Sermon for May 7, 2023

Sermon for May 7, 2023        Fifth of Easter                         “Covered Ears”

In the story from Acts about the stoning of Stephen, we hear that Stephen sees heaven open before him and Jesus standing there, a beautiful image and one that begs further understanding. But the people gathered covered their ears so as not to hear, so intent they were to stone Stephen. For too long people have covered ears to astounding truth and beautiful understanding because it did not fit their particular view of God, Jesus or the world.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes writes and Anneke Oppewal comments on: “Transitions can only take place if we are willing to let go of what we have known, the world’s we have created, and our assumptions about “how things are.” To let go is the precursor to being reborn. We discard the baggage of societal expectations and, like a morning glory, open to the possibilities of each new day, each new moment, even if those possibilities are shadowy and disorientating. 

Unfortunately, in the West, we don’t let go of anything. We hold onto reputation and material goods long after they are no longer needed. We store acquired stuff in every nook and household cranny before renting a storage unit so that we can continue to hold onto our stuff. Dazed, we clutch at relationships long after they are on life support and cling to a past that no longer exists, grasping, desperate, and confused. 

We say that we are letting go, but, in our society, letting go is more like a tug of war. We diligently guard our stories (true or not), our lifestyles, and our belief systems until they are ripped from our sweaty palms. And yet, letting go is a necessary part of transformation…. 

Letting go may be the only path toward rebirth.” And to let go means we also have to uncover our ears and our hearts and let God. And to that God says: “let not your hearts be troubled….” 

I don’t know where you tend to ‘feel’ trouble, and if it has ever been bad enough for you to feel that you heart is aching in your chest with whatever it is that has happened. It is that kind of suffering, that kind of trauma Jesus is talking about here. Not just a little bit of discomfort but true, heartbreaking, gut wrenching trauma. 

Jesus speaks these words in what is called the ‘final discourse’ in the gospel of John where he is preparing his disciples, at the last supper, for his death. I am going he says. I am going, there is no doubt about that, but that won’t be the end of it. I will be back, I won’t leave you orphaned, there will be a new and different phase following the one of absolute and gut wrenching loss. 

In Jesus’ journey with his disciples there is going to be a time where loss and grief will be heartbreaking and challenging. He comforts them by offering them hope and the assurance that where they will be going after he has gone will be a place where Jesus and God will be catering to them and providing for them. 

I found a quote this week from Maria Popova that really reflected the place where I imagine they were at, only days away from the crucifixion and Jesus talking in no uncertain terms about his coming death and departure: 

“On the precipice of any great change, we can see with terrifying clarity the familiar firm footing we stand to lose, but we fill the abyss of the unfamiliar before us with dread at the potential loss rather than jubilation over the potential gain of gladnesses and gratifications we fail to envision because we haven’t yet experienced them.”

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me, in the middle of overwhelming grief and anxiety to trust and not let myself be troubled, it will take me a while to take that on board and get myself out of panic and glass completely empty mode into something more positive and hopeful. Especially if the something hopeful involves believing, trusting, that something will happen that doesn’t fit in with what I think is possible. 

Don’t be troubled. Trust. 

Rather than inviting us to wait until we die to be passively taken to a place where we’ll all get a good rest, it is an invitation to enter into a journey of trust, traveling from place to place where God and Christ are present, deeper and deeper into relationship and intimacy with them until we come into a unity that is beyond words and time.

Christianity, over its two thousand years in existence, has seen many such movements of renewal and energy. As well as times of decline that needed re-orientation. 

We’ve moved, as a people, through many stations and stages, found many places, as a community and as individual people, to dwell, to be with God and grow deeper into our relationship with Christ. As living stones, we have been part of many incarnations of that building of faith where trust and intimate knowledge and relationship with God shape life. Circling deeper and deeper into the way, the truth and the life of God in Jesus.

 We don’t know what lies ahead. And it can be pretty terrifying to have to be in that ambiguous place where all we are asked to do is let go of our troubled hearts and trust. Unlike the leaders of Stephen’s day may we have the faith and trust to keep our ears and hearts open to the love and nudges of God. It is after all a journey.  

Sermon for March 26, 2023

Sermon for March 26, 2023               Fifth of Lent                 “You Shall Live”

And God took Ezekiel to a vast plain and before them were dry bones. As far as they could see, dry bones. I expect Ezekiel wanted to ask; why this sight, is this our future, is this what waits for us? As it is presented as a vision or dream, I am sure that the dream interpreters would have plenty to say, but that is not for today.

