Second Sunday in Lent Year A 2020
Kevin Gore, St. Andrew’s Mountain Home
Many of you know that I grew up attending a non-denominational evangelical church in Oregon. It is one of those places where the preacher talks for at least forty five minutes, where the baptistery is behind an old velvet curtain at the back of the stage, and where every single word in the bible is expected to be taken literally, without context. In that kind of church memorizing verses is a highly prized activity. As someone attending youth activities and a pseudo-boyscouts-esque church group called AWANA, I was tasked with memorizing verse after verse, Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, and of course John 3:16 all ring a bell for me. We would get awards for how many we could memorize and recite perfectly, and looking back, I can also tell you I had little grasp of what I was reciting.
I don’t think it’s too big a statement to say that John 3:16 is one of the few verses in the Bible that has captivated billions of Christians throughout the centuries. While it certainly has a place now in the modern Evangelical culture, and by extension perhaps you recall the use of it in Professional Wrestling and other sports, even Martin Luther found this verse to be highly regarded. He wrote that this verse was, “the Gospel in a nutshell.”
Yes, it does sum up the good news of Jesus Christ in a way that hits the high points: God’s love, Christ’s redemption of the world, the path to salvation. It’s a good starting place when explaining the good news, but it’s nowhere near enough to fully explain it. And as much as I’m sure there are people here today who can recite John 3:16 from memory, I would suspect that number would drop to probably zero, including myself, that can recite John 3:17 from memory.
As I studied today’s Gospel reading, one of the two pieces that captivated me most was that last verse, 17. So often our theology of redemption relies heavily on the verse before it that the next one is lost. It leaves me to wonder what sort of faith I would have grown up with if the words, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” were just as important.
John 3:16 is a great verse, when it isn’t used to guilt people into a Christian faith, which is how I saw it used most of the time. Adding on verse 17 offers us a more robust theology. God did not arrive on Earth, incarnate as a human to condemn anyone, but to assure that we would have access to the Kingdom of God at the end of all things. No matter how broken we are, how bad we are, how many times we fail or frankly no matter how many times we succeed, our salvation is assured by Grace because of God’s steadfast love for his creation.
That’s really what Jesus is trying to explain to Nicodemus in the first part of the gospel reading. Nicodemus has come to him and told Jesus that he likes what Jesus is teaching, and that Jesus must surely be sent by God to be able to do what he’s doing. But Nicodemus ultimately stops short of recognizing Jesus and the messiah and of being willing to step into the light as a follower of Jesus in this moment.
Jesus is offering to Nicodemus an explanation that foreshadows of course the crucifixion. This is the second thing that really caught my attention in this passage. Jesus refers to the story of when the Israelites in the book of Numbers, had been speaking out against God and Moses. So God sends serpents into their midst, and people begin dying from the bites of these serpents. God then tells Moses to create a serpent out of bronze and set it on a pole. Anyone who looks at the bronze serpent will be saved from the bites of the real serpents. All they have to do is look at it and they are saved.
In a way Jesus is teaching that we have to be willing to look, to gaze upon the instrument of our salvation, or more clearly put we must take an action rather than to just really like what Jesus says, like Nicodemus. Our salvation does require more from us than a cursory luke-warm okay-ness with Christ and the Gospel. Our faith requires action…it requires us to take a step and be reborn as Jesus says, in water and spirit. We must be baptized into the body of Christ, and we must live our faith, always striving to improve. We must look upon the act of saving love by God. The result of taking on his shoulders all the evil that exists in the world.
Mthr Mary Ann Hill writes, “But evil isn’t then healed, as it were, automatically. Precisely because evil lurks deep within each of us, for healing to take place we must ourselves be involved in the process. This doesn’t mean that we just have to try a lot harder to be good. You might as well try to teach a snake to sing. All we can do, just as it was all the Israelites could do, is to look and trust: to look at Jesus, to see in him the full display of God’s saving love, and to trust in him.”
Nicodemus struggles to find that trust in Jesus. He comes to Jesus at night, in the darkness, to hide from the world his interest in Jesus. This is the first of two times that Nicodemus visits Jesus in the darkness, the second time is near the end, and Nicodemus does try to intercede with the Pharisees on Jesus’ behalf. But still he is unwilling to step into the light as Jesus says we must all do. He is willing to fully commit and be born again, though clearly in this first encounter that terminology is just very confusing for him.
