Of old tents and starry nights...
“As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw…” (Matthew 4:18)
Having our Lord committed Himself to the mission of salvation and intent in bringing us all back home, Jesus pressed on in His mission. First, however, He was to face the same temptations that we all have to face in life – To make things happen on our own, to take shortcuts so we can get away with what we do really want, and to pretend that we know better than God.
Eventually, Jesus returned to do what God has called Him to do. And so, as He was walking by Lake Galilee’s seashore, Jesus found himself walking among the many fishermen. Men were either tending their nets or getting themselves ready for going fishing the next day.
One can easily imagine that perhaps, for taking a break in his journey, Jesus may have stopped and watched what the men were doing. And so, among the many, Jesus saw just two – Simon and Andrew casting a net.
There were many fishermen, but Jesus saw – noticed – only two of them. Was there anything special in Simon and Andrew? The Scriptures don’t tell us. What was that Jesus saw in them?
We now know the kind of person Simon was – rough, non-sense, and impulsive. Once, Peter tried to boss Jesus around. He was prone to violence and, even if he had a good heart, at one time Peter conveniently forgot that he had been with Jesus! I wonder what Jesus saw that moved him to call Simon.
Andrew – even being Simon’s brother – was in another league. First, we know about his spiritual awareness – for as the gospel tells us, Andrew was one of John’s followers. And, wanting to be sure and committing himself, Andrew asked the right questions – He wanted to know if Jesus was the genuine article.
Yet, what Jesus saw right by the lake was two plain, non-descript, run-of-the-mill fishermen. Everything else was in the future. However, Jesus called them.
Reading the gospels, we learn that Jesus had one of the most precious gifts God offered to humankind. A gift that we all share and that quite often goes either being blunted – or misused. The gift of vision.
The gospel tells us that Jesus would not quench a flickering ember nor break a bruised twig. In other words, Jesus saw beyond what others saw. Be it one of his siblings, or even beyond what we can see in ourselves.
Jesus saw Simon and Andrew and James and John. Before they could do a thing or say something, Jesus saw them in a different light – The light of love, mercy, compassion, and grace. And so Jesus made his mind – “Come along, boys! I’ll teach you how to fish for a different catch!”
Looking at a field just barely planted, Jesus saw it white and ready for the harvest. When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved to compassion – rather than contempt.
And when given the opportunity to be judge, jury, and hangman, he turned the tables on the challengers. As Christian writer Sharon Jaynes remarks, “When religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman and put her down like dirt, Jesus looked at her with compassion and lifted her out of it.”
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, it is the loving father who sees his son as who he truly is. While through bad decisions the son could only see himself as unworthy of love, the father loved him for whom his son was, not what he had done.
One day Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of one of the religious leaders of the day, Simon. Suddenly an uninvited guest – and a woman at that – enters the house! Without a word, she barges in, lounges at the Master’s feet and kisses His feet.
Simon and others were appalled! Jesus allowed himself to be touched by a woman, and a notorious sinner at that. But Jesus, rather than piling up condemnation, covers her with forgiving grace and love. Jesus saw her for whom she was, and not by her circumstances.
In today’s first lesson, the Prophet announces the Great Light of Salvation which, as our gospel affirms, was revealed in Jesus Christ. Now, if anything, what is light for if it is not for helping us to see?
In the Old Testament story about the calling of Abram, the Lord God called Abram out of his tent, and said, “Look up, Abram! Look up to the stars and try to count them! Try!” And then God said, “See – as countless the stars of the night are, so your offspring shall be,” (Genesis 15).
Now, here is the thing. To see what God wanted Abram to see, Abram had to get out of his tent. In other words, Abram had to leave the traditional tent and the security of the known, well-worn tarp that had proven to be so useful for so long and to get out of his comfort zone.
Like many people in the desert, Abram knew the names of the stars, and, like many, he understood the tapestry of constellations. Since a child Abram had learned to use the stars and to find his way in a featureless land.
But God now asked Abram to get out of the coziness of the little world that was his tent, and he was asked to see the stars in a new way.
Let me suggest that this is what Epiphany is. It is a call, right at the beginning of the year prodding us to get out of the familiar, the well-worn tarp of our traditions and what has worked so well for so long, and to see what God may want us to see.
And once out, then to learn to see the familiar patterns of life that had guided so well in a new and even, perhaps, challenging way.
Perhaps we may have not come yet to acknowledge it, but a lot of our daily life as individuals as well as a society and even as a church runs in autopilot.
We have grown to live under a tarp – well-worn, with some holes here and there, and faded by the storms of life but, heck, still works, isn’t it? Why move out from under the familiar and inviting shade?
The Epiphany lessons, and what we learn about what Jesus actually did and taught, and how Jesus interacted with people are God’s way to prod us out of our familiar tent. During the Epiphany Jesus invites us to see the world around us and even ourselves under a different light – The Light of Life that Jesus shines.
For God loves to behold us not for what we do, but for who we are and what we can accomplish in the power of the Spirit. As the gospel tells us, “Jesus knew” what was in the hearts of people. Jesus sees us as his brothers and sisters, as God’s beloved daughters and sons for whom there is nothing He would not do for us and in us – even at the price of the Cross.
Now, let me ask you. Look at St. David’s. In your imagination get up on an imaginary drone. Look down at this building and the old cemetery. Now, go down inside the nave.
There are empty seats, yet you still can notice a group of Christians, dedicated, committed and faithfully meeting Sunday after Sunday, year after year, come what may. Even when sometimes they may feel overworked and overburdened by the challenges of daily life.
What do you see? Let me invite you out of your tent and look up to the starry heavens. And now, again, let me ask you, “What Jesus would see?”
Let me tell you what I see. I see a congregation of young and old, and of not-too-youngs and not-too-olds, but all with hearts ablaze with the love of Christ.
I see a congregation where the presence of the Risen Lord is celebrated and where His loving hands are ready to touch, to heal, and to bless all those who would like to come, no questions asked.
I see a place where anyone and everyone has a seat at the Table of Mercy and Love. I see an overflowing place where people come to bury hatches and hatreds and to embrace each other into the warm fellowship of Jesus, the Savior of us all.
I see the Peters and the Marys, the Andrews, the Johns, and the Marks. I see the Simeons and Annas, and Davids and Teresas. I see the Pauls and the Dorcas that one day will carry the Good News of God’s love beyond Aylett.
Like Jesus looking at the fields not yet ripe and yet ready for the harvest, I see a growing and serving community, a shining light, a place of reconciliation and of healing.
I see a welcoming home to all those whom the Lord is calling from afar – to join in the service of Jesus Christ in the power of His Spirit. I see a community of faith, trust, and devotion, a living temple dedicated to the glory of God.
I see St David’s as a holy ground, were the ever-burning love of Christ shines rays of hope, grace, love, and joy.
Now let me tell you – Having seen what I see, this is I don’t want to miss what God’s next move is going to be! As the Psalmist invites us, let us not be fearful, for the Lord is our light and our Salvation!
Now, dear reader, if you are following us from afar – Get moving! Come along and join us!
But even if you can’t join us in person, make yourself known to us. Join us in prayer and though it may be in this brave new world of “virtual” communications, share with us the precious gift of God’s life in you.
I know that you may have many choices but let me assure you – You wouldn’t want to miss anything that God has in store for all of us here at St David’s!