God asked; Can these bones live? The text does not tell us what exactly went through Ezekiel’s mind but I do wonder if there was a smart-alec remark on the tip of his tongue and at exactly the same time the thought, better behave while standing beside God.

What is remarkable about this story, apart from the fact that all the bones were reconnected and then came to life, is that it is about community. In times that are increasingly individualistic, all about me, all about my perceived rights, this is a story about all of us, not a one left behind or left out. Say the words Ezekiel and this community will live. He did and not only did they live but they received the Spirit’s breath and lived with shared gratitude and joy.

I wonder what would happen or how we would react if we heard those words today? The dry bones may just be an analogy for areas of our lives that have become dormant. Can we believe that the Spirit’s breath can touch our heart and soul and give us more life, or our community and bring life?

The biblical scholar Veronice Miles comments on the Lazarus text by saying in part; “The tension between the hope of resurrection and the finality of death is palpable during this season of intense personal and communal reflection. Amid painful circumstance and death-dealing social realities, we yearn for resurrection and the unbinding that releases us to dream beyond the boundaries and experience life anew. To dream beyond the boundaries is to imagine a world in which wholeness, well-being, health and prosperity (for all) are normative expressions of human existence and to partner with the God of life in making that dream a reality. It is to recognize that our world is not as it should be, while rejecting assertions that the socio-religious structures that prevent persons from experiencing God’s presence in their lives are impervious to change…that we need god’s presence in the newness of our existence”.

This interpretation impacts the duel or multiple roles that we live out of our faith stance. Yes there is the ongoing and newness to our personal commitment to being a believer in Jesus. I expect that as we look back there are elements of our belief that have changed, even dramatically during our life. The spirit is at work continually unbinding us and opening us to newness. There is the role of stewards of this church. Its maintenance and function. And there too we are open to new ideas of how this space can continue to serve the mission of Jesus in this place.

This teaching reminds us that even the greatest obstacles we face are not that way for Jesus. It is interesting that two of the key aspects of faith is prayer and faith. Imagine what Jesus is calling you and us to, imagine the outcome, the steps to get there and what it looks like when you arrive. Faith and belief. When sport took that on as a way to train athletes to imagine an outcome, the church bailed on what was theirs. We explained it by saying that is a ‘sport thing’. We abandoned the foundational piece that moves us forward…faith and belief. Of all the lessons this teaching has for us, and there are many, let us reclaim the faith and belief that with Jesus all things are possible. Yes, there will be obstacles and challenges, and yes we will be given the strength, meekness, faith and wisdom to overcome. Even the death of Lazarus was a teaching moment. A reminder that from the ashes that seem to be gathering around us, new life will spring forth. We as a church are not what we were decades ago and in the decades to come we will look different. What remains is faith. Faith so huge as a mustard seed, that dry bones will live, that Lazarus will live, that we will live.

Sermon for March 12, 2023

Sermon for March 12, 2023               Lent Three                  “Because of His Word”

The possibilities for sermon and teaching points in the texts from Exodus and John are expansive and delightful. I would like to focus on the images of short memories and God’s ongoing nudging people to vision bigger.

Since the people of Israel left Egypt they have crossed the sea of reeds dry footed, bread has appeared on the ground 6 days a week ready to be gathered and eaten, birds have fallen from the sky and given them meat and protein, there has been a miraculous provision of water before and there is no reason why that wouldn’t happen again this time. 

So why are they not remembering those things? Why are they focussing on the angst of the here and now instead of bringing to mind the many blessings and saving they have already experienced? 

Because they are human! Here and now, tends to inform our focus more than faith and trust. Our survival always foremost in our minds and, at times, when we are thirsty enough, clouding our thinking and perspective. Remember three years ago and how even today some still have a multi-year supply of toilet paper. God has saved. God will save again. God has given, and God will give again. God is journeying with us and will show us where to go, journeying with us to a place of liberation and abundance. And still the people complain to Moses saying we are thirsty now…do something and do it now.

‘I’ll be on the mountain says God, waiting for you, on the rock. When you hit the rock with your staff, water will spring forth and you will all be able to drink your fill.’ Trust me, remember what I’ve made you do with that staff before. Just move to the rock. I’ll be there and make it happen’. 

It’s funny how God does not provide the water there and then. Moses and his people have to start moving, shift from where they are to another place before they will taste the living, the life giving water God gives. Leave the place of complaint and move to a place where they will find rock solid proof of God’s presence with them. They did and their thirst sated.   

