Sunday’s sermon post: Faith in Falling, Faith in Following

trust fall

Texts used – Psalm 62:5-12 and Mark 1:14-20

  • When I was a kid – probably 8 or 9 years old – my pastor, Pastor Jamie, took us on a camping trip up to Clearwater Forest.
    • Probably 8 or 10 kids
    • Trip full of fun and excitement
      • Stuff on our own
      • Stuff with the campers at the time (games, etc.)
    • One of the things we did on our own – just those of us from our church – that has always stuck with me was a trust fall.
      • Describe trust fall – picnic table, grasping arms, falling backwards staying stiff
      • Now, believe you me, falling wasn’t easy! If I remember right, it took me a couple tries to get it “right” – to fall backwards staying flat instead of trying to protect myself by sitting as I fell backward. It took serious trust, especially for an incredibly shy 9-yr-old! I had to have faith that the people who I couldn’t see were actually going to be there to catch me.
  • Our passage from the gospel today is probably one of the most well-known stories – one of the most quoted. Jesus says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”[1] We read about Jesus issuing The Call (capital “T”, capital “C”), and we envy those fishermen and the ease with which they simply drop their nets and stroll off down the road after Jesus. But even for these apostles, following Jesus wasn’t as easy as it may have seemed.
    • Mark: Immediately [Simon and Andrew] left their nets and followed [Jesus.] … Immediately, [Jesus] called [James and John]; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.[2]
      • Gr is very telling → “left” is the key = suggests giving something up, utter release
        • Used in NT to speak of the way in which God forgives sins: God doesn’t return these sins to us at a later date. God removes them entirely … and this is how completely Simon, Andrew, James, and John released their nets, their obligations, and their lives … entirely.
        • Scholar: The fact that these men drop both occupation and family obligations to follow the one who summons them demonstrates that their call comes from God. … In a traditional society, such a break with family and occupation … was an extraordinary disruption in a person’s life. It might even have seemed offensive.[3]
          • Fishermen were not young men with no obligations
          • Fishermen were not poor men with nothing to do
          • They were probably middle-aged men with a job and families and responsibilities. And yet, they went.
    • Now, the text says they followed “immediately,” but I don’t want this word to fool you. Throughout his gospel, Mark tries to convey to the readers just how crucial it is that they hear and believe the gospel message because there is no time to waste. It shows up no less than 40 times in the gospels that is by far the shortest – only 16 chapters! So while immediacy in the gospel of Mark is a sign of the immediacy of the Kingdom of God, it probably isn’t the most accurate measure of “real” time. So the disciples’ decision to leave may not have been as “immediate” as we originally thought. Maybe they stood and talked about it together. Maybe they sat in the rocks on the shore wrestling with themselves and their newly-uttered Call. Or maybe, just as Mark says, they did simply hear Jesus’ words, get up, and walk away. Maybe it was that easy for them – without question, without hesitation, without fear. But being readers who know the whole story, we know that, even if these fishermen did make their decision quickly, the path ahead of them isn’t going to be an easy one.
      • Hassled by religious authorities of the time at nearly every turn
      • Following Jesus meant hanging out with people that had been rejected by society
        • Tax collectors
        • Sinners
        • Lepers
      • And then there’s what surely seemed to the disciples to be the most unthinkable end of the story – Jesus’ arrest, torture and death. Do you think, as those fishermen were walking away from their nets and their boats and their families, they had any inkling of the horrors that were to come? Would it have changed their decision if they did?
  • And the apostles aren’t the only ones who struggle, are they?
    • Both in personal lives and the life of the church
      • Conflicts with people we love
      • Times of emotional stress or financial hardship
      • Sometimes way seems unclear
      • Sometimes we disagree
      • We grow tired and frustrated, and at times, we feel like we just don’t have the strength to follow.
    • Fortunately, our psalm this morning gives us an enduring foundation: For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.[4] → Following Jesus isn’t always easy … but the words of the psalm assure us that God will be there to catch us when we fall.
      • See this assurance in the last verse: And steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.[5] → I know that probably doesn’t sound like much of an assurance, but Hebrew for “repay” = very special root
        • Meaning: restore, fulfill … or, most commonly, peace → root = shalom
        • Scholar: Perhaps [this verse] should be rendered, “For [God] will give peace to all according to their work” … This conclusion obviously does not mean that God rewards the faithful with an easy and materially prosperous life. … Psalm 62 commends the rewarding experience of finding refuge in God alone.[6] → Ps: “My God is a refuge” – My God is a stronghold, a haven, a sanctuary. My God is my strength, my rest, my peace.
      • This psalm encourages faith. It encourages trust. What it doesn’t do is promise that that faith and trust will come easily or that they won’t be tested. But time and time again, we are reminded that our strongest, most secure refuge can be found in God. It’s like the trust fall we did with Jamie. It was difficult. It was scary. And we weren’t even falling that far! But even if everyone else hadn’t caught me, the worst I would’ve suffered was a few bumps and bruises. The stakes for the fishermen were much higher, yet still they exemplified for us the way of faith and trust and hope.
  • Painful recent example of faith and hope and trust in the face of difficulty came up just yesterday – How many of you remember that day back in 1989 when the news headlines started breaking about a boy kidnapped in small-town Minnesota? How many of you hugged your children, your grandchildren, your nieces or nephews tighter as you watched Patty Wetterling plead for the return of her son, Jacob? How many of you left porchlights on as a sign of solidarity and hope for his safe return?

