Sunday, January 24, 2021

Third Sunday of Epiphany: A Fisher of people

Archived Service 

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….


Opening Prayer (PS 139, Cor 6)

Holy God, creator of a new reality

just now coming into view,

we have come today to see and touch

and know your presence here among us.

Be with us as we listen for your call.

Help us hear afresh the good news:

that power and steadfast love

arise from you, our rock and our salvation.

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at Presidential Inauguration

let us begin today’s worship



L: Christ is calling you as disciples

P: Lord Jesus, let us follow you faithfully.

L: You will be led into fields of mission and service.

P: Lord Jesus, where you lead us, we will go.

L: Listen for Christ’s call to you.

P: We are ready to serve the Lord. AMEN

Dear God, Embracing Humankind #502


1 Dear God, embracing human-kind, 

forgive our foolish ways; 

Reclothe us in our rightful mind, 

in purer lives your service find, 

in deeper reverence, praise. 

2 In simple trust like theirs who heard, 

beside the Syrian sea, 

The gracious calling of your word, 

let us, like them, be spirit stirred, 

rise up and followers be. 

3 O sabbath rest by Galilee! 

O calm of hills above! 

There Jesus met you prayerfully: 

the silence of eternity, 

interpreted by love. 

4 Drop your still dews of quietness, 

till all our strivings cease; 

Take from our souls the strain and stress, 

and let our ordered lives confess 

the beauty of your peace. 

5 Breathe through the pulses of desire

 your coolness and your balm; 

Let sense be numb, let flesh retire; 

speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, 

O still, small voice of calm 


Mark 1:14-20

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God,[b] 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[c] repent, and believe in the good news.”[d]

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

16 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. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The word of God for the people of God!

Thanks be to God!


Sermon: Fisher of People?



As I sat to write todays reflection on the gospel I had to look elsewhere.  I had to go beyond my traditional point of view because I have said it enough.  Though I admit I still find it amazing that these men who have given their youth and life to their vocation suddenly drop their nets to just follow.  Poor Zebedee watches, I can only imagine, dumbstruck by his boys up and leaving their family business without so much as a good bye.

Jesus begins his ministry today by proclaiming the Gospel. The time is fulfilled “The word for “time” is kairos, signifying an opportune time and decisive moment because God is about to act. It has eschatological (end of time) implications. The word for “fulfilled” is a verb in passive which conveys the idea that the implicit subject is God, who had caused this to happen.” 

That is all so exciting.  Now some 2021 years later we know that God’s time isn’t out time and so we are still in this opportune time where God is about to act, or as we proclaim is acting, still speaking. Our God is not a passive God but one who participates in our human experience, journeys with us and asks us to work to bring God’s kin-dom about, here on earth just as it is in heaven.

Our youth Poet laureate said it best when she said; 

“When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade

We've braved the belly of the beast

We've learned that quiet isn't always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn't always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we've weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn't broken

but simply unfinished” 


Somehow we have weathered and witnessed a world that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.  I can hear that being the sediment of Christs’ followers then and I know it is where my heart lies as a follower of Christ now.

Yes we have done damage through our varied history as followers of Christ. Even todays message can bring forth a history of pain.

Osvaldo Vena professor emeritus of new testament interpretation at Garret seminary explains it this way;

“Jesus recruits his first disciples. They will be “fishers of people.”1 This metaphor was used by missionaries all over the world to justify and legitimize the allegedly life-giving ministry of the Christian evangelist. And yet, it really is a metaphor of death: fish, when taken out of the water, die! But that has been interpreted as dying to the world, which results in life unto God, something the author of the Gospel clearly affirms in Mark 8:35. The metaphor can also be explained by saying that since in the Bible the sea represents the place of the primordial chaos, inhabited by God’s mythical enemies, the fishing of people can have the connotation of rescuing them from the snares of the devil.” 

How much harm has been allowed in the name of God. Many, many missionaries have been sainted for the “good work” they did but, it truly is a shameful burden that Christian history has borne and continues to bare.

Oswaldo continues to reflect;

“In my experience as a youth in Argentina, and through the preaching of U.S. missionaries, we understood being fishers of people in the two senses mentioned above. We heard the preaching of the Protestant version of the gospel as believers of the Roman Catholic faith, who already enjoyed a healthy relationship with God.

