Sunday, February 07, 2010

Come with me

Luke 5:1-11 New Revised Standard Version
1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

SKIT (slightly revised from a book of skits titled “Jesus and Peter”)
Jesus Peter . . .
Peter yes Jesus?
Jesus come with me
Peter where are you going?
Jesus I’m not telling you
Peter Do you not know?
Jesus Oh yes. I have a fair idea
Peter Then . . why won’t you tell me?
Jesus You might not like it
Peter Well, thanks for your consideration Jesus
a pause
Jesus Peter . . .
Peter Yes, Jesus?
Jesus Come with me
Peter Can I bring somebody else?
Jesus Just bring yourself
Peter Will there be only the two of us?
Jesus Oh no. There’ll be plenty of others
Peter Will I know some of them?
what about my cousin? Will he be there?
Is there any chance of my sister coming if she’s still crushing on you?
And what about my grandmother?
Oh Jesus, I’d love to bring my grandmother.
Can I?
Jesus Peter . . . just bring yourself.
Peter But . . .but . . you said there would be others.
Jesus That’s right.
Peter Who are they?
Jesus I’m not telling you
Peter Why not?
Jesus You might not like them.
Peter Aw, thanks a bunch Jesus.
a pause
Jesus Peter . . .
Peter yes, Jesus???
Jesus Come with me.
Peter Jesus, I’ve got better things to do than to go on a mystery tour.
But I’ll think about it.
Just tell me what I’ll need
Jesus What do you mean?
Peter Well, if I’m going somewhere I don’t know
with people you refuse to tell me about,
there are some things that might come in handy.
Jesus Like what?
Peter Like something I can read in case I get bored . . .
Like something to sing in case I get sad . . .
Like a new pair of jeans in case there’s a party
Jesus Peter, you’ll not need anything.
Just bring yourself.
That’s enough to contend with.
Peter Jesus . . . do you want me to end up like you?
Jesus Peter . . .
I’m going. . .
Are you coming with me?

I had a couple of pretty heavy conversations about Christianity this week. One was with a fairly new acquaintance who doesn’t like Christians much because he believes everything the media says about what Christians believe and stand for and didn’t even know there was such a thing as Progressive Christianity. The other was with a Christian friend who is pretty much my polar opposite politically and theologically and wanted to know what Progressive Christianity thought about the Gay Agenda. Meanwhile I’ve been reading articles in journals and magazines about what it means to be Progressive and committed to ecumenism and interfaith cooperation. I’ve read every point of view from “all paths to God are equally true” to “you can only get to the Father through the Son and everyone else is going to hell.” And I read this skit several times.

I wish I could just say to all of them “Jesus said come with me. Don’t bring anything. Not a book, not new jeans, not your cousin, not any preconceived notions about where we’re going or what we might be doing. Just bring yourself.”

Do you have any idea how hard it is to just bring yourself? Can any of us really do that? Many of you know that I left the church I was raised in when I was 18 and old enough to leave home. For the next 25 years I tried lots of alternative paths to God. I tried New Age spirituality, which for me was pretty much following whatever practices looked cool to me at the time. You know, listening to sitar music while burning incense and doing yoga and meditating on crystals. But it was pretty self focused. There was no direction no instruction to care for others, although there was an adaptation of the Wiccan command to “do as you will as long as you harm no one. For me, it got kind of boring pretty quickly. It felt like a way just to feel good about myself and the world and at one with the universe. And that’s nice, but something was missing. It was solitary, there was no worshipping community. There was no one to address my prayers, my joys, my sorrows to. They just sort of went up . . .

I tried Buddhism for a while. I really liked the Eight Fold Path, the directions on how to live in such a way that you enhance the world around you while doing no harm to anyone. I liked the emphasis on peace and allowing others to make their own mistakes. I really liked reincarnation, getting to do life over and over until you get it right. But I had a hard time with the basic tenet that life is suffering because of our attachment to things – including food, family, the idea of an eternal soul, even life itself. God looked at the world and all the creatures and said “It is good.” How can the life God created be suffering? Jesus said, love one another. How can you do that and be detached at the same time? As you can see, I kept bringing my preconceived notions of what religion should be with me.

For a number of years I was Spiritual but not Religious. I was happy to talk about my Higher Power or the God of my understanding and I would cheerfully do that for hours. But I really didn’t want to hear about any particular religious beliefs. During those Spiritual but not Religious years I learned that God loves all of us and forgives any who come asking forgiveness. I learned how to pray and listen for God’s direction and how to work at changing myself to become a person whose life would be more pleasing to God – things I hadn’t learned in my church or in those other places I had looked.

As you know, eventually I realized that I was going to have to find a church to become part of. It seems that a long time ago, when I wasn’t even really paying attention, Jesus said “Maria will you come with me?” While I was trying all of those other paths to God, Jesus was always right there waiting for me to make up my mind. All those years I was away from church I kept reading the Bible, the Old Testament for entertainment and the Gospels for advice on how to live. I kept reading Jesus’ words to love everyone. I kept reading about how he protected the weak, healed the sick, loved the unlovable. I kept reading that he didn’t come for the righteous, but for those who needed him. And I realized I needed him. I needed him so that I could see the face of God. So that I could stop seeing the punishing, angry, judgmental God I was raised with and see God as God truly is through the words and actions of his Son.

This passage may underline more than any other Jesus’ mission to come for those who need him. He didn’t go to the temple looking for disciples among the wise and well educated. He didn’t seek out the most faithful and respectable of the Jewish people to proclaim the Good News to them. He went to the lakeshore. He sought out tired, hardworking people at the end of their work day. He asked them to follow without any clue where they would go, what they would find there, what might lie ahead. And they did, without question or pause – at least, Luke says “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”

Jesus is still coming to tired, hardworking people at the end of their work day and asking them to follow, with no clue what lies ahead. With no goal or plan or map. We’re in that position right now as a congregation. In fact, our whole denomination is in that position right now. In an interview in DisciplesWorld magazine, General Minister and President Sharon Watkins says that we Disciples are “on a journey without a map”. Scary, but no more so than what those fishermen faced.

Jesus has come again to the lakeshore. He has come to us, to tired, hardworking people who have already put in a life time of work and wonder what there is to show for it. He knows we are not wealthy or powerful in the way the world recognizes wealth or power. But we are rich in faith. Let us also be rich in willingness to follow when Jesus says “Come with me.”


Tahoe Mom said...

Maria ~ another sermon I read this week on this scripture reminds us that miracles are just waiting to happen. All they need is intention "let down your nets" and belief "if you say so." I liked the skit. I found you through Intersection. I look forward to reading more from you ~ with blessings

Mary Jo Bradshaw said...

This sermon literally brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.