Jacob Wetterling

  • Jacob Wetterling’s abduction forever changed life for children not only in Minnesota but across the country
    • Parents were far less willing to let their children go off on their own
    • Parents, grandparents, teachers had to have conversations that no one wants to have to have with children full of light and innocence and joy – conversations about strangers, about saying “no” even when you’re scared, about running … conversations about evil
    • Patty Wetterling began crusade
      • Speaking in schools – speeches that literally saved lives
        • Friend’s story: “I was walking to the outdoor pool with a friend in the summer of 1990, I had just finished kindergarten. A man in a light blue beat up car pulled up to us and offered us 5$ to get in his car. I said no and he offered 10$. I said no and that my parents would give me 10$ not to get in his car. He drove away. I knew I was not to get in his car. I knew because of Jacob Wettlering. I knew because after Jacob was abducted my parents talked to us about him. I knew not to go with this stranger because Patti Wetterling came and talked to all the kids at our elementary school about ways to stay safe. Thanks Jacob and Patti. That story could have ended very differently for me if it weren’t for you.
      • Family’s work in child safety and public policy
        • Founded Jacob Wetterling Foundation and Jacob Wetterling Resource Center – educate and assist families and communities to address and prevent the exploitation of children, by putting online and in-person safety information in the hands of every man, woman and child
        • Helped pass national law in 1994 named after Jacob that required states to establish sex offender registries
  • Through all of this – throughout the past 27 years of not knowing where their own beloved child might be – the Wetterlings have worked passionately and tirelessly out of a hope and a trust that someday, Jacob would be found. That someday he would come home. And as of yesterday, he did … but not in the way that anyone was hoping for.
    • Statement put out by Jacob Wetterling Resource Center: “We are in deep grief. We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way. In this moment of pain and shock, we go back to the beginning. The Wetterlings had a choice to walk into bitterness and anger or to walk into a light of what could be, a light of hope. Their choice changed the world. This light has been burning for close to 27 years. The spark began in the moments after the abduction of Jacob Wetterling, when his family decided that light is stronger than darkness. They lit the flame that became Jacob’s Hope. All of Central Minnesota flocked to and fanned the flame, hoping for answers. The light spread state-wide, nationally and globally as hearts connected to the 11 year old boy who liked to play goalie for his hockey team, wanted to be a football player, played the trombone, and loved the times he spent with his sisters, brother, and parents. Today, we gather around the same flame. The flame that has become more than the hope for one as it led the way home for thousands of others. It’s the light that illuminates a world that Jacob believed in, where things are fair and just. Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished. It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob’s Hope. Jacob, you are loved.
  • Friends, life is not always what we want it to be. We are human. We fear. We doubt. We struggle. We get tired and frustrated and over-burdened and stretched too thin. Sometimes, the world around us can be scary and dangerous – full of pitfalls and darkness and things that go bump in the night. And sometimes we fall. But we can trust that God – our stronghold, our haven and our sanctuary, our strength, our rest and our peace – will always be there to catch us all when we fall. Amen.

[1] Mk 1:17.

[2] Mk 1:18,20.

[3] Pheme Perkins. “The Gospel of Mark: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 8. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 539.

[4] Ps 62:5-8.

[5] Ps 62:12.

[6] McCann, 923-924.

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