Net of Refuge and Strength
Psalm 62:5-12 and Mark 1:14-20
January 21, 2024


I’m sure like me, you have begun something new at some point in your life that you were a bit nervous about beginning.  Maybe it was a new job, or moving to a new location, or beginning a new journey to a place you had not been before. 

Whatever, your “new” venture may have been, it probably came with a bit of excitement of what the future would hold, and at the same time, it came with apprehension of what if it doesn’t go well, or what if I cannot do the job, or what if I move, and I don’t like it there.

Whatever your “new” venture may have been, there are surely no sure outcomes for the future.

I’m sure this was the same feelings the disciples were experiencing that morning they were called by Jesus to follow him.

As we enter our scripture today with Jesus having just been tempted in the wilderness by Satan, Mark gets right to the heart of the matter, noting that after John has been arrested, Jesus realizes the time has come for him to continue spreading the good news.

Knowing that John has been arrested, there is a certain danger and urgency to the story as we can just imagine Jesus walking along the roads of Galilee proclaiming the kingdom of God has come near.  “Now is the time to repent and believe good news,” he says to the people, many of who were Gentiles.

Jesus moves away from the political and historical roots of Jerusalem that are steeped in the law to an area where the people are oppressed and burdened by excessive taxes.  It is here that he brings news of something new.  It is here he finds people waiting to hear good news.  He’s not talking about the things of old, the laws of Moses, but rather a new message.  God is doing something new at this critical time, and bringing people together so that his plan can be fulfilled.

This good news, this new change that the faithful people had been hoping would come to them has now come near.

Jesus tells us there are two things we need to do in order to receive it.  We must repent and believe.

We always hear we need to repent of our sins, and I want us to think a little more about what repent means.  The good news requires that when we repent we actually change our way of thinking, we change our attitude so that we can focus on loving God and loving our neighbors.

Maybe you have experienced a time when you have been caught up in something, and at the time you couldn’t see it any other way, and later after the fact, maybe years after, you see things differently in hindsight.  You can’t necessarily go back and change what has happened in the past; however, you can certainly change your thinking and your attitude in the present.  This is repenting.

God doesn’t want us to stay stuck in the mire, rather we can change our thinking and move forward.

The next step is to believe that God will keep his promise to bring you into his kingdom.  We believe by trusting God.  Every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “our kingdom come,” and do we believe that it is real?  Do we believe that God is our Kingdom come?  And do we believe it is here on earth as it is in heaven?

Martin Luther explained the Lord’s Prayer in his Small Catechism saying that God’s kingdom comes to us “whenever our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit’s grace, we believe God’s Holy Word, and live godly lives here in this time and hereafter in eternity.”

God is with us now and will be with us in eternity.

Just imagine what the scene would have been like the morning Jesus was walking the shoreline in Galilee.  There were probably hundreds of boats along the shore preparing their ships for a day of fishing, and then Jesus comes to them, and says, “Follow me.”

Mark doesn’t tell us, yet I’m sure there were many who did not follow Jesus, many that were not willing to change their way of thinking or their attitude.  Many that didn’t have faith to trust in the hope of the good news.  Many that were too busy to stop and listen.

These four in our scripture, however, dropped their nets.  They welcomed the invitation from Jesus to fish for people, and like we would have been venturing into a new experience, they probably followed with both excitement and apprehension.

These four:  Simon, Andrew, James and John, put down their nets that needed mending.  They put down their old way of doing things, and picked up the new net Jesus was offering.  A new net of refuge and strength.  A new hope and a new promise of a life of love with God.

How many times do we not follow Jesus?  How many times do we not pick up the gift that God has given us to share with someone else?

In following Jesus, the disciples are called into action to fish for people.  As witnessed by John the Baptist, and later by Jesus and the disciples, fishing for people is not always a safe proposition, although when we are reconciled with God, we want to share that message with others.  We want to share that love with others.

Fishing for people is not limited to those you may consider to have special gifts like pastors and missionaries, but to all as members of the body of Christ as instruments of peace, love, and hope.

Jesus equipped the disciples with a new net.  One that was good and strong, and instructed them  to throw out their nets to all people, both far and wide, to catch anyone who was willing to serve the kingdom of God.  They fished with faith, trusting that their prayer and action would fill their net.

The future is as uncertain for us as it was for the disciples.  We don’t know what the future holds for us in our personal lives, in our church, or in our community.  We don’t know if others will continue to be welcoming, or if we will be met with resistance.

What we do know, is that the future is in God’s hands, not ours.  Our challenge is to recognize that God is working for good in our lives, now and in the future, and we can respond positively.  We can have faith and trust God.

If you have ever fished, you know that it takes a lot of patience and skill.  Sometimes you have to move from one place to another until you find the fish.  Sometimes you hit a snag, and you lose your hook, so you have to rethink and restring your pole.  Sometimes you have to reach for a stronger pole, the same way the disciples reached for a stronger net.

The question is have we picked up the new net, the one that is our refuge and strength?  Like the disciples, Jesus wants us to draw together a community of people who sees the value of the kingdom of God, and who are willing to work for human dignity, peace, justice, freedom and the salvation of all.

The net is our refuge and strength, and it is big enough for all.


(Silent Reflection)