When Saying Yes Requires Saying No
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It was one of those thought-for-the-day-calendars you find in your Christmas stocking. The sayings mostly were trite and pithy, but every so often there was a truth worth repeating, for example: “Decide what you want and what you are willing to exchange for it. Set your priorities and go to work.” In other words, if we’re serious, saying yes to one thing often requires saying no to something else.
Jonah—after fleeing from the mission to which God was calling him (and three days and nights in the belly of the fish!)—now says “No!” to his former urges and “Yes!” to God as he sets out as God’s prophet to Nineveh. Paul invites us to say “No!” to trivial matters and “Yes!” to the things of God that have serious and eternal consequences. Jesus calls the disciples to say “No!” to their boats and nets and families and much of everything else they have known and to say “Yes!” to his “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
We feel a kinship with Jonah’s situation, because he struggles. He runs away from God and only relents after a huge fish vomits him onto a distant shore. The call-response stories of Simon, Andrew, James, and John make it all seem so easy. One little word of invitation from Jesus and these men turn in an instant from fishers to disciples.
But most of us live somewhere in the middle, not resisting God’s call with the vigor of Jonah but certainly responding more slowly and ambiguously than the disciples. So a question for today is: To what is God calling us to say “No!”? Remember, it’s not just the ugly stuff but often good things that must be denied for the sake of following Jesus. And then we must also ask in faith: To what is Jesus inviting us to say “Yes!”?
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Before Jesus calls his first disciples, he proclaims a message that becomes known as “the gospel” or good news from God. God is ready to rule our lives. Those who realize this will respond with repentance and faith.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.