’s imagine that we are opening a new business in Montclair/Verona. And let’s say we want to open a diner. What should we do first? I think we should find a space where we can open a diner. And it’s always better for us to have this space on a busy street with high foot traffic. Facility wise, we must have a well-equipped kitchen and a well-furnished interior to make and serve good food. Also, a catch name with a nice logo and great social media presence is not even an option these days. And absolutely, we shouldn’t forget having necessary permits and inspections. On top of all these, if we want to actually run this diner, we need people to work with. Yes, we need to hire employees. No doubt, the success of a diner truly depends on a good chef and kitchen staff, a friendly manager and well-trained servers. Right?
So, let’s say we advertised the positions and got many job applications. And now we are in the process of reviewing their resumes. What should we check first? Basically, we would like to see who is qualified for the position we offer. And the person’s carrier, experience, education, such information would tell us about the qualification. Perhaps, for better discernment, we may have to interview some of them… Let me stop right here and ask you, “Does this sound easy to you? To open and run a diner?” I don’t think so. True, running a business and making a success are not simple at all. There are lots of things involved. There are lots of things we need to consider.
In today’s Gospel reading, you see a person who tries to start his ambitious business. What he’s trying to do is not exactly a business but more like a movement. And by promoting this movement, he’s not just thinking of bringing some changes only to his town or community. This person is very serious about transforming the whole world. Who is this person with such a wild aspiration? As you know very well, this person is Jesus. And this Jesus is trying to begin a radical movement in history, which is called the kingdom of God. Indeed, what he is trying to do is not just run a local business but bring a new kingdom—a whole new world with a whole new way of life! Can you believe it?
We may assume that a person with such a big dream must have a great blue print of the new world and have the finest human power in the world. Even opening a new local business requires a great deal of effort and careful preparation, then, how is it when Jesus commences a revolutionary enterprise to make a new kingdom? However, against all our high expectations, Jesus’ way of doing his business looks too simple. He just shares a message called the good news. Today’s Gospel reading tells us, “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’” (Mark 1:14-16). Really? Is this all?
Then, how about the people whom Jesus works with? There must be something very special about them. What kind of qualification does Jesus want from them? We would look for qualified employees even when we try to open a small business, then, how is it when Jesus begins a new kingdom—not anybody’s kingdom but God’s kingdom? His people must be very talented and godly ones, we assume. However, against all our high expectations, Jesus’ search for his co-worker looks even absurd. He doesn’t look for any qualification—no resumes, no interviews, nothing. The Gospel reading says, “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” (Mark 1:16-17). On his way to spread the good news, Jesus meets some fishermen and just calls them: “Follow me.” Really? Is this all?
I know it’s such a strange way to begin a movement. It seems that there is nothing ambitious or grandiose, nothing we should pay attention to from the business management point of view. If Jesus showed up in a reality TV show like The Apprentice, he would definitely hear, “You are fired,” on the first round. But… here, what we shouldn’t forget is that the way of Jesus is precisely the way that God transforms the world and saves human lives. Indeed, with this simple message and a bunch of untrained amateurs, the revolutionary movement for the kingdom of God started and has greatly transformed our world until now. To make America great again, someone says we need more investments and jobs in the US, and we need to stop people coming from something-hole countries. But, remember that to make a kingdom of God, no other resource is needed but the good news of God. And no other qualification is required for the followers but the calling of Jesus.
Today, the history of this revolutionary movement, the history of this strange kingdom of God, is still ongoing. And this history is not just a history from the past to be remembered, but it is our story to be continued here and now. It truly is our own story! Even though we are just a bunch of ordinary people, even though we are just same old sinners before God, even though we have nothing special to achieve great things in the world, it doesn’t really matter. When we firmly believe in the good news of Jesus Christ, we already have everything that is enough to change the whole world. And when Jesus calls us as his disciples, we are more than qualified to follow him on his way to build a great kingdom of God.
Today, on this Sunday of baptismal covenant renewal, Jesus is calling you again. Will you be able to follow him leaving behind everything you have, considering them as nothing, like Paul suggests in today’s Epistle lesson? Even though we cannot radically commit like the disciples, let us at least remind ourselves of the call, the life-giving invitation, the life-changing summon of Jesus our Lord. As we come to this baptismal font and as we come to renew our faith in the good news of God and the new life we received, let us remember the good news: Jesus is the Lord! Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! And let us dedicate ourselves afresh to living out the precious call of Jesus Christ. Follow me! Jesus is calling each one of us. And let all God’s people answer, “Yes Lord, here I am.” Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim