Sermon: Tell Me More

January 24, 2021

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Mark 1:14-20

by Eric Anderson

The kolea wasn’t from Missouri. She was from Alaska. But she was definitely from the “Show Me State” of mind if not from the Show Me State itself. And when it came time to make that first journey from Alaska to Hawai’i, she was not convinced.

“You’re telling me,” she said, “that you want me to spend the winter on an island?”

Yes, that’s what they were telling her.

“You’re telling me,” she said, “that it’s going to be nice and warm and sunny?”

Yes, that’s what they were telling her. At least, warmer and sunnier than Alaska in the winter.

“You’re telling me,” she said, “that it’s going to take three or four days to fly there and there’s no place to stop along the way?”

Well, yes, that’s what they were telling her. But they’d all made the trip before.

“You’re telling me,” she said, “that you’ve done this before?”

Yes, that’s what they were telling her. More than once, in fact.

“And having done this ridiculous thing more than once, you think I should be listening to you?”

Well, yes. That’s what they were telling her. They had to admit that it sounded a little… odd.

“I’ll say,” she said. “You’re going to have to do better than this story.”

The problem, of course, is that they couldn’t do any better than that story. As strange as it sounded, they had simply told her the truth.

“You’ll have to take it on trust,” they said.

“We’ll see,” she said.

In the end, of course, she joined the other first-years on the long flight, and if she made some hurrumphing noises along the way, it was hard to hear with the wind rush in their ears. Finally, they came to ground here on Hawai’i Island, and if it wasn’t the brightest of sunny days here Hilo-side, it was certainly nicer than the portion of Alaska that they’d left behind.

“See?” they asked.

She looked around. She pecked experimentally at the turf for its softness. She smelled the scent of the worms beneath the ground.

“I see,” she said. “Thank you for showing me.”

As I said, she was from the Show Me State of mind.

Mark the Gospel writer would have driven this poor kolea to distraction. Today’s title, “Tell Me More,” is based on Mark’s habit of telling us as little as possible. Mark, for example, wrote nothing about Jesus’ birth. Mark described Jesus’ temptation after his baptism with the following words: “He was in the wilderness forty days tempted by Satan.” In his account of the summoning of the first four of Jesus’ followers, Mark left out, well, very nearly everything that I would want to know. “Follow me and I will make you fish for people,” is a nice start to a conversation, but where’s the questioning, where’s the follow-up, where’s the explanation, where’s the moment when consideration became decision and Simon and Andrew (Simon, by the way, is the Simon whom Jesus would nickname Peter, “the Rock,” in chapter three), when Simon and Andrew would leave their nets and follow him?

Instead, all we get is: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Where’s the tell me more, Mark? Why couldn’t you tell me more, Mark?

It’s possible that they were already acquainted with one another. In the next few weeks we’ll read that Jesus visited Simon Peter’s house in Capernaum and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. At the beginning of chapter two, after Jesus completed a trip around the villages of Galilee, Mark wrote, “it was reported that he was at home” – in Capernaum. Based on Mark, at least, you can make the case that Jesus, Simon Peter, and Andrew were neighbors. Perhaps they were among the first to hear the message Jesus had inherited from John the Baptist: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Matt Skinner writes at Working Preacher, “We are too accustomed to viewing the story in Mark 1 as a HEY, YOU; YES, YOU story. But I don’t think that’s entirely right.

“It’s more accurate to view what happened on the lakeshore as an IT’S TIME story. When Jesus first summoned Simon, Andrew, James, and John (and maybe also when he called Mary Magdalene, Mary, Salome, and others), those people weren’t encountering a charismatic stranger for the first time. It’s not that he suddenly broke into their lives announcing that their number had come up in the great discipleship sweepstakes. They were hearing a familiar preacher and perhaps even a friend telling them that the time for a new direction or a new intensity had arrived. Jesus was ready and now—now!—they needed to be, too.”

You see, “tell me more,” can sometimes be, “Let’s put this off until later.” “Tell me more,” can be, “I’ll get back to you,” when you probably won’t. “Tell me more,” can be, “I’m going to say no, but I’m being polite about it.”

“Tell me more,” can also be responsible, as in, “I want to know whether I can, in fact, make the commitment you’re asking of me.” “Tell me more,” can be, “Is this a commitment I should make?” “Tell me more,” can be, “Do I understand what I’m saying, ‘Yes,’ to?”

