Saturday, January 25, 2014

3rd Sunday after the Epiphany yr A Jan 26 2014

Audio 1.26.2014

Amber and I spent this last week in Alexandria VA at the Episcopal Christian Educators conference. It was a great conference, and I thank you for allowing us to go. I also was at a meeting of the Council for Life-long Faith Formation, a committee of the Church Center on which I serve. You all know I ordinarily go outside in the morning for a bit of a walk, and I wasn't prepared for the record cold in Virginia, so I ended up using the treadmill in the exercise room. The only thing that makes that bearable for me is watching TV while I walk, so I did. I saw many times an advertisement for a book, "Lean In," by Sheryl Sandberg. The author asked me right there on the TV, what fear gets in the way of you doing something extraordinary? What fear gets in the way of me doing something extraordinary? 

So I'm reading this story about Jesus, who shows up right in the middle of Andrew and Peter, James and John's ordinary lives, and calls them to do extraordinary things. Jesus calls ordinary people, right in the middle of their ordinary lives to do extraordinary things … and Jesus still does.  Jesus calls you right in the middle of your ordinary life to do extraordinary things. It says it right here in our bible, and I just don't think we believe it. We do believe Jesus calls other people, people who are good enough, or holy, or spiritual, or special, or something, but it's so much harder to believe that Jesus calls us ordinary people to do extraordinary things. But friends, the truth is right in front of us. And I believe that the reason we stay in our boat instead of getting up and out and follow Jesus, is that we are afraid, and that keeps us from doing something extraordinary. I do believe that Andrew and Peter, James and John are just like us, I think they were afraid as well, they wouldn't be humans just like us if they were not, but they followed Jesus anyway. What did they see in Jesus? What did they experience in Jesus?

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people." Ordinary people called to do extraordinary things. What is the extraordinary thing to which we are called? I believe that extraordinary thing to which we are called begins with the epic adventure of life with Jesus Christ, accompanied by this fellowship who has also said yes to this adventure. 

What other story is worth the life of the one who is God in the flesh, whose love for us is so complete that this creator is willing to join us in the adventure, to walk the journey with us, and to lay down his very life for us. What other story is worth our own lives? I believe there is no other story worth our lives, and indeed, this adventure calls for our very lives. 

There are stories we tell that follow this same arc of love, stories that are epic, stories that teach us about the Love that wins, stories that invite us into the knowing who this God may be. For example, the story many of us have read or watched of Harry Potter, which begins with the Love of parents that was so true and good that they laid down their lives for the hope that Love would win. That story continues in struggle against the dementors, struggle with pride, struggle with justice and prejudice. For Love to win in the Harry Potter story, one must conjure up a memory of goodness or rightness or family, a memory of strength in vulnerability, and that is the power that overcomes the dark forces. But as good as the Harry Potter story may be, as good as any epic story of our past or present, the story of Jesus is the story we give our lives to. 

The extraordinary thing to which we are called is this epic adventure, this epic adventure of love and loss, pain and heartache, death and life. And on this epic adventure we are asked to be courageous. And courage rises up out of adversity. Courage is the willingness to show up and be seen in our lives. That is why this story that we tell about God, creator of all that is seen and unseen, Jesus, the one who pours out his life for us and collects our humanity in his, is our story. Each one of us has had our hearts broken, each one of us has been betrayed, each one of us has lost the ones we love, each one of us has failed. Jesus, God with us, shows us that the story of our lives has meaning. Jesus, God with us, shows us that no matter what we think about the story of our lives, God loves us, and Love wins.  

And adversity opens up hope. And hope is born. The epic adventure requires adversity, courage, and hope. You and I are equipped for this adventure. 

And what fear do we need to release in order to respond to the call to do extraordinary things, to embark on this epic adventure? Fear runs roughshod over our families when we try to be perfect, or when we try to do it all. Fear hardens our hearts when we try to protect ourselves from any more loss. Fear causes us to do nothing because we don't want to fail. We begin to protect what we have when we are afraid, fear creates exclusivity. Do not be afraid, the angels tell us. Let go of the fear.

The epic adventure begins in love, but as in all adventures, there is loss, and heartache. But what makes it possible to continue, despite the adversity, what makes it possible to see the arc all the way to courage and hope, is God and each other. We need to find courage and hope in each other, and in the others who will join with us on the epic adventure. It is courage that makes us fishers of people. 

So what is the extraordinary thing you are called to? What is the extraordinary thing we are called to? Because, friends, I believe we, right in this moment, right at this time, are being called to continue this epic adventure to something extraordinary. I believe that the pain and loss that we are experiencing is to break us open to see the new thing, the extraordinary thing that we are to be. I don't know what it is yet, but I believe that we have the courage to do something great. I believe in Love, and that Love wins.

Find it, do it, talk about it. What is the extraordinary thing that God calls us ordinary people to? The seeds of it are here already. We are a loving community of faith, we welcome all who wish to worship with us. Can we see it, feel it, name it? We are fishers of people, what does that mean for us? We are courageous participants on this epic adventure of love. We have been pulled together to do this extraordinary thing God is calling us to. Now is the time for courage, now is the time for Love. Amen.

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