Author George Stroup, writing on this passage says, “For many Christians, the gospel is summarized by the words in John 3:16. Everyone who believes in Jesus will not perish but will have eternal life. Some Christians, however, understand faith or “believing in Jesus” to be simply what one does with one’s mind. In John’s Gospel, being born from above and believing in Jesus are clearly not so much about what one does with one’s mind as about what one does with one’s heart and one’s life. […] In John’s Gospel believing and doing are inseparable. Nicodemus lives in the darkness and the shadows of this story until its conclusion, when he emerges publicly with Joseph of Arimathea, who is also a “secret disciple”, to bury Jesus.
Christ calls us to do more with our faith than passively letting it sit on a shelf collecting dust. We are meant to be reborn, to step out into the light, to herald the good news to a world mired in fear and sin. The good news that not only God loves the world so much that he takes our form and bears the burden of our sin, but also, as verse 17 reminds us, that Christ came into this world not to judge us, not to point out when we fail at our faith, but only to save us and to be where we cast our gaze when we need to be reminded of God’s love and salvation.
Last Sunday after the Epiphany Year A 2020
Kevin Gore, St. Andrew’s Mountain Home
When you attend seminary and are trained to be a priest, one of the classes you have to take is homiletics, the study of writing and giving sermons. There were many sage pieces of advice, like being wary of ending your sermons with a salad…as in ‘lettuce’ (let us) do this or that. Another piece of advice was never lift the curtain and let people see how it’s all done. Don’t say things in your sermon like, “on my drive here this morning” or “while I was writing this last night”.
One piece of advice that I found particularly helpful was that one did not necessarily need to address all three of the biblical readings in your sermon every Sunday. Before that I would try and find the common thread, thin as they often are, that the framers of the Revised Common Lectionary had, in their great wisdom found between all the readings chosen. In fact I believe the advice was that I had a lifetime of ministry ahead, and plenty of opportunities to write sermons on the same readings, so really I ought to pace myself.
That advice is solid, and I have found that addressing one, maybe two at the most, of the readings we hear on a Sunday offers an opportunity to focus richly on one topic. But today’s readings are different. Today’s readings are all so blatantly related, that it’s hard not to weave them all together. Our lessons offer three distinct but related aspects of God’s covenant with humanity, and the veracity with which the Gospel is ultimately preached.
All three readings point to the transfiguration of Jesus, which is always heard on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, and act as a transition moment between Jesus’ ministry and his passion. This is not to be confused with the actual Feast of the Transfiguration, which falls on August 6th. We ourselves are pivoting from the season that comes after Christmas, where we focus on the ministry of Jesus throughout Galilee and Judea to beginning the last journey, the journey to the cross. In Jesus’ life, the transfiguration is the moment where everything changes, where the last days for his earthly ministry are set, where he is in sight of his death.
I’m getting ahead of myself a little. Let’s start with Moses. I think most of us have a concept of Moses and his time on Mount Sinai formed by Charlton Heston and the 1956 film ‘The Ten Commandments’. But what might be lost is how terrifying this ordeal really is for most of the Hebrews. The God that they worship is not the, “Jesus is my buddy” idea of God we have today. There is very little that feels friendly or ‘nice’ about God. This is an entity to whom blood sacrifices are required, and recall that the more formalized style of temple worship hadn’t been established yet. There is a wildness and danger to this early time for the average Hebrew traveling with Moses and those who have fled Egypt. They don’t know if Moses is coming back down. He’s disappeared for over a month to the top of this mountain where a God that has demanded blood is dwelling. What sort of mountain top experience is this going to be?
Ultimately though, this experience establishes the covenant between God and the Hebrew people and begins a more formalized relationship. This ties of course to our Gospel lesson not only being on a mountain top again, but also as appears with Jesus during the transfiguration this is a direct connection to the experience on Mount Sinai, and a clear reference of that relationship which was initially cemented with Moses. This time is different though, unlike with Moses no blood sacrifices are necessary to ascend and stand in the presence of God. This relationship with God shifts. No longer is this the remote and terrifying God but the God who touches his disciples and says, “do not be afraid.”
