Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. -Mark 1:14-20 (Lectionary for Jan 22, 2012, Third Sunday after Epiphany)
And they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
What does it mean to follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God,
where the last shall be first,
the humble exalted,
the valleys lifted and the divides leveled?
What does it mean to follow Jesus into the Kingdom
where the powerful are pulled from their thrones?
What does it mean to 'repent'--to be transformed, reformed, revolutionized in such a way that we become radically reoriented followers of Christ Crucified--he who was crucified by oppressive government, ridiculed by popular religion, but whose Love, stronger than death, leads to Resurrection, lifting up, up-rising?
What does it mean, for those of us raised to obey all Laws (just or unjust),
to not cause a commotion,
to not act-out,
to work well with others,
to view God as an angry Father in the sky demanding that we be passive,
honoring our powers and principalities
(apparently appointed by God--however, through democratic process)...
What does it mean
to leave the boat,
to follow Jesus,
and to leave our "Father" and his "hired hands" behind?
This week we find John the Baptist--the one who also proclaimed the Kingdom of God's at-handedness, as well as the coming of Christ, the One greater than he who was to come after him (though he was before him)...
This week, we find John the Baptist in Prison.
He was in prison because he had a growing following.
And because he was critical of the Empire.
That is, he was in prison because he spoke Truth to a corrupt government.
A very corrupt government.
Later he would be assassinated. By the government.
John had, it seemed, started the movement.
Now, with John in prison, it was Jesus' time to act.
Jesus reinstated John's message:
Repent (be re-centered, be revolutionized),
for the Kingdom of God is so close you can touch it.
It is at hand.
Then Jesus began to call leaders.
He didn't call just anybody.
(The Crowds would come later).
Up front, he was selective.
He wanted Simon and Andrew, James and John.
Folks who didn't fear change, but who needed it,
who weren't burdened by attachment,
like the Rich Young Ruler who would pay him a visit later in the story.
He wanted fisherman. Leaders who worked, who knew what it was to sacrifice for the sake of love of family. Folks who hadn't the benefit of hand-me-down luxury. Folks who weren't apathetic about the way things are.
In other words, Jesus called folks who were being screwed by the system.
Jesus called Folks who could imagine change.
Folks who heard "New Kingdom" as Good News.
Good News of Great Joy.
To follow Christ today is, no less, to long for that Kingdom,
to work for that Kingdom.
And to call disciples, (to organize people),
to build that Kingdom,
protest for the implementation of that Kingdom's values,
and to fight for those values,
values that lift up the poor and the oppressed and the marginalized.
Values that proclaim the poor
and the hungry
and the peace-makers as blessed,
because in God's Kingdom, there is no more poverty,
no more oppression, or hunger, or war.
Since the IIRON King Day Public Meeting,
(and long before that)
People have been criticizing the work that the organizers and leaders at SOUL and IIRON have been doing.
I even received a small insult from a "writer" on a mis-informed blog, suggesting that the work we do is not Christian. To those who share that author's critique, I would echo the words of St. Phillip to St. Nathaniel:
Come and see.
Tomorrow, leaders from SOUL and IIRON, in solidarity with Occupy the Southside are going to be reoccupying a home for a homeless family.
Homes all over the Southside of Chicago are sitting abandoned, rotting, foreclosed.
Our critics say we are trespassing.
And we are. Yeah. We know that. Thanks.
those who have trespassed against us
are the big banks,
those whose worship of the god called Mammon,
the false god who always demands human sacrifice,
have left our sisters and brothers sacrificed.
Homeless, cold, displaced, crucified, unforgiven of unfair debt.
In these times, Christians would do well to remember
that Love covers a multitude of Sins.
Though only the Great Liberator and Redeemer can forgive the sick souls who continue to benefit at the expense of their own sisters and brothers,
through responsible, careful, acts of love,
illegal or not,
(for Christ's love ethic teaches us that the Law was made for humanity, not humanity for the Law)
can begin to liberate our sisters and brothers
from the bondage of the Sin imposed by the Goliaths of our time,
the giants--corporations and banks who shape laws to benefit the few (the 1%)
rather than feeding the multitudes,
as Christ demonstrated,
was the real work of the Christian.
As long as the Corpus Christi is suffering as a result of Corporate Greed,
the work that SOUL, IIRON, Liberate the Southside, Occupiers, and others are doing to liberate homes, people, and neighborhoods,
is the work of Christ the Liberator.
It is the work of the Church, the Body of Christ,
and it is a work of Love that liberates the poor and lowly from the Sins of those who sit in high places, while the human family is crucified again and again.
Thank you, organizers everywhere, for acting in accord with God's Law,
especially when the laws of men would hinder it.
Thank you for opening your ears to the prophets.
And thank you for leaving those in the boat behind,
so that you might Follow Christ, the Crucified, the King of Kings.
And much admiration.
Pastor Tom Gaulke, First Trinity, Bridgeport, Chicago