Ched Myers, in his book Binding the Strong Man, has alerted us to the fact that the metaphor of fishing is taken from Jeremiah 16:16, where it is used to symbolize God’s disapproval of Israel. It is also used in Amos 4:2 and Ezekiel 29:4, where catching fish with hooks is used to represent the divine judgment upon the rich and the powerful, respectively. “Jesus,” Myers concludes, “is inviting common folk to join him in his struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege.”2 This is quite a different interpretation from the one I received in my youth.” 

Today I believe we still struggle with the two interpretations of just what it means to be Christian and what it means to be called as fisher of people. The old model of the missionary going into save a people, which basically meant tearing them away from their culture, their traditions and their way of life still happens.

“Is it fundamentally arrogant, or even immoral, for missionaries to assimilate with

“unreached” people groups with the ultimate intent of sharing a foreign, spiritual

message with them? Shouldn’t isolated people groups instead be left undisturbed?

There is no question that, historically, missionaries have often been wrong-headed in their approach to sharing their messages. One sorrowful, infamous example is the case of Catholic Franciscan priest and bishop, Fray Diego de Landis. As a Spanish missionary to the New World, whatever good he did was eclipsed by his harsh and coercive methods against the Mayas. His most infamous accomplishment may have been the burning of the entire Maya library due to the books being filled with what he believed to be “superstition and lies of the devil.” Only 3 Mayan documents survive – a great loss to our understanding of Mayan culture.” 

This horror story of a great fisher of man is repeated over and over again. The contemprorary version may be the case of Scott Lively.  Mr. Liveley is an evangeleical preacher and missionary from massachusetts who extreme and hatefilled views of anti -homosexuality has made him the subject of college papers, lawsuits, and even the southern poverty law center has him on a watch list. He helped to create ugandas death penalty bill for being gay.

“Having said that, let us not imagine that the committing of cultural and racial atrocities has exclusively been a religiously motivated pursuit. For nearly a century, Darwinian evolution widely held that dark-skinned people were less evolved than Caucasian people. As recently as the late 19th century, some 5.000 to 10,000 (Australian) aboriginal graves were desecrated, and “specimens” shipped, to British museums. In some cases Aborigines were murdered to obtain parts for study. (See David Monaghan, “The Body Snatchers”). As late as the early 20th century, targets for eugenics and forced sterilization included dark-skinned races.

Thankfully, both theists and atheists, religion and science, have come a long way since then. The modern missionary movement is smart and sensitive. There is nothing innate to the whole of scripture to justify the earlier missionary atrocities.

When Worldviews Collide

Nonetheless, there is certainly a clash of worldviews at play here, and that’s not going to go away. Secularists will continue to think that Christian missionaries have no business “invading” the lives of isolated people groups for the sake of spreading a myth. Followers of Jesus will continue to consider it a compassionate act to introduce isolated peoples to their universal Creator. What is different now is that both groups are concerned with respecting and retaining indigenous cultures and protecting the health and survival of these people.

One fact both sides can agree on is that isolated tribes are vulnerable to a number of modern threats, and that their existence is fragile. Missionary author Don Richardson claims that in the past 75 years, more than one tribe per year has disappeared from Brazil, from an estimated population of 4 million. Richardson claims thousands have been gunned down, blown up, or poisoned. The fact that the Sentinelese warriors have been observed firing their stone age weapons at a helicopter shows that they have no idea what they are up against.

The view of the modern missionary movement is that leaving tribal people undisturbed is not an option in the 21st century. It insists that it is better that missionaries get to remote peoples first because they value them as human beings created in God’s image. There are a host of potential outsider contacts who have no qualms about cheating, exploiting, and contaminating tribal people groups, and they are not asking permission: farmers, lumbermen, land speculators, minors, hunters, military leaders, road builders, art collectors, tourists, and drug dealers.

In thinking about indigenous cultures, there tends to be a halo effect around the way secularists view tribal people groups; as though their existence is peaceful, free, equitable, and humane. But all human beings are broken, and there is no ideal culture. Tribal cultures believe in the supernatural and are bound by strict beliefs about what their gods require. Critics of missionaries must grapple with the question of whether acceptance of an indigenous culture means acceptance of such practices as inter-tribal warfare, slavery, female genital mutilation, cannibalism, and other oppressive or self-destructive behaviors.” 

