Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What would it take?

What would it take for you to walk away from everything and follow Jesus?—It is a question which is often provoked by this week’s reading from Matthew. These guys gave up everything to follow Jesus. And when I say everything, they gave up even more than you and I think. James and John left their father, Zebedee, behind to follow this itinerant rabbi named Jesus. Peter and Andrew, by some accounts, seem to have forsaken their responsibilities to their families. Can you imagine the scandal? James and John blew off their dad! Who will care for him and his wife as they get too old to work? Andrew and Peter ran off and left their families! How will they eat? Who will pay for food? And us, looking back on it, are still shocked. And probably, if most of us tell the truth to ourselves, we thank God He only calls the bishops, priests and deacons and not us in this day and age!

Our Psalm this week reminds us of the attitude which ought to inspire the result we see in the Apostles today. Though we cut out a few verses, the meaning of the Psalm is pretty clear. Yes, there are enemies round about us. Yes, there are forces out to destroy us. They may not be real armies like those that faced David (though given our military situation even that may not be true in places like Afghanistan or North Korea), but we do have enemies. There are people out there trying to do us real harm.

Sometimes, our enemies are those things part imaginary, part real. Many of us worry about how we are going to make the next mortgage payment, find the next job, pay our children’s education, or even buy the next prescribed medicine. We worry that we are too poor, not employable, not resourceful enough, and so our fears, in a way, become our demons. We become like comic strip characters who fear the monsters under our beds, we become like movie characters who fear monsters in the closet, and we become a people who have forgotten our baptismal birthright and our baptismal heritage.

Just as our psalmist states, we are God’s people. And His presence in our lives has a lasting and “real” impact on our lives. When we remember His promises and the wonders He has done, we begin to remind ourselves of our worth in His eyes. Though none of us could have lived with Him or been loved by Him prior to His Son’s sacrifice, He thought us worth that cost to bring us back into relationship with Him, a relationship like that of the good Father and the good son or good daughter.

And so we can face our “demons” with His light. When the world tells us that “it will never work” or “you do not have enough resources,” we remind ourselves that in Him all things are possible and that everything He purposes will come to fruition. Not even death can block His plans or His will for each one of us. When we birth our own demons and listen to our fears, it is His work on the cross and before the authorities of the world that reminds us just how much He loved us. And when we doubt His power to provide, to care, to do whatever we need (and not just wants), it is the empty tomb which reminds us of His power, His power that He is offering to all who would come to Him.

Brothers and sisters, some of the fears and demons in your life are real, and no doubt some of the fears and demons in your life are imaginary. But the Gospel teaches us that His love and His power is every bit as real as some of those forces and powers out to get us. Like our psalmist, you and I should long for His presence. We should desire to always be “hanging out” with God because He is our Father, He loves us dearly, and He will never fail us. You and I might fail our kids because we are human parents. The church might fail in its mission or witness because it is made up of and run by human beings. Institutions will see people slip through the cracks because they conceived of by and staffed by human beings. We each gathered here may have know any number of others to have failed us. In this world, the enemies sometimes seemingly get the upper hand. Death is ever present among us. Bactstabbers seem never to have to pay the price for their behavior. But the Lord God Almighty stands with His hands outstretched offering to adopt us and everyone we meet into His family and into His saving embrace.

Given all that, given His love for you and His power to redeem all things for you, why would you ever hope that He does not call you like He did Andrew, Peter, James and John? In fact, if you believe that His words are true and that He really does love you, how could you or I ever respond in any way different from the way in which they responded? In fact, if our confidence is in Him, how could our attitude be any different than that of the psalmist. Who would not want to be with Him? Who would not want to be under His protection? Who would not want His deliverance from their enemies? How can we not be on the edge of our seats looking expectantly for His deliverance and for His return?

Does He still call? We know that He does. The real difference is our answers, and the answers of those around us, to His call. Too often we say, “ok, just let me . . . “ rather than the simple “Yes, Lord.” We, far too often, forget that our efforts, our hiding from our demons under our beds, becomes a testimony to those lives around us. We forget that we are called to follow where He has led and to let His light shine in our darkness and to trust Him to act for our welfare that others might be drawn to Him. We forget that it is in our weakness He is the strongest, that it is in our powerlessness where His grace bursts forth the brightest. The question this day, for each of us, is how do we respond to His call? Will we follow unreservedly? Or will we place conditions upon ourselves, and thereby hide that wonderful light He so desperately wants to light in the lives of each one of us? Those fishermen that said yes unreservedly helped the faith to spread to the ends of the world. What will be your response this day and every day as we go forward? If He can spread His Gospel all over the world using them, what can’t He do using you?



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