Epiphany 3, 2020. 

The Rev. Margaret Sammons

 Called in Love, Sent to Love

From our first lesson and from our Gospel: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

This week Greg and I saw the movie, Frozen 2.  I hadn’t planned to, I thought it wasn’t for my age bracket, but others recommended it, and I’m glad they did.  It’s a story about a young woman named Elsa who has the strange gift of making ice wherever she goes. After struggling with that gift in the first movie, Elsa has now found peace & contentment, living with her sister, Anna, and their friends, including a talking snowman and a very intelligent reindeer. What else could she need?

But then Elsa begins to hear a voice, calling her, as she sings, to “go into the unknown.” She resists like crazy, she so wants to stay in her comfort zone, but the voice keeps calling her, to step out, take a risk. And when she does, Elsa discovers why: the voice called because she’s needed. Because Elsa has the gifts needed to free some people trapped in a mist. She has the gifts needed to help heal an ancient wrong.

That’s what’s happening to some fishermen, in our Gospel this morning.

In the Gospel Jesus is at the very beginning of his ministry, and he knows that he’s about to walk into troubled waters. His cousin, John the Baptist, has just been arrested, because he had the audacity to tell Herod Antipas, ruler  of Galilee, that divorcing your wife in order to marry your niece, who is already married to your half-brother – doesn’t exactly make God happy.

But does it make anyone happy, that kind of self-centeredness? That attitude of “I’ll take whatever I can get and too bad for you” — does that bring wholeness, joy to our world — or pain?

Jesus came to show us another way to live. Jesus came to call us to turn our backs on Herod’s way, and instead take God’s way, as our Presiding Bishop delights in calling it, the way of love.

But before he began, he decided to recruit a team – and not just any team!

These people will not only follow Jesus, learn to walk the way of love – they will also, in just a few short years, be responsible for teaching that way to the world!

So how did Jesus choose his team? Did he do what most employers do – put together a job description, lay out the responsibilities, the desired qualifications and experience, did he post it, and then screen the applications as they came in?

No. Jesus simply went for a walk on the beach!

And when he saw two pairs of fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, right away he offered the positions! Follow me, he said, and I will make you fishers of people. Fishers of souls, instead of sole.

So they did! Immediately, right away, the Gospel says, these fishermen dropped their nets, and went with Jesus.

That’s where I get stuck in this Gospel. Wouldn’t most of us say, I need to think about it., Let me get back to you.

So why did they immediately, without hesitation, walk away from their boats, their livelihoods, from everything they’d ever known, and go off with this stranger?

I suspect it’s because, like Elsa, they’d been hearing God calling them for a long time. At a time when Herod and his power-hungry friends were calling the shots, and making life so hard for ordinary people, these young men yearned for something better. So God answered their yearning. God started whispering in their hearts, “I want something better for you, too. This isn’t what I meant the world to be like. Will you help me?”

And the miracle is that when they met Jesus, when that man who looked as poor as they were, called them, they recognized the voice they’d been hearing in their hearts. And I think they knew at a level deeper than words, that in Jesus, our healing God had come.

So, like Elsa, they left their comfort zone, and went into the unknown, and discovered that, wonder of wonders, they were needed! Christ was working through them. They had a part to play, in Christ’s work of bringing light to those sitting in darkness. Hope, to those stuck in despair.

And if Christ can work through them, it means that Christ can and is working through all of us. It’s easy to forget sometimes how ordinary those four were – in fact, Herod would say that they were the bottom of the barrel. No education to speak of, smelling of fish, with faults that drove Jesus crazy sometimes – but Jesus also saw and valued and put to work the gifts God had put into them. And Jesus sees and values and puts to work the gifts God has put into each of us.

One of my favorite books is by Alan Paton, he’s best known as the author of “Cry the Beloved Country,” about South Africa under apartheid. But he also wrote another book, called “Instrument of Your Peace”. He wrote it during a time when his wife was dying, and it felt like his comfort zone, the life they’d built together, was disappearing. And he wondered, what will I do now?  As he went into that unknown, into this hard and strange territory, he felt God drawing him to the Prayer of St. Francis.

So Alan Paton began every day with the same prayer: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. If you can use me in some way, I’m available. Let me do some work of healing, for you today.”

That is a good prayer for all of us at St Paul’s, as we go into our own unknown. Whatever the next months bring, one thing will not change. Jesus is and will be with us. And Jesus will continue to call us to follow him; to be living examples of the way of love. Living signs of the Light that shines in the darkness, the Light that the darkness will never overcome.

In the Name of God, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epiphany 2, 2020. St Paul’s, Dayton – not used

Have you ever applied for a job, and didn’t get it? Perhaps you didn’t even get an interview. It hurts, doesn’t it. The usual note, thank you for your interest, there were many qualified candidates, we wish you well in the future — isn’t much of a consolation. But then, that’s life, isn’t it. We knew when we applied that one person would be hired, the rest of us rejected – that’s just the way it works.

But that’s not the way it works in God’s kingdom! in God’s kingdom, there is a role, a purpose, a call for each of us. That’s what Jesus is showing us in this wonderful Gospel this morning.