In our New Testament reading this morning we encounter another well. Another place where water had been available for God’s people to draw from for a long time. Jacob had given the land and presumably the well to his son Joseph and ever since people had come there to draw water. Like the woman in the story.  

Her life was, by the sound of it, a bit of a wilderness. Five husbands suggest that she had not had a happy life and the fact that she is not married to the sixth husband suggests there has been a lot of hardship and suffering coming her way. Some suggest that the fact she is coming to the well at midday is to avoid meeting others. Going when the day is at its hottest rather than in the morning or the late afternoon as is more customary.

She finds Jesus sitting at the well. The woman engages with Jesus. She is no shrinking violet. She challenges him, she wants to know and meets Jesus with an open mind and an open heart. The conversation with her is the longest Jesus has with anyone in the gospel. Longer than with the scribe Nicodemus two chapters back. 

Can you give me more than our father Jacob asks the woman? And what she refers to is the story that, after Jacob met Rachel the well where they met did not stop flowing for 20 years. Yes, says Jesus, the water I can give you will go on forever. 

You are a prophet, says the woman, so tell me, should we worship here at Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem. Who is right? 

With me says Jesus, that is a question that belongs to the past. Future worship will not be depending on the right place, but will bring people together in spirit and truth. Say that again please; spirit and truth is the starting place for real, authentic worship. The buildings, from the simplest to the grandest, are just wood, canvas, brick, mortar and steel, if they do not house the spirit and truth in the hearts of those who worship.

Yes, says the woman, I know that will happen when the Messiah comes. 

‘I am he’ says Jesus. 

And for the first time in the gospel of John, in conversation with this woman Jesus identifies himself as ‘I am’ the name for God that is revealed to Moses before he embarks on his journey with the people of Israel through the wilderness. 

Here is ‘I am’, God self, and his love flows over into a person who Jesus really had no business of being with or engaging with in the first place. She was Samaritan, Jesus was a Jew, and Jews and Samaritans did not talk to each other. If Jesus had been on his way to the temple, he would not have been able to enter after his contact with her before he had been cleansed through ritual and time from her contaminating presence. She was a woman, and in that time, in that culture, women and men did not mix freely, most certainly not for the frank and open conversation they are having, especially not if the woman wasn’t properly married. 

And yet. Jesus, tired, thirsty and harassed by religious authorities, who should have been his partners and supporters, finds in this woman the very first person in the gospel in whom the living water he has to offer starts to flow freely. Who shares of the gospel with joy, leaving her water jar behind because she has found a well inside her that will never again dry up.  Imagine what possibilities can be pried open in our day when we come to the realization that Jesus first revealed himself as Messiah to a Samaritan woman. That is our day, that our faith in and belief in Jesus is shared with the least, the lost and the most unlikely of our community. So many centuries ago the Word of Jesus changed the heart of a single woman. Today because of His Word our hearts are transformed and the Spirit finds