Before the voice from above, the disciples, Peter and James, see Jesus first transformed into this blinding radiance. The author of the Gospel tries to convey the intensity of this by saying that Jesus’ face, “shone like the sun”. I don’t think this is metaphor. I think they are trying to convey how incredibly bright and blinding this light was. The disciples then see Jesus standing there with Moses and Elijah, two key figures in the covenant of the Law, which Jesus has come to fulfill.
I used to think that Peter was just acting the fool here when he suggests that he build huts for them to stay in. First of all I’ve been to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration and let me tell you something…it’s darn cold! There is no way I would want to stay up there permanently. Second, surely Peter knows they can’t just stay there forever. But as I reflect on this, I wonder if this isn’t the point where Peter is finally really excited that Jesus is about to the messiah they had hoped for. Now that he’s all sparkly, maybe Jesus is going to start doing the things the Hebrew people expected of their messiah, like tearing down the kingdoms of the oppressors, running the Romans out, setting God’s chosen people back on top. Maybe Peter is just so caught up in his own hope and expectation that it is finally going to happen when he suggests they make this place their base camp.
Which brings me to our epistle reading. The reading from the second epistle of Peter is his own recalling of the experience of the transfiguration and the affect it has on Jesus’ followers. In the film roll that always plays in my head I would see Peter, sitting down to write this section of his epistle, and then the screen would go all wavy and we would do a cut scene to a flashback of the Transfiguration as we then hear it from our Gospel reading. But what Peter is writing isn’t just a retelling of his experience on that mountain. Besides, he clearly leaves out the part where he says they should build huts and stay there!
What Peter is writing hits at the core of the veracity of our faith. When this epistle is being written, the author is surrounded by cults and religious traditions rooted in myths of the ancient world. I recently read a commentary on some of the cults that existed, and let me just say that some of the things that were required of followers is only appropriate to discuss during prime time. Here Peter is saying that the Good News of Jesus Christ is not, “cleverly devised myth”, it isn’t something some folks made up to build a structure of control and wealth. He was there. He saw the transfiguration. The root of proclaiming the Gospel is in the real experience of Jesus’ own followers.
As we turn our attention towards Lent, towards celebrating and confessing and acknowledging our mortality, in the midst of all that, recall what Peter offers us in his writing today. None of what we do is founded on clever myth. Our faith is built upon the real experiences of people like Peter who bore witness to incredible life changing events in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Whether it is shouting it from mountain tops or living it out day to day, carry with you the conviction of what we know: that God shared our very human nature, through baptism, through transfiguration, and in the end stood as the final and ultimate redemption of the Universe. Peter saw it. He told us about it. Now it’s our turn to go share it with everyone else.
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany Year A 2020
Kevin Gore, St. Andrew’s Mountain Home
As a big brother, seven years older than my little sister, I was just at the right age when she was in her preschool years to find it incumbent on myself to be a bit of a pain. One way I found that worked very well was the tried and true method of ‘got your nose’. The one where you put the tip of your thumb between two fingers and act as if you’re ripping off the nose of another person, then proudly displaying it to them. Even though I’m sure my little sister had experienced this before from my grandfather or someone else, when I did it, it was followed by screams of terror and pleas for the nose to be returned. Of course, as the big brother, it was my job to refuse. On second thought perhaps I should call her this afternoon and make sure there isn’t any lasting trauma.
I suppose I got to thinking about that as I contemplated the words of Jesus this week, about his teaching to his followers to cut off or take out the parts of the body that cause them to sin. We hear Jesus’ teachings today, in short succession on several topics. Unfortunately, because of when Candlemas fell, we didn’t get to hear what starts this several Sunday set of readings, the beatitudes. Jesus begins all of this by teaching his followers who is blessed in the Kingdom of God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn. […] Blessed are the meek.” Etc. Jesus is turning the values of the world on its head and showing a new way, a Kingdom way for those that would be bold enough to answer God’s call. Then he moves into the comparison of salt and light that we heard last week.
So then we come to the rapid fire succession of teachings we hear today. I’m going to tell you something that might seem a little presumptuous. When you take the readings we heard today in the context of everything that surrounds it in the Gospel of Matthew, I believe it is clear that Jesus turns the dial up on the standard of Sin to a ridiculous level, a level he knows no one can reach to exemplify instead the nature of salvation.
