Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Journey With Matthew - Day 4

Again with the wilderness! Matthew says the Spirit led Jesus there. But Mark says the Spirit drove him there. (See Mark 1:12) I have experienced the Spirit in both ways in my life, sometimes "lured" as the Whiteheadians would say it, and sometimes pushed against my will.

Driven or led, the Spirit is where the meaning of Baptism is tested and where vocation becomes clearer. Certainly for Jesus who is not called to be a generic messiah but has to figure out what that will look like and which Old Testament trajectories are to be fulfilled? Isaiah's suffering servant or a political leader,the Son of David?

And it is not only Jesus who figures out the meaning of his Baptism in the wilderness: baptism claims us as God's own beloved daughters and sons. But we are tempted to believe otherwise: that we are not good enough, or smart enough, or thin enough, or pretty enough. Jesus gets some clarity around the kind of Messiah he is called to be, and perhaps the wilderness times in our own lives help us to get clearer about the human beings we are called to be.

A photo I took of the Sea of Galilee, January 2010
But we are moving quickly through Matthew's narrative, and it is the next part that captivates my mind and heart on this day: the call of two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew and the Zebedee boys. They are called to follow Jesus and here is the thing - and I hope this is not "heretical" - while the Gospel is about Jesus, without the "yes" of these fishermen the story is not a story. Right? I mean, a leader by definition needs followers. They have to give up a lot to follow him. And that's still true.

I have been privileged over decades now, as a Campus Minister and as chair of the Commission on Ministry and as Canon to the Ordinary to witness firsthand people leaving some things behind to follow Jesus. Leaving behind status and wealth sometimes and stability and security almost always to go to seminary when that seems downright crazy! And I've seen busy lay people devote time and energy to service in many various ways to serve on vestries and search committees and to give up vacation time to attend General Convention or a Saturday to work on a Habitat house. Why do they do that? How do we still hear that voice of Jesus in the context of our own lives saying, "come and follow me?"

The best sermon I've ever read on "calling" is still Frederick Buechner's "The Calling of Voices." If you don't know it, I found a link to a pdf file of it with some good questions as well, if you click here.

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