Miracles of God

Rev. Megan Huston
January 25, 2014

Mark 1:14-20

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming 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 Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

 The Good News Network is an online news source that was created as a response to the constant negative news cycle. Its founder, Geri Weis-Corbley, had the idea when she was in her first job, working at a local TV station, just two months out of college. She was blown off by a colleague who told her “good news doesn’t sell.” And while her online good news hub is no CNN, (she cleverly named it Good News Network, GNN) she has received plenty of accolades, including being featured in Rolling Stone, on NPR, CBS, and Fox TV Morning Show. Some of her featured columnists include Karen Armstrong and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

If you were to browse goodnewsnetwork.org you would find headlines like “In a US first, New Orleans Finds Homes for All its Homeless Veterans.” The title explains it all in this story, but even though I listen to NPR on my way to work every day and watch the evening news most nights, I had no idea that this small miracle had happened and that the city of New Orleans no longer has any homeless veterans. Other headlines read, “The Second Disease Ever Eradicated On Earth (thanks Jimmy Carter)” and describes the Guinea Worm disease which will be the first disease completely eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medicine but instead by community based interventions to educate and change behavior like teaching people to filter their drinking water.

Another of my favorite articles is titled, “Prison Program Produces Savvy Inmates and Huge Success Rates.” This story describes how a former Wall Street professional, Catherine Rohr noticed that inmates often have a lot in common with business owners and so she started connecting top executives, entrepreneurs, and MBA students with convicted felons who wanted to change their lives. It is nearly impossible for someone who has to fill out “ex-felon” on their job applications to be hired, so instead she is training former convicts to start their own business and the results have been astonishing. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program has graduated more than 1100 students that have opened 165 businesses and at least two of them are grossing more than $1 million! Within 90 days of their release nearly all of the former convicts found jobs, allowing the program to boast a 95% success rate.

I wonder how many of us here today have heard these exciting and hope filled stories in the news. I know I hadn’t until I stumbled upon this little jewel that I will now be checking more regularly. It isn’t that I think we should see the world with rose colored glasses. I have traveled the streets of Bangladesh and seen children starving. I have interviewed women who lost every member of their family to war in Bosnia. I have walked with church members whose lives have brought them more heartache than any one person should bear. But I still believe that the miracles of God are more powerful than all the bad news we hear daily. 

Barbara Brown Taylor has a sermon on this text from Mark that she calls Miracle on the Beach. She has this beautiful perspective that we get so caught up in how awesome Simon and Andrew and James and John are that we get focused on the wrong thing. She says that this story is not about the disciples who left everything to follow Jesus. And she says it isn’t about us and our willingness to follow. This is a story about the power of God. She claims that this is no hero story, but instead a miracle story, no less than when Jesus says, “Be made clean,” to the leper and immediately he was made clean, Mark 1:41. Or when he says, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home,” to the paralyzed man, and the man stood up and immediately took his matt and went home, Mark 2:11. Or when Jesus tells the blind man, “Go, your faith has made you well,” and immediately he regained his sight, Mark 10:52. In the same way, he looks into the eyes of his disciples and says, “Follow me,” and immediately they left their nets, their families, their whole lives and follow him.

But Taylor writes so eloquently, “Their minds were not on what they were leaving, but on whom they were joining… and in that God-drenched moment of their turning to follow, the miracle occurred: their lives flowed in the same direction as God’s life.”

Is it possible for even our ordinary lives to flow in the same direction as God’s life? Taylor points out that one of the most unique characteristics of Jesus as a Jewish leader was the fact that he selected his disciples. It was unheard of for Rabbis to select their disciples. Teachers would wait for students to come to them, and then there would be a vigorous interview process where the rabbi decided whether or not to take them on as disciples. It seems that Jesus turns this model on its head by instead choosing ordinary followers to do extraordinary work.

It isn’t that there is no merit in their willingness to say yes, but I think Taylor has it right when she says the focus is just all wrong. In the church we so often get caught up in what we are supposed to be doing that we forget what God is already doing. Ted Smith says it is a matter of timing, that Jesus declares that the time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand and so the only reasonable response is to follow. We don’t follow in order to accomplish something great. We follow because we know that God is accomplishing greatness all over the place and we want to participate in one iota of all that good news. And in Simon & Andrew and James & John, through Elizabeth Rohr, Geri Weis-Corbly and Jimmy Carter, we learn that it is not only possible but it is probable that God is choosing us and inviting us to participate in God-drenched moments.

I don’t know that it has to be as drastic as leaving our family and our work behind. Besides, many of you have some pretty fabulous families and your work is pretty important too. But I do think we are all called to repent- to turn our lives around and examine where God is and what God is up to. Because it does seem like God is always up to something- like when one of you texted to say you were praying for me on Thursday and I had the most productive morning I’ve had in weeks. Or when the fourth person to interview for the associate position asked the search committee a series of tough questions and told me later that she wanted to start working here on Monday because she was so inspired by the ministry of our congregation. After a lot of heartache and stress, Willie looked at me and said in the most nonchalant way, “You know maybe you should have relaxed because God had this person in mind all along.” I hate it when Willie is right. God was up to all kinds of somethings this week when we got to experience the miracle of spring in the middle of winter.

I wonder what God will do and who God will call next.

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