An invitation

Ernest Shackleton needed men for his Antarctic expedition one hundred years ago and he inserted this advertisement in the paper. “MEN WANTED, for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success.” 

He received 5000 applicants for 56 places! The journey proved to be a disaster – and a triumph! Their ship was trapped in the ice and broke up and they had to make a weary journey across the frozen sea to an uninhabited island. There they launched a boat to sail 1300 kms to a distant populated island in the South Atlantic and find help. They succeeded and no one was lost. It is a gripping story.

We are capable of generosity and bravery; hardship and adversity can bring out the best in us. We stretch ourselves in war but today many nations find the same stretch in sport, or climbing high mountains covered in ice and snow or rowing across the oceans. People are thrilled to be accepted for what can be gruelling and dangerous missions.

There is a passage in Mark’s first chapter where we find an invitation from Jesus to some fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” A favourite phrase of Mark in this chapter is “at once” and one of the places we find it is here. “At once they left their nets and followed him.” There is a bit of electricity here – like a light going on. They had no idea what this call would mean but they sensed somehow that this invitation would be like-changing. It would be the making of them – and others.

What is it in an invitation – or “an offer too good to refuse” – that transforms us, lightens our step and loosens our face into a grin? “For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus too had “an offer too good to refuse”. It was the saving of us all. Not all will accept this, of course, but in one way or another most of us know that toil and sacrifice redeem us and give us meaning. It is not just for our personal benefit. If we see it that way we are lost. The more our perspective is “for others” the more we find life ourselves.

Most invitations are hidden. So many mothers spend their time wearily struggling to provide for their families. They rise early and labour to produce and sell some small items – enough to ward off hunger from their families for one more day. These too have heard the invitation and responded. And, astonishingly, they are often happy people.

21 January 2018                                  Sunday 3 B

Jonah 3:1…10                                     1 Corinthians 7:29-31                          Mark 1:14-20

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