Or even, “OK. It’s time. What’s it time for?”

Tell me more. What is it time for?

Cheryl Lindsay writes at ucc.org, “In response to the political turmoil in the United States, many leaders have called for healing, but unfortunately, in their version of healing, it means moving on as if recent events have not happened. It’s been a call to forget more than a call for real healing. Real healing requires a proper and correct diagnosis of the problem as well as recognition that a problem exists, and in this case persists. Real healing means treating the wounds, binding up brokenness, and eradicating the infection. Real healing takes time and energy and is hard work.

“For healing to take place, what–and who–has been broken, must be made whole. Repentance is a prerequisite, because oppressors are broken people. Hurt people hurt people, including themselves and others. For healing to take place, the hard work of repair in the lives of the powerful and oppressive must begin. That includes accountability but it also includes grace. I am fond of saying, including as a reminder to myself, that we all want grace for ourselves but want judgment for those who harm us.”

What is it time for? Tell me more.

The Rev. Damaris Whittaker, senior pastor of the Fort Washington Collegiate Church UCC in New York City, headed her newsletter this week with the words, “A New Dawn.” The thing about dawn is, it’s the beginning of the day, and the thing about days is, that’s when we do work.

Simon Peter and Andrew got invited to do different work, not for an extended vacation from fishing (which I known sounds strange because some of you out there take extended vacations to go fishing). James and John left their father in the boat to take on another set of tasks, not to live a life of relative ease.

So Rev. Whittaker wrote in her newsletter: “Hope is a choice. Today, I choose hope and I invite you to do the same. We had a presidential inauguration without incident. We celebrate the first woman, first Black, first Asian American, and first Caribbean American Vice-President, Kamala Harris, and we look to the future with the commitment to be the change we want to see the in the world. The road ahead is full of bumps and obstacles, but we will travel with love. In our community, we still have a lot of work to do.”

So do we.

We all struggle with the ongoing reality of racism and sexism in America. I wish I could remember who I first heard say, “As long as you can count those of a certain group serving in a position, things have not changed that much.” We have had one man of color as President. We have had one woman of color as Vice President. If we’ve learned nothing else of the last few years, or for heaven’s sake of the last month, we have learned that when it comes to racism in America, things haven’t changed that much.

We still have a global pandemic to deal with in this community. Vaccine appointments are available for our kupuna, but some of them are going to need assistance because the primary method of making appointments is via the Internet. If you have neighbors or friends or acquaintances who are over 75 but without Internet access, give them a call. Find out if they have begun to arrange for a vaccination. Hopefully they have. If they haven’t, though, you may be a lifesaver.

By the way, do not use your own email address to help someone else register online. The system uses one email address per individual. You will need that email for your own appointment.

We will also be sharing an opportunity to be part of a local phone bank assisting people who need assistance with making their appointments in the Weekly Chime and the Messenger.

We have neighbors who have worked very little for months. They’ve done all they can to make rent payments. Some have run out of reserves. Others are watching those resources dwindle. How do we prevent a rash of evictions when the moratorium ends? How do we prevent banks from foreclosing on property owners who won’t be receiving rent from an empty space any more than one occupied by someone without income? How do we prevent a homelessness crisis and a deepening economic crisis just at the moment we think we’re turning the corner?

If you have ideas for that one, tell me more, because it keeps me awake at night.

What is it time for? Tell me more.

The good news is that we do not do this alone. We were called to do this work together, even if we are scattered to the winds of the Internet at the moment. We were also called into the followers of Jesus – he called them by pairs to start, did you notice that? – and this is also the risen Jesus, the one who is always with those who follow faithfully.

So do not fear, friends. Answer the summons once again, and in your prayers, whisper: “Tell me more.”

Amen.

Watch the Recorded Sermon

The video above contains the entire worship service of January 24, 2021. Clicking “Play” will jump to the beginning of the sermon.

The prepared text is very similar to the sermon as preached – but not the same. No, never the same.

The image is Fish Market (Calling the Apostoles Peter and Andrew) by Jan Brueghel the Elder – This file was derived from:  Jan Brueghel (I) – Apostoles Peter and Andrew (Hermitage).jpg:, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82163006.

Categories Sermons | Tags: | Posted on January 24, 2021

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