Sermon for Epiphany 3A
Last night I dreamed that all but ten of you heard this sermon. The rest of you walked out in protest. Hopefully that won’t happen in real life. Dreams are funny, especially in the telling, they reveal a deep truth. So perhaps I’m a little anxious about the content of this sermon because I need to hear this one especially.
Anyway, in my dream the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and other dignitaries were there, as were a few of my seminary classmates, and since I don’t see any of them here, I think we are safe. The funny thing in the dream was that you all came back for the Creed, so you were definitely protesting the sermon, but you were committed to Trinitarian Christianity, so that’s good. That’s the thing about my dreams in particular, they are strange, but perfectly reasonable. There are no unicorns or hobbits in my dreams, everything really could happen. My wife finds this to be rather boring: my dreams are just reality, but slanted.
Come to think of it, that is what Jesus was after: a slanted reality. A reality where everything is the same, but everything is different, where somehow the lighting has changed so that we see more of reality. It’s in this slanted reality and his invitation to it that we catch up to him today in our gospel.
Jesus begins his ministry because of the arrest of John the Baptist. There is continuity in the two ministries of John and Jesus,but they are not the same: John was preaching the repentance of sins, Jesus was proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. Today we see that Jesus begins calling disciples. There is a word in these accounts of Jesus calling his followers that always interests me that word is, “immediately.” “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Immediate. There is no waiting. There is no preparation. There is no, “waiting for the right time,” or the right season of life. They follow him immediately. Following Jesus is a right-here, right-now occasion. None of us can ever be prepared for following Jesus: it’s not that kind of thing. You get prepared for following Jesus by following Jesus. I want to say to anyone who is thinking about going deeper in their spiritual lives, or committing to an outreach mission, just do it, follow Jesus immediately, come with us, we don’t know exactly what’s going on either, but Jesus is leading us into some interesting territory.
Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Now, we Christians believe that Jesus is the perfect icon, the most-full manifestation, of the God of love that the world has ever encountered. When Jesus leads us, he leads us onto more and more profound avenues of love. That is the way of Jesus, as a spiritual and political path.
Now, don’t get antsy, I can’t have you walking out on me, I know you won’t, because the part where you leave, isn’t this part, it’s in a minute. Anyway, the way of Jesus is the way of love, as a spiritual and political path. By politics I mean any public act, yes it can be voting and advocacy but it also means how you buy, sell, work, parent, be a friend, or talk to any of your neighbors. The way of Jesus is the way of love. When we follow Jesus we are lead more and more into love.
So, my questions for you today is: how is that going? This is the part of the sermon where you walk out. Is your love for others total or have you left a few people out? Have you followed Jesus into every avenue of your life or is there one person that you have walled off from Jesus’ leading? You see we can do that, even though we follow Jesus, we can still direct him. Jesus is so non-violent that he will allow us to forbid him to go into certain areas of our lives. It’s as if we say, “Yes Jesus I will follow you but not over here, or over there, and that place over there, you can go there in a year.” Do you see what I am saying?
Where have you walled off Jesus’ way of love in your life? Is it in your family’s past? Perhaps your college roommate. Maybe you have walled off Jesus’ leading in how you make a living or in your sex life. Maybe you have refused to love the mayor, our our governor, or our president.
You see, when we remove even one person from our love, from Jesus’ guidance, we are showing that our following of Jesus into love is not complete. As one of my spiritual mothers says, “When we leave one person out of our love, or commit one act of un-kindness, we are revealing that our so-called love is only there because it pays.”
“We are revealing that our so-called love is only there because it pays.” We are admitting that since there is even one that is walled off from Jesus’ leading that we aren’t following him at all, we are in fact leading him. We are treating Jesus not as our lord but as a dog that is leashed. Yes, he walks ahead of us, but we are the ones who are leading.
(All Gods must be kept on a leash)
“Oh Jesus I love that you are leading me, No! Not there! Bad Jesus, let’s not walk over there. Good Jesus, we don’t walk over there, that area, that person is undeserving of my love.”
“When we leave one person out of our love, or commit one act of un-kindness, we are revealing that our so-called love is only there because it pays.” That one person that you don’t love, it shows that the entire system, your entire well-meaning-ness is really just a cottage industry of quid-pro-quo of affection and respect based on the condition of pleasing you. Jesus wants to trample that old system and set up a new one of unconditioned love, and he has empowered you to do it too.
Now, when we found that we have not been following Jesus into certain places and relationships, we are not lost or even bad, but we have the opportunity to, just as those first disciples did, to immediately follow Jesus into all of life. Immediately, not later, not soon, not once we have a moment to deal, immediately.
Love does not mean approval by the way. We seem to have forgotten that. Love does not mean approval. We can love, we can be lead into love by Jesus, even though we might be actively opposing a given person or policy. We are called to follow the lord of love more deeply into love. We can pray for those we love, and we can actively oppose them, that is possible. But what I expect from all of you is love.
I implore you, please, please allow Jesus the Lord of Love to lead you into every corner of your lives. Let him illuminate all the darkness that you don’t let love into. If you allow him in, he will transform you. Even those you do not like and who are evil, you can love and fight even more, but you will love them.
You’re still here.
Must have just been a dream.
I’m glad. I’m glad you are here. In fact, I hope you believe me when I say, I love you.