Game Time: Thoughts on stepping up for Jesus when he calls.

Game Time

Last Sunday I watched the NFL playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns.

I had reason to favor both teams.

One of my best friends is a lifelong Browns fan and frankly, I feel sorry for him.

A Browns win would be good for his soul.

But I was actually rooting for the Chiefs because I like Patrick Mahomes, their quarterback.

He is exciting to watch and incredibly talented.

He is also the Chief’s most valuable player.

But he is not the team’s only player.

He is not even the team’s only quarterback.

The Chiefs, like every other NFL team play 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense and carry 53 players on the sideline during a game.

And they, as a team, have a goal.

To win the game and maybe a championship.

Whenever a team heads out onto the field, every player must be prepared to play.

They run onto the field as a team.

The chest bump and hand slap and smack each other on the side of the helmet.

They are ready!

The whistle blows and it’s game time!

Now some of those guys just watch from the sidelines and cheer on their teammates.

But every one of them has to be prepared to go into the game when called to do so.

That need for every member of the team to be prepared to play became a reality for the Chiefs in the third quarter when Mahomes got up staggering after a play.

It was pretty clear he was done for the day.

Then two things happened.

A new quarterback came in, some guy named Henne, to run the offense.

The second was that the defense dug in and stopped the Browns when the outcome of the game was on the line.

The MVP went down, and the rest of the team stepped up.


Chiefs win!

This is the perfect illustration of how just about everything in the world happens as the result of a team effort.

The coordinated endeavor by a group of people who are committed to a particular goal.

Mahomes, regardless of his amazing ability, can’t win all by himself.

He needs to be surrounded by others.

A team.

With a commitment.

To achieving a goal.

“But Jeff,” you say, “What does this have to do with Jesus?”

Let’s take a look at our text.

Mark 1: 14-20

14 Now 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.’

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—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.

Let me give you a bit of background here.

Mark has no birth story.

We meet Jesus at his baptism performed by his cousin John.

Jesus comes out of the water and heads to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.

While Jesus is gone, John the Baptist is arrested.

Jesus then returns and heads to Galilee to begin his ministry.

What does he do?

He preaches.

What does he preach?

‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

But here’s the thing.

All that preaching doesn’t do even Jesus any good if he doesn’t have a team around him.

So, what does he do at the very beginning of his ministry?

He assembles a team.

Jesus had no intention of going it alone.

He needed help from others to get his job done.

So he made an announcement.

Jesus sounded an alarm.

The time is fulfilled!

Its game time for the kingdom!

I need a team.

Jesus as star quarterback …

So, the first thing that happens is that Jesus begins to choose some teammates.

His top draft choices.

Jesus picks four [JT1] fishermen.

Peter, Andrew, James and John.

What do we know about them?

They were fishermen.

They were likely educated at least enough to run their fishing businesses.

They were wealthy enough to buy boats, and in the case of James and John, hire employees.

They were businessmen.

And I think we all know that running a business is a team effort.

They knew how share responsibility in order to achieve a goal.

And here comes Jesus, preaching.

‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Drop your nets and follow me!

You will no longer be men who fish for fish, you will be something new.

Fishers of people.

“Join my team!”

Together, we can do something world changing.

And they did!

Peter and Andrew leave their boat at the dock.

James and John leave their father in their boat, not doubt with his mouth gaping in disbelief!

Many have spent a lot of time over the centuries trying to explain these remarkable responses to Jesus.

Maybe these four had been disciples of John.

Luke says Andrew was one of those.

Others say that Jesus was so charismatic and had such a powerful presence that these folks could not resist him.

Others say that these four kept doing their jobs while Jesus taught them and did not give up their occupations until Jesus headed out into the surrounding communities.

Still others say that Mark is compressing time to make a point.

The point?

These four, and later eight others, took the time to become a members of Team Jesus with the goal of becoming “fishers of people” for the kingdom of God.

Jesus might have the most skill, talent and charisma.

He was certainly the Most Valuable Player.

But Jesus still needed people to support him.

After all, Jesus knew he was going to be taken out of the game soon enough.

He needed those people then, and Jesus needs people to support him now.

That’s us.

When we read that text this morning, Jesus preaches to us.

‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

What Jesus is saying to us is that it’s time to get moving.

I mean, the time is now.

Believe that the kingdom of God, the goal, is near.

Change how we live.

Get committed to our goal.

Get on Team Jesus!

And when you are needed, get in the game.

Does this have anything to do with JMPC?

I think so.

Let’s take a look back one year.

Things were going great.

We were financially set with record pledges of contributions from the congregation.

We had a pre-school that was full of kids and had a new director.

We were getting ready to install screens and a camera in the sanctuary to help us make worship more meaningful.

We were planning to refurbish our Narthex.

Children’s church was in full swing.

Youth Group was making plans to go to Puerto Rico.

The adult mission team was making plans to go to Chiapas.

Our choir was growing.

We had a vibrant pickleball community!

Easter was coming.

Our membership was growing.

We were looking good.

Then … COVID-19.

And everything just stopped.

The preschool closed.

The church building was closed.

The wheels seemed to have come off.

Jesus words seemed distant.

‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Then we learned something about ourselves.

We had players ready to step in and keep JMPC a community of people who know, glorify and worship God.

The first week after we closed the building, Carolyn, Matt and I tried to think about how we would worship.

Toni Sulkowski called and said she could put us on Facebook Live!

And so we started worshiping on Facebook Live.

That went well and over the months we added music recordings from choir members.

Betsy Gilbert, Chris Todd, Marielle Brown, Anna Todd among others.

Donations still needed to be counted so Jim and Linda McCalmont, Jeff Ruch and Don Ewing volunteered to come to the church from home, in masks, to count the money after the service was done.

VBS time came and we could not gather.

So, Emily Shubilla organized an online Staycation Bible School with lessons and crafts offered by Carol Cowser, Caitlin Smith, Devon Serena, Linda Pelan, Sarah Douglas, Zach Smith and others.

Then as Kick Off Sunday approached, someone asked why we couldn’t worship in the parking lot to get the new year off and running.

Why not indeed!

But we needed some folks to help buy and set up equipment.

Set up tarps in foul weather.

Direct traffic.


Thankfully we had Jim Ellis, Paul Zandhuis, Rick Brow, Wayne Fast, Janet Dykstra, Cheryl Davies, Chris Todd, Dave Dowdell, and others to be our stage crew and choir.

That went so well that when it got cold, we started broadcasting on FM radio so people could stay in their cars.

Meanwhile, we did not ignore the kids.

Emily Shubilla and Caitlin Smith taught the kids about Jesus in the playground and then, when it got too cold, on Google classroom.

The Christmas Affair became a silent auction at the hands of Donna Kovell and Nancy Page.

We had so many members of the congregation offering items for sale and chores to be done for others.

Even Pickleball moved outside.

When Advent arrived, we still managed to have our usual events.

Carol singing and storytelling and bonfires in the parking lot.

The children went online with the help of Heidi Todd, Betsy Gilbert and Kaitlyn Todd with their rendition of Lessons and Carols.

And now we are in the new year.

Too cold for the worship team to be outside, so we started streaming from the sanctuary.

We need a lot more help with that because of sound issues and again our stage crew stepped up and continues to look to improve.

Toni Sulkowski, Rick Brow and Doug Mickey are getting trained to use the new equipment in the sanctuary so we can make our services as good as they can be while we are not gathered together, and even better when we are gathered together.

And most recently, we welcomed our new church officers who all agreed to serve even in the middle of the pandemic.


Jessica Scott.

Jeff Woolstencroft.

Nathan Knopp (for a second term)

They join Emily Shubilla, Connie Smith, Michelle Chenevert, Jessica Braden-Rogers, Steve Masley and Joe Pelan.

We had our training on January 16 and our forst Session meeting on the 19th.

The planning for 2021 is underway!


Karen Timko

Linda Pelan

Marielle Brown

Grace Bogdon

They join Sue and Ray Pierson, Deanna Kovell, Lynn and Judy Willison.

Their training was January 5, and they are already caring for our church family.

Treasurer Jim Hinerman and Finance Ministry Team chair Chris Todd managed our money and gave us a budget for 2021.

The Personnel Ministry Team chaired by Dan Depra did its job “virtually” and set compensation for 2021.

But make no mistake, the rest of the congregation has done what they needed to do as well.

You all are like fans who can claim the status of the twelfth (football) or tenth (baseball) or sixth (basketball) or seventh (hockey) member of the team.

Lots of players will testify that they are encouraged and inspired to do their best by enthusiastic cheering and support from the stands.

Church folks can cheer on the team and support it with the funds that allow the team to succeed.

JMPC has done that.

We have kept the contributions coming and we ended the year in a strong financial position.

Make no mistake, we as members of John McMillan Presbyterian Church were called to be part of the JMPC team.

The team that is part of the Jesus Team.

The team that was and is ready, willing and able to keep us in the game, every day.

Because every day is game day.

It is also important to remember that no team (except the Miami Dolphins of 1972) goes undefeated.

Even Patrick Mahomes throws an interception every now and then.

The same is true of JMPC.

We aren’t perfect.

Sometimes we fumble.

The disciples certainly did.

Peter denied Jesus.

James and John fought over who would get to sit beside Jesus in the kingdom.

All of them scattered when in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But they were only human and did their best.

And Jesus kept the team together and told them to stay in the game even after he was gone.

We are on that same team, though a few generations down the road.

And when the going gets weird, we have to keep on going, too.

When someone goes down, or something goes wrong, we need everyone to get in the game in any way they can.

Who knows what’s going to happen in 2021?

Not me.

But this I do know.

‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

So, let’s get back to the game.


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