Sunday, January 22, 2017

Family, Ties - Third Sunday After the Epiphany - January 22, 2017

[ source ]
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." As he 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. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 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. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

- Matthew 4:12-23

This Epiphany we have been in search of Secret keys. 

Keys found in the Scriptures, that when grasped and used, 

unlock to us something of the Gospel of Christ’s Love,

that God’s love might flow more deeply through us, 

and that our hearts, our minds, and our worlds might expand as a result. 


The first key we found in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus said it. 

And it was this: 

If we wish to love, to serve, to honor Jesus, 

then we do so by loving, honoring, and serving our neighbor. 

We love God, and we love Christ, by loving Others. 

Amen? Amen.

This was our first key. 


Our second key we received from St. Peter. 

Like the first key, it was a special gift. 

It was so special that Peter received it in a vision.

And Peter named the key this way: 

He called it: 

“I now understand that God shows no partiality.”
That is, 
“I now understand that God does not discriminate.” 

With this key, our hearts also became unlocked to the discovery that:

When I discriminate against others, when I hate—by class or creed or gender or color, by age or ability, 

I cloud my vision (or my vision is clouded);

when I fall prey to the -isms, I wear a veil, and so I see God less clearly. 

If I wish to see more deeply, that is to see with my heart, 

I must have those deadly veils  


And when a veil is lifted, in that revelation, in that epiphany, there I find something of God, there is unlocked to me again something of the Gospel of Christ’s love. 

This was our second key. 

Finally, last week, in the calls of the disciples, and in the call of Samuel (who had help from Eli), and as we reflected on the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we were given another key to unlock to us the Gospel of Christ’s Love. 

That key was this: 

When God calls, it’s tough to respond on our own. 
When God calls, God calls us together. 


This was our third key. 


Today, we come across one of my favorite keys. 

It’s a favorite for me not because I enjoy it.

 I don’t.

But because for me, throughout life, it’s been particularly challenging. 

This key is heavy. It’s difficult to handle. 

But with it, we can unlock some very heavy doors that would block us from the Gospel of Jesus’ Love.  

We learn about this key in yet another call story, not so different from our story from last week.
We learn about it in the call of the brothers, James and John. 

And the key sounds like this: 

To follow Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus’ Love, 
sometimes we are called to leave everything behind. 
Even the people and things that define us the most. 

To follow Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus’ Love, 
sometimes we are called to leave everything behind. 
Even the people and things that define us the most.

For example, when Jesus called, James and John left their father. 

They left him in the boat! 

And instead they went with Jesus to “fish for people.” 

Did you ever wonder what on earth were they thinking? 


I had the joy of attending the Lutheran School of Theology’s panel discussion for MLK day this past Monday. 

Some of our friends spoke on the panel. 

Pastor Drew spoke. Pastor Liz spoke—she was there. And a few others. 

And also Dr. Linda Thomas was one of the speakers. 

And one of the things she said was profound to me. 

And what she said helps me to know what to do with this key that we receive today, how to lift it, how to use it, 

this key found in the call of James and John, meant to unlock to us something of the Gospel of Christ’s Love. 

Dr. Thomas said this. She said: 

“I get that we’re all one family under God.”

She said: 

“I get that with God as our Parent, we’re all siblings.” 

(We’re all family, just like James and John—right?)

“I get that,” she said…

“But,” she said, (and listen, so you hear this): 

“When I was young, if my sibling was out getting picked on in the street, getting picked on or pushed around, or worse, I wouldn’t think twice about what I should do. I’d run out into the street and say to whoever was harassing her,

          ‘LEAVE MY SISTER ALONE!’” 

“So if you’re gonna call me sister, if you’re gonna call me sibling, she said, you better be ready to have my back. Otherwise, don’t call me your sibling, because you’re not acting like it.” 

Otherwise, don’t call me your sibling, Because you’re not acting like it.

Dr. Thomas said this on King day, as an African American woman, to our church body, and to anyone with ears to hear: 

Don’t call me sibling, unless your gonna act like it. 


To follow Jesus, James and John were called beyond the confines of their family identity. 

Not because family is bad.

 It’s not. 

But because their family was bigger now. Amen? Amen. 

Bigger than their home, bigger than their church, and, soon they would learn, bigger than their tribe, their country, their nation. 

God's love is bigger than our borders. 

With Jesus, their family was as plentiful as the fish in the sea. 

And if any of their new siblings in Christ needed them, they couldn’t just run on back to that boat. 

Instead, they would learn to feed one another, to feed the crowds, to carry one another’s crosses, and to stick together, even when it seemed all was lost. 

Instead they learned to be faithful to one another. 

James and John had to move beyond the confines of their family identity. They had to shed that identity, leave it behind, because 

within the parameters of that definition, they no longer fit. 

Their love, their minds, their worlds had been stretched, because in following Jesus, they had unlocked something of the Gospel of Christ’s Love. 


If we wish to long for God's Reign with a new heart, 
to follow Jesus, to be Jesus’ disciples, 
then we must constantly learn and relearn and relearn to love more widely—wider than our family lines,
wider than our churches' walls, 
wider than our national borders and white picket fences.

Our love must reflect God's Reign of Love for which we long, transcending and transgressing these boundaries 
for the sake of a world where all are able to eat, 

for the sake of the whole human family, everywhere, every place,

and for the sake of all creation. 

That is, for the sake of Love.

If our love has not yet transcended or transgressed boundaries: of class, of color, of nation or documentation, 

if our love has failed to embrace an Other with the Love of Christ, 

to carry another's cross, 

to stand in liberative solidarity, 

to run out in the streets and say “leave my sibling alone!”

If our love has failed to do all of these things, 


it is possible 


we are still in the boat with our father, fishing for fish. 


Thankfully, the boat is precisely the place that Jesus extends to us the call. 


To love, serve, and honor God, is to love, serve, and honor the other. 

God does not discriminate. 

God calls us together. It’s hard to go it alone. 

And To follow Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus’ Love, 
sometimes we are called to leave everything behind. 
Even the people and things that define us the most. 

What do you need to leave behind

What do you need to leave,

to follow Jesus’ call?

No comments:

Post a Comment