Thursday, January 30, 2014

Go Fish

Matthew 4:12-23 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the Heavenly Empire has come near.” 18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
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How might this ancient text become an animated Script for us?

1. This episode reminds us that God's love and salvation flow to everyone. We are all chosen. "Gentiles" are stand-ins for those with different ethnicities, nationalities, disabilities, belief systems & sexual orientations than our own. After all, everyone experiences darkness, locked into patterns of poverty, boredom, sickness and/or addiction, overwhelmed by the family systems, social mores & economic policies that govern our world. Only a divine Light can leads us out.

2. Likewise, Jesus' invitation to "follow" is extended to everyone, even smelly fishermen with strange Galilean accents. We are called out of allegiance to Empire (Rome and her client rulers controlled the fishing trade through strict regulation & taxation) and our powerful family expectations and obligations into a subversive citizenship to the Heavenly Empire and a new family of brothers & sisters committed to peculiar Divine duties and desires. When we follow conventional wisdom and common sense--or patriotism and patrilineal passions--instead of the convictions of Jesus, we get caught in the imperial net that leads to the shadow of death. Ultimately, we, like the disciples, are called to follow Jesus up the Mount to a new way of life that leads to loving our enemies, a disciplined intimacy with our spouses, sharing our possessions and a commitment to simple trust in a world of anxiety.

3. Jesus, the Jewish rabbi, pursues his followers. This flips the script on what was expected in 1st century Palestinian Judaism, where followers would seek out and find their rabbi. Jesus reflects a God who is determined to find active participants in the fulfillment of the Divine Dream of redemption for every Living thing on earth. Over and over and over again, God's Spirit subtly presses upon our hearts and minds, beckoning us to join in on the Conspiracy to plant seeds of love and peace in the most ordinary and awkward places. There is no try-out or application. We are already accepted & commissioned. God's Grace goes before us and picks us up whenever we cave in to our copings or become paralyzed by our patterns. We enlist, not in order to earn Love, but because this Love compels us to pass it on.

4. The daunting vocation of fishing for people continues to challenges us. Jesus' movement to obliterate fear, anxiety, pain, injustice and hate needs people of faith & conscience who will put their physical & financial assets on the line. We must re-animate "evangelism" away from the Evangelicals who have counterfeited it into a question concerning eternal destinations. As the 13th century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart wrote, "In this life, we are to become heaven so that God might find a home here." Let's organize.

5. Back to the beginning: Jesus' campaign is launched on the back of John the Baptizer, whose disruptive voice caused the powers to arrest him. Like John, we, too, are called to live prophetically in the face of injustice. Where might we be called to proclaim the truth in inconvenient places? On behalf of the undocumented. The unemployed. The maltreated. The abused. In our churches, in the marketplace, in the halls of government, in the media and in our living rooms.

All of this is much-needed good news today, just as it always has been.

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