Kenora Epiphany + 3
26 January 2020
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
God of blazing light,
through the power of the cross you shattered our darkness
and set us free to live as your children.
Give us courage and conviction,
so that we may joyfully turn and follow you,
led by the light that shines
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Have you noticed a theme in the readings, in the message of the gospel over the past few weeks?
The message we’ve heard over, and over, and over is to follow.
The message we’ve heard over and over is to look, to move, to live within the light.
Now, for Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John this is the first time they’re hearing Jesus words, and this is the first time Jesus has called people to be his disciples.
Although, this isn’t the first time they’ve heard the words of Isaiah. “16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.” (Mt 4:16, Is 9:2)
But Peter and Andrew, James and John aren’t hearing these words spoken, today, instead they’re living them, and really, so are we, every day in our lives.
And here, we find the most beautiful and unique part of Christianity. Jesus doesn’t go to the places of higher learning, or even to the places where one would go to find followers. Instead he goes for a walk on the beach.
Jesus doesn’t make us go looking for him, in our lives, rather he comes along looking for and calling each one of us to follow where he leads.
Jesus not only comes to us, but he calls us to follow where he leads into the lives and the hearts of all who are in darkness, whether it’s the dark of the night, or the dark of our lives.
But this is the miracle, here is the most incredible part when we find that we are with Jesus, in the midst of the divine, while at the same time we are in the midst of the world.
This is probably why Jesus first message echoes Johns message from the banks of the River Jordan, as he says, “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Mt 4:17b)
So, we’ve not only found the light, but the light finds each one of us, dwells within us, and encourages us to shine for those who are still in darkness.
And we can see this as we see Jesus call his first disciples: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
He called people who aren’t great theologians, great speakers or impressive public figures.
He calls those of us who are seeking something more, or maybe aren’t fulfilled by or through our current occupations.
A wise person once said that if you love what you do, then its no longer work. Another word for this kind of satisfying occupation is ‘vocation’. And for those of us who are working within our chosen vocation, then no, this isn’t work. Especially since our modern society has made the word ‘job’ and acronym for ‘just over broke’ and many who work a variety of jobs, just to make ends meet, know this acronym is their reality.
And our society has made making a living to be ‘a be all and end all’ within our lives, allowing the financially driven whims of others to be the driving force rather than the tasks that fill us with satisfaction and joy and the light of God’s love.
So, maybe this is what Jesus saw when he took a stroll on the beach, today? Maybe this is what Jesus sees as he calls each one of us from our daily round of tasks and to do lists.
The gospel tells us today that he saw Simon Peter and Andrew casting a net in the sea, and he called them from that to follow him.
He called them from what was familiar to the point of routine, to minister to the people on the fringes of society. He called them to be leaders following the teachings of Jesus, the love of God, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
He called them from relative obscurity of being fishermen in Galilee to a path of which they, we, cannot see the ending.
Maybe what Jesus, what God sees is how our gifts, talents, and skills are able to be used to make a difference in the lives of others, as we, still, today, are called to follow.
And this is huge.
Now, not everyone may be called to become a priest, a deacon, or a lay reader, in the life and ministry of the church, but God is calling, and yet, maybe you are so called to follow in such ways.
Maybe you’re being called out of your comfort zone and into something where God alone sees your gifts shine? After all, when I first felt a call to ordained leadership, I hated public speaking! And yet, here I am, still following where God leads.
So, in a world where society’s efforts are to seek to isolate us, to pull us apart, and so manipulate how we see the world, and our place within that structure, God seeks to bring us together. God seeks to show us the beauty of creation and the beauty of God’s love within each other.
God wishes us to encourage each other, to uphold and love each other, and in such a way show that the isolation that the world desires, is not all that it’s advertised.
In such a way, God desires to use us and our unique gifts to bring the light of God’s love to those in darkness, even if that person is sitting beside us, or is inhabiting our own skin, from time to time.
At the same time, we don’t all have the same gifts. Instead, our gifts are given to us to be used in conjunction with others. Our gifts are given to be used in community, so, then, where is God shining for you?
How is God calling you to bring light to this world in darkness?
And at each step we are called to make a difference in the lives of others.
At each step, like the disciples, we’re called from our conformity to follow and at the same time we’re called to lead.
We’re called to preach the kingdom of God, not necessarily in words, but more in our actions, and in such ways, we’re called to cure disease and sickness.
We’re called to use the gifts of love and compassion that are central to absolutely everything Jesus teaches us, starting from today, and to the end of all time.
And I know this seems overwhelming. At such times my mind wanders into the realm of superheroes, into the stories of those who were invented to help inspire each one of us to be better than we think we are able to be.
Like the old ads in comic books about the 99lb weakling who by getting a book for 3 box tops, was able to not be the one with sand kicked in his face. We turn to such inspiration, as that, as Spider Man, Wonder Woman, and others.
Heroes that are reinvented every few years, it seems, to become the more modern heroes as we see in the recent success of the Marvel and DC Comics characters in films, not only saving the universe from the enemies of the universe, but showing us how we can be better than we think we can be.
I especially like the backstory of each of the characters that has been developed along the way.
How Captain America was that typical 95lb weakling who is transformed by more than science. Rather he’s transformed because he wants to protect those whom he loves, and the way of life he knows.
I like Black Widow who is trying to do something good out of the bad that she’d done before she joined S.H.I.E.L.D.
All inventions of their creator Stan Lee who sought to inspire young men and women to be these characters in the world.
Then there is the internal struggle of Batman who seeks to not only protect this world but to find a place in it for himself. We can see the same Wonder Woman, as they seek to be a part of this world yet protect it from the worst version of itself.
When I was growing up, we were encouraged to find people whom we were able to admire, to learn about their lives, their struggles, and to be able to emulate how they made not only their lives better but the world around us.
Now, remember this was before the days of the internet, so finding heroes, and especially inspirational female figures wasn’t that easy, but in my life, I always gravitated to Eleanor Roosevelt because she sought to turn the position of the First Lady of the United States into a platform from which she could make the lives of those in that nation better. Because through her compassion and love for all people she made her husband a better leader of his nation.
But then that trend changed, and we seek to admire those with ‘superpowers’ beyond our own physical abilities. We developed comic book characters and cartoon heroes who we could admire from a distance, but how does this change us? How does this inspire us to be better than we are today?
Today we see Jesus take a walk along the beach, and instead of picking up the more curious shells or stones, he calls his first disciples. He sees more in them than they see in themselves.
And this continues today, as Jesus calls each one of us to follow to become ‘fishers of people,’ to go where no one has gone before, all in an effort to bring the light of God’s love, the light of God’s kingdom into this world.
It continues today because the theme we hear over, and over again is “follow me”.
“18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Mt 4:18-22)
Where Jesus leads, we are called to follow; and where we follow, the love of God goes with us making a difference to the world by bringing the light of God’s love and compassion to all who sit in darkness.