A Sermon On Pledging Allegiance

A reading from Mark 1:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

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. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Here ends the reading.

To what do you pledge allegiance?

It’s what a question I’ve been thinking about reading this text and this week in particular as we witnessed the inauguration of President Biden last Wednesday. Part of the ceremony that has flown a bit under the radar has been Fire Captain Andrea Hall leading the Pledge of Allegiance in American Sign Language. It was a powerful moment.

And it had me thinking of all of the allegiances we tend to pledge, whether explicitly or implicitly. We pledge allegiances to flags, countries, family, sports teams, and political parties. In our consumer culture, we pledge allegiance to certain brands above others. Apple or Samsung? Coke or Pepsi?

When you list them out like this, you can see all of the ways we align with different entities as a way of pledging allegiance.

It was a little different for the disciples in the New Testament days. But there were significant forces that pulled on their lives as well. They wouldn’t have pledged allegiance to Rome, unless under threat of violence — which is how that worked. But they often would pledge their allegiance to family, the family business, the temple, etc.

It’s striking how fast this moves, isn’t it? Mark’s language around this is urgent. Jesus announces the reign of God come near and things start to move quickly. Immediately is the word we hear time and time again. The soon-to-be disciples come to a fork in the road where they have to make a choice and immediately upon hearing the call of Jesus in their lives, they leave their nets and follow. You can even see Zebedee hanging out in the boat with the hired workers at the end waving his hands wondering where his sons are going!

When Jesus calls us, it’s a call that overtakes our lives. It transforms everything about us. It changes the way live and move and have our being. It changes the way we interact with others. It broadens the horizons of what we know to be possible. Because this call brings us into union with the One who brings life from death.

When our allegiance is to God first, when we seek first the reign of God and God’s righteousness, it changes how we act in almost every way.

When we live into our call as disciples and our allegiance is to God first, every encounter we have is an opportunity to love and serve Jesus.

If you’re a teacher, what would it look like to respond to the student who comes to you with a question as though you were responding to Jesus?

If you work in retail, what would it look like to treat each customer as though they were Jesus?

If you deliver mail, work in insurance, work in healthcare, or whatever else you may do, what would it look like to treat the people you meet each day as though they were Jesus?

I don’t say this to make you walk around worshiping every person you meet. But I wonder what this does to our own attitudes and faith when we seek to serve others in this way. We create a culture of humility and care, we are freed to rest in this care ourselves as well.

It is out of God’s great love for us that we are invited into this work. God could bring kingdom come with a word of creation. But instead, God chooses to include us in this work.

It’s a blessing to be in this work with you. It’s a blessing to join God together in this work.

May it nourish and restore us. May it nourish and restore all of creation.


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