Note, the manuscript differs markedly from the audio as I went off script again! 🙂
Please pray with me, gracious and holy God, give us the courage to jump when you call. Amen
So today we ordained and installed new elders and deacons. They have been called to be spiritual leaders in this community, to give of their hearts, their wisdom, their insight, to collectively discern where God is calling us and how we can best contribute to the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth. It’s an incredible invitation, to see the hope, the potential, the possibility; to see the new thing that God is bringing into our midst and to participate fully in mid-wifing this new thing. Yet we also care deeply about our traditions and those who have deep visceral connections to our traditions. So there’s a tension here, a care and compassion for our history and traditions but also a willingness to follow where God leads and we don’t always know where that will be.
In our text today we have a different version of the call of Peter than we heard last week. Last week Peter’s brother Andrew came and got him told him he just had to come and see, this week the two brothers are fishing and Jesus sees them in the midst of this common ordinary task and calls them into something new. He sees something in them that no one else can, that they are more than just fishermen and he calls them to this new thing. Let that get a grip on you for a moment, God sees you each and every day, engaged in your daily tasks and calls you into something new at any moment. “Leave your nets, your computers, your fields, leave the routine of the hospital or school, I have something new in mind for you,” imagine. Along the way the disciples are remade, re-created, made new.
Being called and ordained to the service of God changes a person in ways that are hard to identify and name. We are seen through the eyes of God and this is a whole new way for us to see ourselves, to have all our potential and possibility called into being through the act of being seen. It’s a holy moment, a becoming, an act of ongoing continuing creation within us. Shakespeare wrote that, “We know who we are, but know not what we may yet be,” and God calls us into that unrealized potential, “Come and I will make you fishers of men.”
This liminal space, a threshold moment, when one is called into something new, passes quickly. Matthew’s text says the men immediately left their nets, left their families and followed. They stepped into this new thing without hesitation. Most of us hesitate. When I left for seminary I hesitated, and hesitated, and told God that if this was supposed to happen, he’d need to figure out the logistics, because I didn’t see how it could. I knew as I drove across the US, through two February snowstorms, that this was a threshold moment, a before and after moment, a it’ll never be quiet the same moment. We get those now and then, and sometimes we are aware of them when they happen, sometimes we only see them in hindsight.
We know where we’ve been, but we are only beginning to discover this new thing we are called into. Every Sunday we pray that God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, but today we are reminded that we are called to be a part of that coming. We are to be about our Father’s business.
If previously our lives were ruled by the ways of the world, fears of scarcity and exclusion, wanting to make sure we got ours, because there wasn’t enough to go around, and being on the outside of the clique isn’t just painful, it can be dangerous, if this is where we have been, where me and mine ruled our thoughts, we are invited into a broader kingdom, a more gracious era where the me and mine is stretched to include you, and you, and you, it is stretched to include the other, the outsider, the unclean, the lost and the lonely.
Being called to work in and serve the kingdom of God here on earth as in heaven, changes us, remakes us, and as we stand in a new place, a new vision, a new paradigm comes into view. We are changed, and therefore everything is changed. We cannot go back to the way we once were, this threshold moment brings us into something new. If a person is in Christ, they are a new creation, see the old has passed away. It’s hard for us to let go of the old, to walk away without hesitation. We fear the loss that change brings with it, and at times it’s just too much.
We can get caught up in longing for the good old days, which weren’t really all that good, but they were familiar and mostly we remember the good times. Being called into the kingdom business invites us to look for the potential, the hope, the creative possibility, it is a forward looking action. We who long for security and comfort are invited on a creative journey where no such promise is made. The birds of the air have their nests, the fox has its hole, but the son of man has no where to lay his head,..oh, and let the dead bury the dead, go on and leave your family behind for your family will be humanity, all of God’s beloved, and perhaps Jesus should have told them this right from the beginning! Instead it comes later, in Matthew 8.
But that’s the thing about liminal spaces, those threshold moments, we know we are moving into something new, but we can’t yet see what this new thing is. We know it is a moment of creativity, of God’s ongoing creative work in us, but we can’t see the outcome. We know we are invited into a whole new way of being, but we hesitate, we hedge our bets, we hold back, and no one steps through a threshold by holding back.
We are called to be a living witness to the kingdom of God, to be a light on the hill, that all might see how wonderful and beautiful the light is and come, but we cannot do this with one hand in the past. We honor and treasure our past, but we live and work in the present. We keep our eyes on the future that God is calling us into. We are watchful, keeping our lamps trimmed and our eyes peeled as we seek always for the potential, the hope, the possibility that God is calling us into.
Leave your nets, your old ways of being and the security of home, that you might join in the fragile, creative action of the kingdom. We are called into a new era, a new way of being, one which is founded on the trust and love of God and which asks us to lay aside fear. Laying aside fear we are opened to wonder, our tender hearts vulnerable to the world, to each other, and who knows what might happen then?
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?