Jesus starts with murder, but then he says really even anger is too much. You have to seek reconciliation instead. In all fairness, that’s not a bad idea, and we even have poetic use of this particular passage in our Anglican tradition. From the earliest prayerbooks, there were exhortations and warnings about communion and taking it in an unworthy manner. Much like Jesus says here if you remember something that is clouding your relationship with another person, you need to ensure your heart is reconciled before offering your sacrifice.
On page 316, our modern exhortation reminds us, “If we are to share rightly in the celebration of those holy Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament. I therefore call upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and drinking of that Cup. For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord’s Body. Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.
Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in thought, word, or deed. And acknowledge your sins before Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by you to others; and also being ready to forgive those who have offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven. And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the banquet of that most heavenly Food.”
Then Jesus goes really far, telling his followers that even THINKING about a sin, lust in this case, is as bad as committing it. If you have a part of your body that causes you to sin, then you should cut it off. But we know, I certainly hope, that this isn’t meant to be taken literally. Otherwise our congregations would look more like pirate crews with eye patches and prosthetic limbs! We know that this is overstating the point because frankly, you’re going to run out of things to cut out of yourself. It must be acknowledged that as humans we are sinful creatures, even when we are trying to do our best. Jesus knows that you could never cut off and take out everything inside of you that causes you to sin.
Jesus takes away even the things that are allowed under the law of Moses…now he says if you get divorced it’s a sin. This is something that would go against the teachings of the religious tradition at the time. I tend to think that Jesus once again knows the complicated and broken nature of the human heart, and so here again is trying to make a point. All of this portion, from the thoughts that are sin, to the amputations from sin, to the things that these people would have been told was permissible, Jesus turns raises the stakes on all of it and highlights our broken human condition.
So I suppose the question is, “why?” Why would Jesus make it harder for us to live, why would he point out all our flaws and raise the bar higher than we can reach? There is one simple answer to that question. The bar gets raised out of our grasp because we weren’t ever going to get to it anyway. Jesus raises the bar far too high to teach us that once again, our salvation is not of our own doing, and nothing we do to try and live a holier life will ever get us to a perfect point. Jesus does that for us. His sacrifice, his saving action is what takes all of this away. It is the moment that fulfills the Law that God has given to his people, fulfills the promise of salvation, and ultimately justifies us in the presence of the most High.
That is not to say that you should just go ahead and run amok in this world. We are still charged with striving to do good, to follow Christ’s example, to live reaching for that bar. But we should also never be anxious that we can’t reach it. Jesus spans the distance for us, taking on everything we are unable to do for ourselves in relation to our sin. Our work is to show the world, as best as we are able, what the kingdom of God could look like. All the while, we live in the sure and certain hope of our Savior’s resurrection and the time when all things will be made whole once again.
Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, Year A, 2020
Kevin Gore, St. Andrew’s Mountain Home
I saw a note on Facebook this week that explained why one should use incense on the Feast of the Presentation. In fact, this statement made the case that one should be using huge amounts of incense. It explained that in this wise and ancient tradition, everyone knows that on the February 2nd, if the thurifer can see their own shadow, there will be six more weeks of Winter!
Now of course that’s convoluting a couple of the three very sacred things happening today. First, February 2nd, regardless of what day it falls on, is Groundhog day celebrated in the United States and Canada, and this Sunday is always the sacred feast of the Super Bowl no matter what the actual date on the calendar is, and then, I certainly hope most importantly, February 2nd is always the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, also known as Candlemas.
Candlemas is observed forty days after Christmas. It marks the traditional end of Christmas, so for those of you with decorations still up, not to worry, you were just waiting for the correct day to take them down. The thing about observing Candlemas today though, is that it is always 40 days after Christmas, and since Christmas moves around as to what day of the week it will fall on, so does Candlemas. We don’t often get a chance to observe it on Sundays.
The readings for this feast day focus on the arrival of the messiah, on the promises fulfilled by God. This all centers around Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem as the Mosiac law required. They had to bring an offering and sacrifice to God, and Mary had to be purified by the ritual at the Temple. For those of you who know your Leviticus, you’ll recall that a woman who had given birth was considered unclean because of the bodily fluids she would necessarily come in contact with. So they all go to the Temple for these two reasons.
