The week in focus
From January 2021, we're offering three new resources, published each Thursday - helping you connect the Bible passages with what's happening in the world right now.
In touch: Same talents, new challenges
Jesus calls the disciples to use their fishing skills in new ways (Mark 1.14-20).
- We are into the third week of a national lockdown. There is huge disparity of experience: some have lost their jobs, others are working in the most stressful of circumstances; some are lonely, others overwhelmed by having young children at home all day every day; for some Covid19 is a short, mild illness, for others it is life-threatening.
- Joe Biden becomes the 46th President of the United States, facing a string of crises: the Covid-19 pandemic, the resulting economic downturn, climate change, the injustices highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, and violence threatened by Trump supporters.
- Wednesday January 27th will be Holocaust Memorial Day. This year the theme is ‘Be the light in the darkness’. We are invited to light a candle and put it in the window at 8pm, sharing a photo on social media using the hashtags #HolocaustMemorialDay #LightTheDarkness.
Ideas for sermons
- I am always amazed at how new insights leap out from familiar biblical passages. Reading Mark 1.14-20, I was struck by Jesus taking these fishermen for who they were, asking them to exercise the same vocation in new circumstances – fishing for people.
- You may feel that you have lost your sense of calling – because you are ill, or stuck at home, or knocked sideways by grief, or too overwhelmed to do a good job. The question becomes: What is the will of God for you here and now? It may involve being kind to yourself, and looking after those around you. This may be a moment for humility, as grand ideas about mission come crashing down. Life may be reduced to the challenge of taking the next breath. We simply offer all that we are to God.
- Lockdown may bring us face to face with aspects of ourselves we safely ignored when busy and active. I am reminded of the saying of Abba Moses, one of the desert fathers: ‘Sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything’. A temptation for those early hermits, as for us, was to think that they could serve God better elsewhere. Amma Syncletica, a desert mother, uses this analogy: ‘Just as the bird who abandons the eggs she was sitting on prevents them from hatching, so the monk or nun grows cold and their faith dies, when they go from one place to another.’ (B Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection Cistercian Publications 1984; p.139, p.231). Rowan Williams comments on those insights: ‘To stay in the cell is most fundamentally to stay in touch with the reality of who I am as a limited creature, as someone who is not in control of everything, whether inner or outer, as an unfinished being in the hands of the maker’ (R Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes: The Wisdom of the Desert, 2003, Lion Books, p.86.)
- The desert hermits may even have something to say to those, like Joe Biden, facing enormous challenges and unrealistic expectations. There is an insistence in desert wisdom that we engage with the reality of our situations, rather than escaping into fantasy. Holding on to hope, and staying true to ourselves, we get on with the next thing that needs doing. ‘Abba Poemen said concerning Abba Pior that every day he made a new beginning.’ (Ward, p.179.)
- The Council of Christians and Jews has prepared a Holocaust Memorial Day Resource for Churches. One way of marking HMD, honouring those who lived through the darkest of times, is to take part in the Foundation Stones. You are invited to paint a stone in remembrance of the victims of genocide. These stones will then become part of the new UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.
Questions for discussion
- How has your life changed because of the pandemic?
- What is most difficult about these new circumstances?
- How has your sense of calling changed? What is God asking of you now?
Ann Conway-Jones teaches biblical studies in a variety of settings. She is also Chair of Birmingham Council of Christians and Jews
This week marks the inauguration of America's 46th President Joe Biden, and has left the country divided between those who are willing to follow their new leader and those who are struggling to accept the change. At such a crucial time as this around the world, how ready would you be to welcome different direction and leadership?
For the disciples in this week’s passage, it appears following a new leader was an easy change to make, as they immediately dropped their nets and followed Jesus. How brave were those first followers to do something different with their lives! I wonder if they responded without hesitation because they had such an amazing leader to follow – Jesus!
Have you ever wondered what advice and leadership Jesus would have given his disciples during a global pandemic? How could the disciples become fishers of men during a lockdown? Can you think of any ways that you can fish for more disciples for Jesus during our current restrictions? Perhaps you could gain more followers on social media and use it as a platform to share your faith?
Following a leader and rules can be challenging at the best of times, without having to keep up with the changes which currently surround us. But we still have one constant and that is the leadership of Jesus. Perhaps now the most important thing we can do is to follow and trust in our Lord Jesus and inspire our friends to do the same; encourage them to be brave and do something different with their lives too!
Natasia Bullock is the children’s worker for the South Liverpool Methodist Circuit and director of Christian theatre company The B Tales.
ROOTS publishes weekly lectionary-based worship and learning resources online and in two magazines. FIND OUT MORE.