Sermon for March 5, 2023

Sermon for March 5, 2023 Lent Three “Not Astonished”
Two great stories of journey and adventure for today. First from Abram and the second from Nicodemus.
It seems that in every time and generation there are those who travel and those who do not, and each group has its rationale for their decisions. I know people who have never left Pictou County or NS, never left the West side or NB. And I know people who have travelled the world and explored their home as well. Abram was a traveler, spent most of his life on the road going somewhere that God was going to show him. Little did he know that his life’s travels would be the seed for three great religions of the world. What he knew is that he had to follow the nudges and shoves of his God.
Nicodemus, a Rabbi, member of the esteemed Sanhedrin and teacher of Rabbis was a follower of God. Doing so for Nicodemus was lived out in following the 613 rules of Jewish Law. But there was a curiosity to Nicodemus’. When Jesus started to teach in and around the area of Capernaum, he was curious to know more.
Being cautious he arranged an evening meeting with Jesus, not overtly clandestine but not exactly advertised either. Deborah Kapp in her commentary on this text says that we in the 21st century is familiar with Nicodemus style ‘in our pluralistic world being mainline protestant is not really trendy. People in pews are faithful, deeply faithful and spiritual but that realm and the rest of life are maintained in their own spheres” She goes on to say “Cultural norms push religion into the private sphere, positioning faith as appropriate for family and personal morality, but inappropriate for public issues. For two centuries mainline Protestantism has encouraged such behaviour and attitudes. Our brand of religion promotes self-restraint, tolerance and personal morality and all are worthy virtues. We support public morality and an engagement in social issues too. Of course, but that message has been muffled by the declining size and increasing marginalization of mainline Protestant denominations. In and of itself, there is much to praise about a faith that thrives in the dark. It is genuine, heartfelt, personal and often deep. The point is not that this hidden faith is somehow faulty –as far as it goes; the point is that it is too small. Jesus suggests that Nicodemus’s kind of faith in incomplete, even immature.”
The born again text in Matthew has been used and mostly abused as a hammer to force a particular brand of believing. Debbie Blue in her work likens this text to an invitation by God to open ourselves to imagination and curiosity about a new way of being in relationship with God. The birthing or re-birthing is an action of a mothering God in labour. God does all the work, all the breathing, all the pushing, all the pain and sweating until we are born or re-born. Since Jesus it has been about water and Spirit and God labours to bring us to new birth.
It is what we do with new birth that Jesus is interested in. For Nicodemus it was a call out of the dark into the light, for the disciples a call to follow, to Zacchaeus a call to come out of the tree. And you and me a call to imagine and re-imagine who we can be personally and corporately in our day.
For Jesus he used the words born again, meaning that to go forward you had to leave behind the way of thinking and being you were used to. The disciples heard the expression ‘you can’t put new wine in old wineskins’ meaning the new teachings they were hearing would not in any way be understood and embodied while keeping the old ways. In our day we might be more familiar with paradigm shift which is a new way of stating the old. In order to embrace the new teaching one has to move to a new plane of thought and being.
Nicodemus in the end could not make the shift that was essential to be a follower of Jesus, yes he remained curious but just could not let go of who he was. The disciples managed, awkwardly by times but they made the shift. Christians and the church of the 21st century are being called toward a shift in thinking, a born again moment, a paradigm shift. I think the shift is going to, in part, be a move away from the church being the church. Let me explain; the Jews of Jesus day (and even today) have 613 rules to follow. I have no idea how many rules the church of today has. I expect it is way more than 613. The church was set up to allow people to discover Jesus and his teaching. Along the way the church became a place to protect the church, it’s orthodoxy and to have power over the people. The 21st century church will need to shift so it becomes a place for people to fall in love with Jesus all over again. Jesus, I think, is smiling and saying ‘do not be astonished, it is the only think I have ever wished for. You, my beloved are on the journey that started millennia ago and your faithfulness will is essential for the journey to continue.

Sermon for February 19, 2023

Sermon for February 19, 2023           Transfiguration Sunday          “Do Not Be Afraid”

There are times when in faith we are called to do hard things that really are hard. And there are times we are asked to do things that seem easy but end up being hard. In the teaching today Peter, James and John are invited by Jesus to accompany him up a hill to watch and stay awake, which really means to pay close attention.

While there Jesus was glowing, radiating like a super bright light was on him and two others were with him. And the disciples were afraid. These tough fishers were afraid. It is human nature to be afraid of things we do not understand or have not seen before. I’m sure that at some point you have been afraid and then not. Let me tell you of a time that I was afraid, then not. I was a new driver and I was on the Bedford highway and all of a sudden a supper bright light appeared ahead of me and a bit to the right. It was off the ground about 10 feet (2-3 metres) and it was getting closer and then coming straight at me. In those seconds, which seemed like minutes, I was trying to figure out how to get out of the way, is it a UFO, how to explain a crash…then all of a sudden it was gone…and the rest of the train rumbled alone the tracks. Now I knew the tracks were there but had never experienced a train coming at night quite like that. When it happened again I was not afraid because I knew exactly what it was.

Peter, James and John knew Jesus, knew him well, they just never experienced him in that way before. So they were afraid. Jesus comes to them and says, look it is really me, do not be afraid. This will be a difficult experience to share with others so let’s keep it to ourselves.

It is good that we are reminded today on Transfiguration Sunday and the Sunday we celebrate Baden Powell and Thinking day. It reminds us that as Christians we come from a long by times glorious and by time trying history. That God spoke through men and women thousands of years ago, did so through Jesus and continues to this very day. Being one chosen to speak for God (and there are many and most are not clergy) can be terrifying and difficult as God continually calls on us to interpret the teachings in ways that make sense for our time. I can be challenging and even frightening to be a faithful follower of Jesus as the teaching call us to a high standard of caring, living and justice for others and creation.