Though there are few untouched indigenous cultures the contemporary mission movements seem to have learned from their past transgressions and have helped even preserve some indigenous cultures.

“Richardson tells the story of the Wai Wai tribe of Brazil, which had been reduced to its last 60 members less than a generation ago:

     This was due largely to foreign diseases and the Wai Wai custom of sacrificing babies to demons in attempts to prevent these diseases. Then a handful of UFM missionaries identified themselves with the tribe, learned their language, gave it an alphabet, translated the Word of God, taught Wai Wai to read and brought modern medical care.

      Far from denying the supernatural world, the missionaries showed the Wai Wai that a God of love reigned supreme over it and had prepared a way for them to “stay right” on a deeper level than they had ever dreamed. The Wai Wai now had a rational, even delightful, basis for not sacrificing babies to demons. The tribe began to grow, and today is fast becoming one of Brazil’s more stable tribes. Wai Wai Christians are now teaching other dwindling groups of Indians how to cope with the 21st century through faith in Jesus.

(Perspectives, “Do Missionaries Destroy Cultures?” – Don Richardson)

The world is now filled with such stories of positive change. Jesus was not “white,” and His message was never to promote Western culture. Relational unity with God transcends all cultures, and can be expressed through all cultures.” 


“ I would like to suggest then that the purpose of Jesus’ call to discipleship is not to take people out of a hostile world, promising them a better life in God’s heavenly kingdom. Instead, his purpose is to change the world in such a way that it will cease to be the hostile place it is, so that God’s reign can be established on earth. Doing this will require that we make a preferential option for the poor, the dispossessed, the excluded, and those who because of gender, sexual orientation, race, or class have been rendered invisible in our society. It will also require that we will courageously denounce the evils of our western culture and its arrogant project of globalization. In short, it will require that we change the romantic view of discipleship that we have inherited for one that, by addressing the socio-political realities of our world, may do more justice to Jesus’ original intent.” 

This is why the modern day missionary looks quite different.  We are people packing lunches at the border of Arizona and Mexico offering hospitality to those who have experienced none.  We are a woman who watches at the border of Palestine and Israel making sure workers can get back and forth safely without harassment. We are water in the desert. We are digging wells, teaching in schools, staffing orphanages and hospitals.  This is the way of becoming fisher of men today.

If someone asks why we are doing this we simply explain it is our faith.  We are the river against the stone. We are the face of Christ in the world today. This is the way of Christ to walk humbly and be of service. This is what our food pantry is all about. This is what the kidz cupboard is all about.  Being a mission of Christ, which is the church, is about being a blessings and a loving presence to the community around us. And so I say amen and keep up the good work that the federated church of Marlborough is.

A call to prayer

Holy Mystery, we cannot count your thoughts,

nor can we understand completely

your plan for creation. So we have moments of resistance and fear, moments of concern for ourselves, our loved ones and the world.

You know us more intimately than we know ourselves.

We flourish in the womb of your love.

When you call us on new adventures,

we turn to you with joy,

amazed at your presence. And so we have moments of great Joy when we can clearly see your presence in our world.

Open our hearts to your invitation

and give us the courage to lift our joys and our concerns to you here now. Amen.


Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn



Anthem: Hope of the World #46

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us


Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen


Invitation to the Offering

Our nets are full enough to share God’s bounty. Our hearts are open wide to the needs of others. Let us reach out and share what we’ve been given.

Donate Here!


Doxology #778


Offering Prayer

Holy God, Steadfast Rock of all Salvation,

we marvel at the strength of your compassion

and your ability to offer forgiveness.

We come to you,

hungry to be part of the good news

you are bringing forth,

for we would be part of the realm

you are revealing. Amen.

The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry


I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in


The Lord of the Dance


 Closing Prayer

Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. We are grateful for the love of Jesus who takes our burdens and lightens our spirits. Be with us today as we leave this place. May we continue to place our trust in you, for it is in the name of Jesus that we pray. AMEN.


Benediction/Sending Forth

As we go out to meet a changing world,

remember this: God alone is our rock

and our salvation; the risen Christ

is calling each of us to share the good news

of the realm of God.

Go forth proclaiming the good news in deed and word amen.

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