Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sermon: Follow me Home

John the Baptizer, the one who was preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry and message, is captured.
His prophetic time as the voice calling out in the wilderness, is at an end.
         Which means that it is time to kick things off
—time for Jesus to act
—to call on those around him to repent, because they are now on holy ground
—Wherever Jesus is, the Reign of God is.
That is truly good news!
         So, Jesus goes along, and finds two brothers and brings them into his fold, calling on them to follow him.
         Two more seaside brothers, the Zebedees, are brought in, leaving family and vocation, to follow him.
         And sisters and brothers, I have some bad news for you—Pastors, by our very nature, can’t hear what today’s Gospel is saying.
Not being ordained actually helps you to hear what Mark is trying to say!
         Oh, we Pastors are fine with the first bit, in fact our understanding of grammar and Greek can help with discerning the whole “Kingdom of God” bit…
         But then, we come to those words, “Follow me.”
         “Oh,” we say, “Yes. Yes Jesus we do!”
         Yes, we follow you… we threw away our nets,
Yes we did! We gave up our professional credentials and licenses, we gave up our jobs—as teachers, nurses, computer programmers, and used car salesmen... all of ‘em,
yes we gave up our nets.
         Yes, we follow you…  we left our boats too.
We sold our cars and houses, we gave up our insurance policies and drained our 401Ks, we gave out our last penny, and loaded up on loans for this calling.
Yes we left our boats behind.
         Yes, we follow you…  we left father and hired hands,
and mother and country and colleagues and spouse. We ignored our children and studied non-stop for 4 years. We moved and moved and moved again—from Seminary to Chaplaincy to Internship to first call… we lived 100’s of miles away from anyone who we can call family,
and we submitted to the proposition that the calling by Bishop and by Congregation was not that of flesh and blood, but instead the very calling of Christ through the Spirit saying, “Come, follow me.”

         And so, we miserable clergy misinterpret, “Follow me.”
         We hear it, and look out at all of you, and back at our own experience of “follow me” and ask,
Why are the people in the pews, such defective Pastors?”
… because we can’t help but think that’s what Jesus means by “Follow me.”
That following Jesus means the particular path that is required of us.

         But, perhaps a better questions to ask,
perhaps one you all should keep in your back pocket, if I ever get insufferable and persnickety… and I’m human, so I will,
is this question, “Why are the Pastors such defective disciples?”
After all Jesus calls Fishermen, Tax Collectors, Assassins, and Fanatics, but no Religious Leaders.

         Because, we clergy cannot help but hear “follow me” in light of our particular vocation.
         And in so doing, we miss out on Jesus’ particular location.
         We miss the amazing insight—that Jesus is not simply saying “Follow me,” he’s saying to his disciples, “Follow me home.”
         Follow me home.

         Follow me home.
         We forgot that, with few exceptions, the majority of Jesus’ ministry is around the Sea of Galilee.
         Most of the gospel takes place around a lake that is 7 miles by 13 miles.
         This fishing for people thing that Jesus does—this good news about the Reign of God being near—happens in an area where everything is near-by.
         Think about that… from Plainfield in the North to Metuchen in the South, Iselen in the East and Boundbrook in the West—that’s it;
it’s in a zip code that Jesus is fishing for people.
It’s in an area code that Christ creates the rule of God.
It all happens in Jesus’ own neighborhood—he says, “Follow me” from his own home base in Capernaum… Follow me home
         The problem with Pastors, when we read, “Follow me” is that we’re too much like Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab
—chasing after whales
—or perhaps getting swallowed up by them like Jonah.
         But we’re called to fish for people like Peter and like James. We are called to renew our In-State People Fishing License.
         We follow him in our own neighborhood and in our own homes. The Kingdom of God is near—it’s right there,
Jesus’ giant journey started small
—and shouldn’t we know that
—after all he tells us the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, it’s tiny and rooted in place, but it grows.
         The Kingdom of God is like leaven, tiny grit that makes it all grow…
         That’s why he calls us to follow him, home.

         Consider Simon Peter and his brother Andrew
—they already knew this man Jesus, he was a local like them
—Andrew, Simon’s brother, as we read in John’s Gospel, was a follower of John the Baptizer
—he likely already saw Jesus at his Baptism.
         And we imagine these men, they leave their nets, bobbing there in the water—it’s a lovely image.
         --Dropping the nets and follow Jesus never to see those nets again…
—but that’s too big picture, it’s not accurate.
         They’re still there in their neighborhood
—they likely pass those nets every couple of days
—they see them floating there, getting smelly with sea debris
—maybe their old friends complain because their nets are now catching on other people’s boats.
Or perhaps, and more likely, they take those nets and use them for a different purpose
—after all, that’s what they do with their boats, they make them into a floating pulpit for Jesus and ferry him from place to place in them.

         Or consider John and James
—they leave their father, but perhaps they still run into him at family reunions
—or when they pop back home to do some laundry or sneak a snack out of the fridge.
They still maintain relationship, just differently.
         For that matter, they likely meet the hired hands who watched them go to follow after Jesus.
 Perhaps they run into them when they come in to happy hour at the Grubby Gills Galilee Grill after a long day of discipling… perhaps they are met with the confused stares of those former colleagues. They have to explain themselves, and their faith, to their neighbors and friends.
         What I’m getting at here, is that the Kingdom of God is near, it’s right here…
we’re following Jesus in the everyday of our lives
—in our town,
in our neighborhood,
on the block or cul de sac we live on.
We follow Jesus among friends and enemies,
with people who know us at our best and at our worst!
         We’re following Jesus home.

         That’s why…
why I love watching our crew march in the Labor Day Parade
—watching the little bubbles of recognition in the faces of friends in the crowd,
the moments of eye contact,
that moment when they connect you to the Kingdom of God.
         That’s why I treasure Agnes’ description of walking her neighborhood with Pastor Clark, introducing them to the Pastor of her church.
         Why I try to check in on Katie’s Quilters every time they meet,
even though it’s inevitably after a 12-14 hour Tuesday,
—because seeing the non-members from town showing up and joining in the work of the Kingdom
—that’s worth pushing through to see.
         That’s why Pub Theology is in a pub-lic place, so when we pray the Lord’s Prayer at the end, everyone in the joint knows that the Kingdom of God has come near.
         That’s the thrust behind our Salt and Light project the Evangelism Committee is heading up, letting our neighbors know the blessing of God, which we have found in Christ Jesus.

         Yes, sisters and brothers, we’re following, thank God,
following Jesus home
—to our homes,
to our neighborhoods,
to those places and people nearest to us.
We are following Jesus home.

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