By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
January 23, 2011
Read: Matthew 4:12-23
There was an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” that was about the elephant seals of Argentina. The show focused on a mother and her seal pup, who had just been born. Soon after birthing her baby, the mother, now famished, abandoned the pup on the shore so she could go feed in the rich waters off the coast. After feeding, she returned to a different part of the beach and began to call for her baby. Other mothers had done the same, and all had returned at a similar time; we wonder how they could find each other. The camera then followed the mother as she called to her pup and listened for the response. Following each others’ voices and scents, soon the mother and pup were reunited. The host explained that, from the moment of birth, the sound an scent of the pup are imprinted in the mother’s memory, and the sound and scent of the mother are imprinted in the pup’s memory. This fascinated me and it makes me think of how it is with God. Perhaps we are imprinted with a memory of God, and God is imprinted with a memory of us, and even if it takes a lifetime, we will find each other.
St. Augustine opens the first book of his Confessions with the prayer and statement that “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
Today we hear that “As Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon and Andrew, and he said to them, ‘Follow me.’ And they followed him. Going on from there, he saw two brothers, James and John, and he called them. And immediately, they followed him.”
And so begins the public ministry of Jesus. The 30 years leading up to this day was merely practice; it was training, preparation. Now the hard part begins. Now comes the chapter that would include ridicule, rejection, persecution and humiliation. Jesus could have done it alone; he could have preached and taught and healed and fed the masses all alone, but he chose to do it with others. During those three years of ministry, his disciples were at once the greatest source of his gratification and the greatest source of his frustration. But it all began there, on the shores of a lake called Galilee, and two words: “Follow me.” And they did.
We also hear that Jesus began proclaiming, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”. Now, the kingdom of heaven is not a place; the kingdom is broader than any particular place or any political empire. So you might ask, well then, what is it? What does the Kingdom look like? Well, it is what Jesus says and does. Examples of what it looks like when God’s influence, or culture, becomes real; tears in the fabric of business as usual. The kingdom is the whole reach of God’s authority and influence. It reaches into every different political or sociological stance. God’s empire reaches all the way to the Sea of Galilee to the shores with fishermen. Jesus shows up when they are doing their everyday stuff. They are doing their jobs. Jesus called, and they responded.
To what does Jesus call us? Too often, perhaps, we answer that question in terms that do not require enough of us. Some Christians would say that we are called to belief; others would say, to church membership; others would say, to service. Others would say it is all these things and more. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that the call to “follow me” was a call “to absolute discipleship,” and that only in surrendering ourselves to Jesus’ command could we, paradoxically, know our greatest joy.
A friend has a cuckoo clock that the family picked up in Germany some years ago. For years it kept good time, but increasingly it ran slow or fast or was unwilling to work at all. When it was working, my friend would set the hands to the correct time each morning, and it proceeded from that point to keep time as it chose. They didn’t want to get rid of it because it reminded them of a pleasant trip. But the trouble was not really with the hands. The trouble was deep inside. Its movement had become all gummed up with oil and dirt. What it needed was a good cleaning inside. When that happened, it began to work dependably again. Our lives, too, need more than just an occasional adjustment. They need a cleansing that begins with the heart. “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is near.”
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”. We are imprinted with a memory of God, and God is imprinted with a memory of us, and even if it takes a lifetime, we will find each other.
And can you hear Jesus calling, “follow me?”
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