This particular story from the Gospel of Luke is overflowing with meaningful details. For instance, we actually get a window into how Mary and Joseph lived, by the description of their bringing a sacrifice. In the book of Leviticus, chapter 12, it outlines what is required for this sacrifice. The preferred sacrifice is a lamb. But, in the event that it is too expensive, you can bring two turtle-doves or two pigeons. So we can surmise from this that Mary and Joseph had a fairly simple life. They weren’t very wealthy if their sacrifice was what Luke tells us.
That detail is small but, I think, very interesting, and exemplifies how we can use scripture when studied contextually to understand the broader picture of the story we are being told. But the main event in this particular story, the most important detail, is what happens with Simeon. Now we don’t really know anything about Simeon other than what the author of the Gospel of Luke tells us. There are stories that have come out of Christian traditions about him, but they are all conjecture. From the Orthodox Church, we have stories that put him at well over two hundred years old when he finally sees Jesus. In truth we don’t know any of that. What we do know is what he is waiting for.
Simeon is told by the Holy Spirit that he will not die until he has seen the messiah. Can you imagine the kind of patience that would require? Scripture tells us that this is very important to Simeon, that he was, “looking forward to the consolation of Israel.” If you recall at this point, right up to the birth of Jesus, it had been four hundred years since the last major prophet had been reported, which was Malachi. So this is a period of silence as it pertains to God’s active word to the Hebrews. I’m not saying that Simeon has been around for those four hundred years, what I mean is that this is a period of time where hope is scarce supply. Yet, Simeon gets the promise from the Holy Spirit. So he waits. We don’t know how long he waits, it could have been a day, it could have been decades. But imagine getting a promise from God that you will not die until the most important event to occur happens, and all you can do is wait.
When he sees Jesus he knows instantly that this baby is the answer to all his prayers and hope. This little baby, about forty days old, is the long awaited messiah. Simeon praises God and gives us the Song of Simeon. This is the revelation by someone who was not present at the birth with the angels and the shepherds and all the chaos, proclaiming again that the messiah has come. This man who has waited for the, “consolation of Israel” says something very curious while praising God. He says that this child, the messiah, will be, “a light to enlighten the Gentiles.” He knows that the Light of Christ that is shining in the world will be a light for everyone. He knows that the salvation that the incarnation of God will bring about is offered to everyone, not just the Hebrews who have waited for this messiah to come.
The Song of Simeon, his praise to God, is a much loved canticle used in Evening Prayer in the Anglican tradition, even in the 1662 Prayer Book. It is used in evening prayer because it reminds us of the religious practice of monastics throughout the ages. Their last prayers to God before going to sleep, the words of Simeon, praising God that the work is done, who then says, “O Lord you now have set your servant free to go in peace as promised.” These words are Simeon himself thanking God that the work is done and he can now die and be at peace that the Messiah has come. He can finally let go.
This passage teaches us of patience and steadfast faith. It shows us those who are rewarded as God promised, with seeing the messiah finally come to save all people. Simeon’s words remind us that Christ is the one true light that enlightens all people, that he brings the light of God into a dark world that has nearly lost hope. We, as followers of Christ, are commanded by Jesus himself to proclaim the good news of this light that has come. We are tasked with carrying this light out to everyone and sharing it with those who need it most.
As we pray the Song of Simeon, as we contemplate what it looks like to have patience for God’s revelation in your life, on this Feast of Candlemas, remember that Christ’s incarnation has brought the light of God into the world. Share that light with those who cross your path. Be like Simeon, proclaiming the good news that salvation has come and the light of the World is Jesus Christ.
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, 2020
Kevin Gore, St. Andrew’s Mountain Home
The naming of Sundays that are not Principal or Patronal feasts has its own peculiar language. There are the Sundays OF Advent and the Sundays IN Lent. Compare those to the Sundays AFTER the Epiphany and the SEASON AFTER Pentecost. These ‘after’ times when it comes to Epiphany and Pentecost are known in the Revised Common Lectionary as, “Ordinary Time”. We use green colors in our liturgy, and often the Gospel scripture follows somewhat of a narrative of time in Jesus’ life. Calling it Ordinary Time does not mean to demean or lessen the importance of that period, but rather comes from the word Ordinal, meaning that the weeks are counted, and in an order. It’s a little play on words to grab on to that word “Ordinary” though to say that hearing about the ministry of Jesus should strike us as anything but ordinary.
