Anders Nilsen, Norfolk, VA
How would you know if Jesus was calling you to do something or to follow him? Do you think you would hear a voice? Would this call come through other people? Would it be your intuition?
Social Media Jesus
A little over a year ago, Elon Musk, the billionaire and owner of multiple companies including Tesla, purchased the social media platform Twitter. In a controversial move, Musk made many immediate changes to the way the platform was used.
For years before Musk made the purchase, accounts on Twitter who were deemed “authentic, noble, active, and prominently recognized” were awarded a blue check mark. This tiny symbol awarded the account the status of being “verified.” It is a coveted symbol especially for celebrities, reporters, and other prominent figures because it means that their account cannot be copied or fraudulent. Words are powerful, and when accounts get stolen and fake tweets are sent the damage can be long lasting.
One of the changes that Musk made after purchasing Twitter in November of 2022, was to take away the blue check mark that signified a verified status for everyone, unless they were willing to pay a premium each month. This decision led to chaos. Celebrities were impersonated by people who paid to activate “verified” accounts in their name. Major news networks such as the New York Times had fraudulent accounts spouting fake news in their namesake. For a time, it was a madhouse. (Not that Twitter hasn’t always been.)
Another controversy that came out of the chaos was that someone created and paid for a verified account named “Jesus Christ”, and another, “Satan”. During the time that these accounts held the coveted blue check mark they went back and forth with insults and quips. Hilarious? Yes. Sacrilegious? Probably.
Sadly, thousands of people took these little blue check marks seriously. The owner of the “Jesus Christ” account received thousands and thousands of prayer requests because people now trusted the account was “real”. It must have been so discouraging for these folks to find out the truth that this account was owned and operated by a regular person and internet troll.
How do we know which voices, which accounts, which people, to follow and to listen to? Does a little blue check mark allow us to put our full trust that they will tell us the truth? Or do we need to do some investigation for ourselves?
- What are the voices that you listen to? Do have favorite artists, talk show hosts, celebrities, Tik Tok-ers, Instagram accounts, YouTube streamers, podcasters, etc.? Who are they?
- What do you learn from them? How does “following them” impact the way that you live your life?
Third Sunday of Epiphany
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
The Gospel according to Mark moves quickly. There is great urgency and Mark gives few details; he wastes no words. Jesus is on the move, and with the urgency and haste of each scene we easily miss important details if we aren’t paying attention.
John the Baptizer appears just verses before our passage today. He is out in the wilderness baptizing people for the forgiveness of their sins, preparing the way for the one who will come who is much greater than he— Jesus. Because of John’s actions, the religious and political elite arrest him. An important detail because soon these voices are challenged again.
Just like that the scene shifts. Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee proclaiming to all that he encounters: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (vs. 15)
Jesus, the rabbi, the teacher is on the move.
In Jesus’ time, rabbis chose students at a young age, training and educating them to become rabbis later in life. Rob Bell in his “Covered in the Dust of the Rabbi” video details the selection process of the “best of the best” students that would be chosen to study, learn, and grow in the ways of their rabbi. It was a rigorous process, taking many years of learning for which only a few would be chosen. If you were one of the many left out, the religious elite basically told you that you were not good enough.
If you were a fisherman you were one of the “not-good-enoughs.” Simon, Andrew, James, and John, by that standard, were “not-good-enoughs.” And yet, there is a voice that calls to them: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (vs. 17).
I am always fascinated by this part of the calling of the disciples. Fishing was not a hobby for them, as it is for many of us today. It was their livelihood, the way they made money and afforded shelter. And yet, when Jesus calls to them, they drop their nets to follow. John and James even leave their father on the boat as they leave. Just. Like. That. How did they know they could trust Jesus? How did they know that he would not disappoint them?
There is something so compelling about what Jesus proclaims and something so powerful about this invitation, telling these four men that they are finally enough, that they have no choice but to follow. They hear his voice and they know. I pray that we all might be able to know and to trust in the love of Jesus as much as these first disciples.
- Put yourself in the boats alongside Simon, Andrew, James and John. Would you drop the net and follow as they did, or would you need some more information from Jesus?
- Are there voices that you listen to that tell you that you are not “good enough”? How do you block them out?
Have each member of your group open their phones and scroll through whatever feed of social media or news that they choose. Have them identify what voices, themes, or attitudes are prominent and have a conversation about whether these things are positive, negative, or neutral in our lives of following Christ.
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us, you lead us, and you equip us to do the work that you set out for us to do. Help us to listen for your voice which will guide us in the way of truth, of grace, and of love for the sake of this world that you love deeply. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.