This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT, on Jan. 24. Worship can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.
The texts were:
Jonah 3: 1-5,10
Psalm 62: 5-12
Mark 1: 14-20
My grandpa Emmons loved to fish. He had a fishing boat and took us grandkids out often. I was three years old the first time I went fishing with him. I actually caught one, probably with a lot of help, and was made to hold the slimy thing for a picture. My look of confusion says it all. Fishing takes patience and a bit of fortitude. Once you catch a fish, you have to get it off the hook. It’s not as easy you might think as the fish fears it’s dying and is fighting you. It’s flailing around trying to get away while you pull the hook out of it’s mouth to put it in your bucket or catch and release. All the fish know is that one minute they’re swimming around looking for their daily meal and the next thing they know they are hooked. I kinda feel bad for the fish. Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing fish, but it must feel helpless to be hooked and know that you can’t unhook yourself to get free or to be afraid of even being unhooked. I know that there are times that I’m innocently swimming through my day, and without even realizing it, I get hooked into something that isn’t the best for me, isn’t life-giving, isn’t the best use of my time of time and gifts. And I can’t unhook myself. So, I flail around trying to figure out what comes next. In so many ways, I’m not in any more control than the fish.
Being hooked isn’t just about fishing. As people, we DO get hooked fairly easily: hooked on tv shows, on books, internet shopping, social media, our own opinions and viewpoints, and the list goes on. Being hooked is part of being human. We’re all hooked on or to something, and it’s so much a part of our everyday life, we don’t even realize that we’re hooked until someone comes along to unhook us. And then we fight them, as unhooking can hurt, we’ve become so used to the hook that it doesn’t occur to us that it might be doing us harm. And if we’re unhooked, or off the hook, then what? What happens next?
In our story of Mark there are many remarkable undercurrents and luckily, I don’t have to preach them all today, we’ll have this passage again in three years, but the one that resonated with me this time, is how willingly the new disciples were unhooked from their everyday lives, livelihoods and families by Jesus. Jesus, fresh from 40 days of temptation in the desert where Satan tried to hook him with worldly powers and status, comes to the Sea of Galilee, a fairly unassuming location. He walks the shore and sees these young men doing an important job in the ancient near east culture, fishing. Fish were a staple of the Mediterranean diet and fishing was a decent income. While no one in this profession got rich, they didn’t starve either. And it tended to be a family business, so generations worked together, and the expectation was that the sons would take over the family business. It was an identity, as most professions were in the ancient world, and unhooking from one’s identity, from your family, expectations and profession was not a small feat.
But Jesus is undaunted by the social expectations and climate and calls to Simon, Andrew, James and John and unhooks them from all that they know. The writer of Mark doesn’t indicate that there was any resistance or flailing against the unhooking and writes that the four young men are willingly unhooked and go with Jesus. Really, this is the first miracle in Mark’s gospel and everything else flows from it. I mean the heavens tearing open at Jesus’ baptism is nice, but these four people hear one sentence from Jesus and unhook from everything they know to this new way of living? It’s as incredible as the Ninevites trusting in Jonah’s one sentence of condemnation and unhooking themselves from the violence and harm they were perpetrating. The newbie disciples had to know that the people in town would talk, rumors would fly and they would lose whatever social status they had. I have personally never changed my own mind after hearing only one sentence, nor have I ever witnessed anyone changing their minds after one sentence. I dream about that honestly, where one sentence, just the right wording, would unhook people from harmful ways of thinking and acting towards themselves and other people.
I dream about being unhooked myself, unhooked from worrying about what other people think of me, unhooked from my own ego, pride, unhooked from everything and maybe even everyone I know. I need Jesus to come and remove the me from the hook so that I can follow and unhook others. People around us are begging to be unhooked from the rat race of materialism, or unhooked from the reality of unequal and inadequate wages, unhooked from inaccessible housing costs, food costs, education costs, unhooked from worry of becoming ill with little to no health insurance, unhooked from dysfunctional family systems, unhooked from fear of change. God’s desire is for us all to be unhooked from the injustices and lies of the world. God’s promise in Jesus is that we all can be unhooked; we don’t have to stay on the hook that is killing us. We are hooked, and Jesus comes and says, come, follow me. Jesus removes the hook that connects us to fear and death, and offers us freedom, peace and life. We are called, unhooked, liberated and brought into Jesus’ sea, where we are washed, claimed and loved. We live unhooked and free for true life. Amen.