In the Gospel Jesus is at the very beginning of his ministry, and he is very aware that he’s about to walk into troubled waters. His cousin, John the Baptist, has just been arrested, because he had the audacity to tell King Herod that divorcing your wife in order to marry your niece, who happens to already be married to your half-brother (Herod’s family tree was complicated. Don’t even ask about their Thanksgivings!) – doesn’t exactly make God happy.

But does it make us happy, either, that kind of self-centered living? That attitude of I’ll take whatever I can get and too bad for you — does that bring our world healing or pain?

Jesus was about to show us another way to live. Jesus came to call us to turn our backs on Herod’s way, and instead take God’s way, the way of love.

But before he began, he recruited a team.  And not just any team. These people will not only follow Jesus, listen and absorb the news of God’s unshakable love – they will then, in a frighteningly short time, be responsible for taking that news to the world.

Now most employers, in Jesus’ situation, would do the sensible thing. They‘d put together a job description, lay out responsibilities, desired qualifications and previous experience, they’d post it, and then screen the applications as they come in.

But Jesus simply went for a walk on the beach!

And when he saw two pairs of fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, right away he offered the position! Follow me, he said. And immediately they did! They dropped everything, their fishing nets, their livelihood, and went with Jesus.

Someone said there are two miracles in this story. The first is that Jesus chose such  ordinary guys. He could have started with With no qualifications, and each with faults, with weak spots that were going to drive Jesus crazy.

Because that means, without a shadow of doubt, that Jesus calls all of us. Too often we use the word call to refer just to clergy, and that must drive Jesus crazy, as well. Because God has given each of us gifts – a unique package of gifts, and God use them, with the hope that we will use them to bring light to the darkness of our world.

But the other miracle is that these fishermen immediately said yes. And that’s the point at which I get stuck in this Gospel. Wouldn’t most of us say, Let me think about it. I’ll get back to you?

So why did they immediately, without hesitation, drop their nets, walk away from their livelihoods, from everything they’d ever known?

I was helped to understand this better when I saw the movie, Frozen 2. It’s about Elsa, who is very content with her life as queen of a small country, living with her sister, and a talking snowman.

But then she begins to hear a voice, calling her, as she sings, to go into the unknown. She resists like crazy, she so wants to stay in her comfort zone, but the voice keeps calling her, to step out, take a risk, to go into the unknown. And when she does, she helps heal an ancient wrong.

I think something like that happened to Peter and Andrew, James and John, in our Gospel this morning.

In the Gospel Jesus is at the very beginning of his ministry, and he is very aware that he’s about to walk into troubled waters. His cousin, John the Baptist, has just been arrested, because he had the audacity to tell King Herod that divorcing your wife in order to marry your niece, who happens to already be married to your half-brother (Herod’s family tree was complicated. Don’t even ask about their Thanksgivings!) – doesn’t exactly make God happy.

But does it make us happy, either, that kind of self-centered living? That attitude of I’ll take whatever I can get and too bad for you — does that bring our world healing or pain?

Jesus was about to show us another way to live. Jesus came to call us to turn our backs on Herod’s way, and instead take God’s way, the way of love.

But instead, before he began, he recruited a team.  And not just any team. These people will not only follow Jesus, listen and absorb the news of God’s unshakable love – they will be responsible for taking that news to the world.

Now most employers follow sensible practices. They put together a job description, lay out responsibilities, desired qualifications and previous experience, they post it, and then screen the applications as they come in.

But Jesus simply went for a walk on the beach!

And when he saw two pairs of fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, right away he offered the position! Follow me, he said, and immediately they did!

Someone said there are two miracles in this story. First, that Jesus chose such  ordinary guys. He could have started with With no unusual qualifications, and each with faults, with weak spots that were going to drive Jesus crazy.

 

Because that means, without a shadow of doubt, that Jesus calls all of us. Too often we use the word call to refer just to clergy, and that must drive Jesus crazy, as well. Because God has given each of us gifts – a unique package of gifts, and God sends us out to use them, with the hope that we will use them to bring light to the darkness of our world.

That’s the point at which I get stuck in this Gospel. Wouldn’t most of us say, Let me think about it. I’ll get back to you?

So why did they immediately, without hesitation, drop their nets, walk away from their livelihoods, from everything they’d ever known?

I suspect that, like Elsa, they’d been hearing God calling them for a long time. In the midst of a very hard time, when Herod and his ilk were calling the shots, and making life so hard for people like fishermen, God was whispering in their hearts – it doesn’t have to be this way. God had been stirring up in them a yearning, for a better time. They remembered what happened at the Exodus:

But then these fishermen met Jesus. And I think they knew at a level deeper than words, that in Jesus, the Holy One had come, very close to them. He called, and even

in the depths of their hearts that this was a different kind of leader.

And the miracle is that when that Jesus, who looked as ordinary as they were, when Jesus called to them, they recognized they recognized God’s voice, they recognized the voice they’d been hearing in their hearts. They heard the answer to their aches, and so they took a risk, and they went with Jesus into the unknown. And found a new life as agents of God’s kingdom.

Sometimes God calls us, as well, to take that kind of risk.