Epiphany III Year B: Be All That You Can Be

Jeremiah 3:21-4:2
I Corinthians 7:17-23
Mark 1:14-20

Our first scripture reading describes how the people of Israel and Judah had been relying on everything but God: foreign idols, military alliances, and economic power, and all it got them was disaster – the Kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria and the Kingdom of Judah would be conquered by Babylon. Jeremiah says that the only way to get out of their mess is to confess their sins, stop relying on false hopes, and put their trust in God alone. Only then will they gain their true vocation as a blessing to the world around them, rather than their hollow and ultimately self-defeating pretensions as players in world politics.

While nowadays we would not be as nonchalant about slavery as Paul was, he does make a valid point in our second scripture reading about using our circumstances for good. It is true that we should not stay in bad or harmful situations, but we also ought not to waste all our time and energy constantly fantasizing about and pretending to be who we are not. We should instead rely on God to make us the best we that we can be, and then use our lives to help others.

In our gospel story, Mark tells about God using people just as they are: Andrew, Simon, James, and John went directly from fishing to following Jesus. Jesus gave them necessary training along the way and then sent the Holy Spirit to further guide them, but they never had to pretend to be who they weren’t. They had been faithful to their jobs as fishers, so Jesus upgraded them into fishers of people. Had they not been doing their jobs at the Sea of Galilee at the time, they would not have been able to respond to the call of Jesus.

It is the same with us. We don’t need to shy away from improving our economic situation or from educational opportunities, but we also don’t need to pretend to be anyone other than ourselves. God can not use fake images to bless people. God uses real people to make the world a better place. We must never rely on the false gods of wealth and social prestige to save us. God alone is the source of our being and fulfillment. Underneath all of our pretensions and dissemblings, we find that we are exactly who we ought to be, even though we are not the fully mature selves we will be someday if we only let God grow us. God does not make junk, and if we trust in God, God will take the good and worthy persons that we are and bring them to perfection. Like Jeremiah, Israel, Judah, Paul, Andrew, Simon, James, and John, we will be a blessing to the world around us. But we must start by being only who we are and trusting in God alone.   AMEN