As those in scouting and guiding we also come from a long line of leaders beginning with Lord and Lady Baden Powell.

Do you when scouting started?          January 24, 1908

What about guiding?               The next year 1909

Since then scouting/guiding has come a long way. The Wright brothers were having their first flights. Telegraph was the mode of communicating, or you could go to your neighbours, church or social gathering. No TV, no cell phones, no computers…you get the point.

For scouting and guiding and for Christians each step was filled with fear and dread. But we survived and more than that, adapted. Email, tweets, Instagram, snapchat are common and we sometimes wonder what we did without them. Some embraced change with minds wide open, others with fear and skepticism.

And on this day we are called to look to the past with all its glorious and imperfect events and people, live in this day knowing that we are essential to tomorrow, and do our best each day so that our tomorrow is secure for those who follow.

Best teaching of Jesus: you will love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and you will love your neighbour as yourself.

Scout: “On my honour I promise, to do my best to love and to serve God, my Queen, my country and my fellowman, and live by the Scout Law.

Guiding: I Promise to do my best, to be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada I will take action for a better world and respect the Guiding Law.

It seems that we have our work set before us to do our best today, to shine a bright light on all that is good and honourable and to live each day knowing that Jesus leads the way. So it seems that by times we may be fearful, we do not need to be afraid.

Sermon for February 12, 2023

Sermon for February 12, 2023           Sixth after Epiphany               “A Focus on Good”

You have heard it said, begins Jesus as he delves into one more challenging aspect of the sermon on the mount. You have heard it said, to the Jews would mean the 613 laws that they were required to keep in order to fulfill the commitment to be a faithful Jew. For the most part the listeners were accustomed to rules and this would be a directional beacon to understanding them better. Yes it is and yes it goes much further than they expected.

But we are not first century Jews. We are faithful followers who do our best each day to live to our highest ideal. The quick overview of the text is a guide to living in community and thriving. It is a call for 21st century followers to renew our understanding of what it means to be a follower and disciple of Jesus.

For Jews and gentiles of Jesus day the following of rules had become habit. Some were observed with severity especially if had something to do with another and nothing to do with the one enforcing the rule. It became a way to oppress, especially women, those who were sick and generally anyone who did not fit the current idea of good. It meant leaders could point fingers and hide behind the cloak of ‘following the law’ all the while not holding to the highest or lowest ideal of what it meant to be a follower of God, or for others whatever gods and idols were worshipped.

Jesus breaks into that scene and calls out that abuse of God’s law and calls all people to a higher standard. Of course for the leaders it was scandalous because it called for the greatest change and for others it was a slight adjustment. It was a reminder that all people are welcome in the tent and tabernacle of God.

John Robinson was a mid 20th century Episcopal Bishop in England. He was a bit of a radical in his day, at least as radical as a Cambridge trained Bishop can be. He argued that ‘in God and in Eucharist the common is made holy’, that we bring all our live to God; the good the bad and the ugly and in our humble commonness we become holy. We cannot get to holy apart from God and Jesus. We can be good people, kind people, generous people but it is through God and Jesus that we become holy and then the traits of the beatitudes become our home.

The Gospel text is challenging to hear for it calls us from being church to being disciples. I know that is a wide paint brush but after 2000 years of being church we may need some reminding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Perhaps another way to view the text is a call to look for and expect the best from everyone…including ourselves. It means recognizing that all are created in the image and likeness of God, that we all hold some or all the traits of the Beatitudes, that we are all worthy and worthy of being treated with respect and justice, that we all fall short from time to time and we all live with the freeing hope of forgiveness and that Jesus continually calls us to a high standard and that by times is really hard.

As a side note, Louise Penny’s latest book ‘A World of Curiosities” is a novel on forgiveness. Another great read and you have to read Louise’s comments at the end. Just a note that it might not make sense if you have not read the previous 17 books in the series.

As we lean into this challenging Gospel teaching and as we are in Valentine’s week may we be encouraged to look to the good in others without added comment or commentary. One of the surprises is that we just may start to see good revealed in ourselves, then more in others, then more in ourselves…well you get the point. Jesus had the undesirable trait of loving those that the accepted of his day could not love…it is still true today.

Sermon for January 29, 2023

Sermon for January 29, 2003            Fourth of Epiphany     “Can you say that again please”

In last week’s sermon, you will recall the Gospel scene where Jesus called the first four disciples, Simon, Andrew, James and John. After the call Jesus indicated what sort of traits he was looking for and would set out the framework for the revolution he was starting.

