I once remember living in mid-air. I was wholly terrified and equally exhilarated. I felt unprotected, yet strangely safe. I felt as though my world had cracked open and the contents of my life’s story had came spilling out, never to be reassembled with the same plot, without even a glimpse of the new stories yet to be written.
Jesus stands still and says, “Call them here” to you who push others aside; to you who look the other way when injustice is right in front of you; to you who toss a coin to the hungry person on the street and dare not look at the larger issues causing this person’s poverty; to you who have grown tired and weary at watching the news and having your heart broken and have learned to shut it all out all. Jesus stands still and says, “Call him here.”, to you.
So I invite you to think about the questions your heart is asking of God this day? What are you talking with God about? What are you wondering about? What do you want from God? And then think about how you and God might reframe that question to get at what really matters to God? Perhaps it matters to you that you find the next best job for yourself. But perhaps it matters more to God that your discernment involves the criteria of how best may you use all of your life to bring God’s goodness into the world? Or perhaps God is really asking you a question you had not yet pondered, and is inviting you to a place of healing that will allow you to be changed at depth, and take that more whole place into the world. Sometimes God invites us into a conversation we didn’t even know we should be having. That happened to me in the desert on an open day of reflection and prayer. God and I had a conversation, which I hadn’t even known was on my radar.
In answer to their question, Jesus, immediately and characteristically, shifts the attention from the legalistic, proscriptive stance about the lawfulness of divorce and directs our attention to thinking more broadly about what it is that God intends for all people. So suddenly, we’re all in this conversation about God’s desire for us to be in relationship with each other and what that is to look like.
Jesus’ directive to welcome the child is an invitation to live in a strangely intimate, uncomfortable, vulnerable, and a bit awkward place, for it is there that we will always find God. This is an invitation to offer radical hospitality to those among us and to those parts within us that need to stretched, healed, and made new. Let us say yes to this invitation so that we may enter into the saving grace of the God who loves us without measure and charges us to grow. Amen.
Like Jesus, we need to be attentive to an alternative voice; we need to be able to listen deeply to those whose voices are hushed in our society; we need to clear away the barriers set within our communities which systematically make people mute. We need to listen for the voice of love, never being attuned to the voice of hate.
I realized that in order to want this life, which I’m not in control of, of a life that leads me beyond the near and safe, a life which I now have, as your priest, which leads me into unchartered waters nearly daily, I need to love God deeply and trust that God desires a wholeness and an aliveness of life for me, which will only draw me into a deeper goodness. This means I need to first believe, know in the deepest part my heart, not just with my head, that God loves me, but also to know that I love God. Not just believe in God, nor just understand the doctrine of The Episcopal Church or comprehend that we each are God’s beloved, but actually to know God’s love and then to return that love, with a passion beyond my imagining.
One major key to finding this real relationship with God through Christ which John’s gospel offers us is the practice of ABIDING. . . Learning to abide is about allowing the Spirit to teach us how to live and walk through the full spectrum of life’s tensions – hanging in there with God while God continues to stay with and hold onto us, loving us for now and always.
Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is that which gives life, true life, eternal life, life that sustains and nourishes our souls so we may experience the kingdom here and now, and so that we may be raised up with him on the very last day.
Joy is actually the fruit of spiritual maturity; joy that shows up in our desire to be attached to some purpose larger than ourselves; joy that shows up in our being loving and patient toward one another, joy that shows up in our desire to play our part alongside one another to build up this part of Christ’s body; joy that shows up in helping to carry the burden of others; It’s a glorious and joyful thing we can do for one another and which we can become. For when we show joy, we are inviting others to taste and see that the Lord is good. And that’s letting God’s grace into the world.
I think we all have a story to tell of how it is we came to follow Jesus, how we came to “get in the boat with him”, as we hear in today’s gospel. As best I can recall, I was 7 years old when I first made a conscious faith commitment to “get into that boat” and follow Jesus. Well, my life experience at 7 years old was certainly pretty limited. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into by simply saying, “Yes, Jesus, come into my heart; I want to follow you”.
If we don’t make enough contact with God, then it’s like lightly gliding the bow over the strings and no distinct sound is made. In our spiritual life, if there’s not enough contact with God, there’s often not clarity in one’s life. We tend to bounce around as the wind blows or life events happen, and there’s not clear sense of direction. If we have too much contact with the string and never release, we choke the sound. If we hold onto too tightly to the things in our lives, we can choke out God.