Today we hear about the beginning of Christ’s ministry. We skip over what happens right after his baptism by John, when he is driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit and stays there for 40 days. We’ll talk more about that when it’s time for Lent. So this is after he has come out of the desert, has passed the temptations by Satan, and is beginning his adult ministry. He doesn’t start in Jerusalem; he doesn’t go to the major centers of power or population, but to a backwater place in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was a moderately small fishing village. It’s not a center of spiritual learning or great education.
Jesus goes to this place perhaps because it fulfills prophecy, as we hear from Isaiah. There is an expectation that the Messiah will perhaps have special attention for the people living in this particular region, people probably exiled by Assyrians originally. These folks are far away from the Temple, they are distanced both physically and socially from the core of society. But the prophet Isaiah is reminding the people that no one will be left or forgotten in God’s Kingdom.
Funny enough, two years ago on this day, I was actually waking up to my first morning on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, at a pilgrims house roughly a forty-five minute walk from the ruins of Capernaum. One of the first things that struck me about this area is that it looks nothing like what I envision when I hear stories of Jesus. This is not a dry, dusty, desert sort of place. It’s full of lush green grass, plants, trees, and teeming with life. It may be a backwater place in Jesus’ time, but it is a place full of vitality and promise.
Jesus is walking around, perhaps enjoying the beauty of the seaside, maybe doing some people watching, and he comes across these two brothers, Simon and Andrew. They are working, casting nets into the water to pull in fish. It’s hard work, and who knows how many years they had been doing it. I would guess they aren’t new to the fishing trade. Jesus says to them, “Follow me” and they do. They apparently just dropped their nets right there and walked away from the day’s catch to follow Jesus. How hard is it for us to imagine someone walking up to us, saying something like, “Hey I’ve got some ideas for a new way of life and about God. Come follow me” and we would just drop what we’re doing and follow.
Next to be called are James and John. They are working for their father, mending nets in the boat that I assume is part of the family owned fishing business. Jesus says the same thing to them and up they get and leave their entire lives and their father behind. The whole point of this is that it is so incredibly absurd, so unfathomable that it testifies to the potency of the Word of God. Christ calls, and as God in flesh, these men are compelled to follow. They are not forced, they are invited, and they choose to follow.
When Jesus calls these four men, after he says, “follow me” he says something else to them as well: “I will make you fish for people”. Regardless that he is being specific to their profession, speaking to them in a way that they would understand, it’s important to notice what he doesn’t say. Jesus doesn’t say, “and we will start this movement together.” He doesn’t say, “and we will topple the Roman Empire.” He says, “I will make you fish for people.” The root of the Messiah’s message and ministry on Earth is about people. It’s about going to where they are at and gathering them together. The Kingdom of God accomplishes all those other big things, getting rid of empires and countries, sweeping across creation and bringing about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But first, we fish for people.
This passage seems to highlight two different ways of fishing that are going on, and it offers us a good analogy to think about. There are those that would stand on the shore and cast out there net from the rocks, to gather up whatever fish are closest. Then there are those that would take their boat out into the sea, to go where the fish are and cast their nets. How do we practice our fishing? Do we stay where it’s solid and safe? Do we ever go out into the open water to search for those to be gathered in? Do our nets have holes in them because they are tattered and neglected? Do we just stand still and hope that the fish swim right into our net?
In last week’s Gospel reading from John, Jesus called his disciples in a slightly different way. He asked them, “What are you looking for?” and then invited them to, “come and see.” This is both our call, as those who have chosen to follow Christ, but also our invitation to those who need the loving embrace of God. Our work is also to take a leap of faith, to be willing to leave behind those things that keep us from fishing for people. Some of those things might be physical, some of those things might be social or mental. But regardless our call is no different from the disciples of old, and the question remains the same, “What are you looking for?”
This year, two thousand twenty, marks seventy years that St. Andrew’s has, in one form or another, been the Episcopal Church in the Twin Lakes area. What do you think the next 70 years has in store for proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in this place? How about the next 10 years? On this Sunday, which also is the day we have our annual meeting, it’s worth pondering Christ’s call to discipleship and our answer in this place and at this time. Jesus calls us. He calls us to go out to the people, to give them the good news. Christ proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. He asks us what we are looking for, and he offers to us, “Come and see.”