Today we as Christians will hear the words that started, kindled and maintained the mission. We know the Beatitudes as well as the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23. Most know it is part of the sermon on the mount and that we look to Matthew to find the text, even though a shortened version is found in Luke.

5:2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

We often read this text with a wishful thinking or even wistfulness knowing that it would be ideal but more a guideline or ideal to strive to. Imagine then those that first heard these words. They were expecting the Messiah to be a warrior, one who would overthrow the oppressors and elevate the Chosen people to the pinnacle of leadership. When Jesus announced that he was the Messiah the people prepared to be led in battle to overthrow Roman rule.

Then sitting by the Sea of Galilee they heard Jesus ask, even demand of them to be poor in Spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and ones that are persecuted for righteousness and be glad for it. I can imagine they were not that happy and Rome was elated.

What we do know is that among the first hearers many had a transformation of heart and mind, many embraced this new and radical thinking and followed. More than that became super spreaders of the New Word.

More than 2000 years later, we hear the opening of the parchment of revolution of Jesus and it has become more nostalgic than revolutionary. Both for us personally and for the world. We hear them, sing them and pray them but do they sink in as the core traits that Jesus names and looks for in followers? Will anyone have all these traits? I expect not. They may ebb and flow as our lives are lived out. There may be one or two that are part of our DNA. And that is good.

The first disciples and hearers of these words most likely said or thought; can you say that again; it did not sound like a battle plan. In our day we may say the same thing, not so much for wanting a battle plan, but because it does not fit our idea of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. As these days unfold may we have the courage, fortitude and inner strength to live into these words of Jesus. They are our identifiers, the differences that set us apart from those who have not heard, and most importantly a sign and symbol that is an open invitation to follow Jesus.

Next week Jesus will shed some flavour and light on what it means to follow…

Sermon for January 22, 2023

Sermon for January 22, 2023            Third of Epiphany       “Jesus Calling”

How long is a reasonable time for waiting? Well it may depend on the context. If calling 911 seconds can seem like hours. Waiting for luggage can seem like forever. But what about waiting for a Messiah? Well for the people of Israel the wait was thousands of years. According to the genealogy of Jesus about 72 generations from the first prophesies to the birth of Jesus and then another 30 for Jesus ministry to begin. That has got to be a world record for waiting.

Generations praying and waiting for the Messiah can lead to not believing in the promise or the prayer. But in the century before this current era, John the Baptizer appeared seemingly out of nowhere proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Messiah. And then Jesus appeared and began his ministry. His first task was to call those who would be the first disciples and followers. The Gospel text tells the story this way: “4:18 As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
4:20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 4:21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.”

What was it about Jesus that caused these first four to follow…without question? I wish I knew, but I do know well that the Spirit can and does move in ways that defy human logic. In the made for TV series ‘The Chosen’ this scene is wonderfully portrayed. With a look and a knowing, Jesus calls these two sets of brothers into an adventure that will change their lives forever. And set an example for all who follow still. I do know what it is like to one day be fishing (or preparing to attend master planning school in Ontario) and the next moment enrolling at the Atlantic School of Theology on the path to becoming a minister.

In the story, Zebedee seems to be the bewildered father standing stunned on the shore as his sons vanish following this rogue preacher. But again the Chosen does a delightful portrayal of this scene. James and John look at their father with a question, Zebedee responds ‘the man we have been praying for to arrive for thousands of years calls you to follow, and you worry what I will tell your Emma when you are late for supper!’ Go follow Jesus.

As this story seeps into our souls, it might be time to remember what it was about Jesus that was so compelling that we decided to follow. The answers are many and varied. I had to go to church and never stopped. A miraculous cure and I believed. A person experience with the divine and I was curious…and so on. But the question on my mind is; today, what is it about Jesus, for you, that compels you to follow? More than a committee or a particular church, or music, or friends…what is it about Jesus today that compels you to be a follower of Jesus?

Simon, Andrew, James and John, the first called on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, were by no means perfect. I expect their family and friends would attest to that. We in our day are not perfect and now is not the time to make a list. What is vital is Jesus sees you, yes you. Jesus called you for reasons that you live out each day and will be revealed in good time. The church did not call you, nor did a priest or minister from days ago. Jesus call you…beautifully imperfect for the task of being followers. The traits Jesus looks for are for next week’s sermon. For today what you need know is that Jesus sees you and you have been chosen and called.

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