‘This is the time of fulfillment’

It was a small town, the kind you can miss if you’re not paying attention. Tina had been born and raised there and now, recently graduated from college, she was ready to spread her wings. But some people in town envisioned another future for her. Tina was a talented young woman with a degree in political science. They wanted her to stay and run for public office here at home but, like Jonah, Tina was ready to take the next big fish out of town.

“This is the time of fulfillment.” These are the first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Mark. The Jews had been waiting for generations for the Messiah – the “time of fulfillment.” They were looking for a strong political figure. But Jesus had something else in mind. He invited Simon, Andrew, James and John to “[C]ome after…” him and, even though this was not how they had imagined it would be, they “abandoned their nets and followed him,” trusting him to show them what they should do next.

“The kingdom of God is at hand.” Some of the people in Tina’s hometown wanted her to run for public office, but others shouted insults and even threatened her safety if she did. What should she do? How would we respond if someone came along and asked us to drop everything and start over, even if we had no idea what that would entail? Would we go? Or would our response be, “Sorry, friend, but we’ve always done it this way.” Unfortunately, Tina couldn’t do that. In a time of pandemic and political upheaval there was no more “way” in which things had always been done. And the people were waiting for her answer.

How would we respond if Jesus showed up at our workplace and invited us to “[C]ome after …” him. The answer is important. Would we ignore the invitation? Or, like those first disciples, would we believe that God can and does call us to build the kingdom, even if we never leave our own hometown?

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.