Feast of St. Martin of Tours November 11

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“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” -Sermon on the Mount

Blessings and Apostolic Benediction!

I would like to invite all of our friends and associates, who feel called, to join us in prayer on November the 11th, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, praying for the peace of ourselves, our communities, and the world. As is our tradition, we will be offering the Litany For Peace every hour on the hour. Won’t you please join your prayer with ours?

Pax Christi,
+Brian E. Brown, OSH

Christ Catholic Church
Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace
Order of the Shepherd’s Heart

Litany For Peace
By Bishop Karl Pruter

Lord, Heavenly Father help us to become peacemakers, that we may be called, “The Children of God”

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father, help us purge ourselves of those attributes which make not for peace but which set the stage for war.

Lord hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, open our minds to see ourselves as Thou seest us, or even, as others see us, and save us from all unwillingness to know our infirmities.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

From all hasty utterances of impatience; from the retort of irritation and the taunt of sarcasm; from all infirmity of temper in provoking or being provoked; from love of unkind gossip, and from all idle words that may do hurt, save us, O Lord.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Grant us, O Lord, the strength to obey Thy commandments, that we defraud our brother in nothing. May we never commit adultery or do anything to disturb our neighbor’s home or family.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father, grant that we covet nothing that is our neighbors, neither his house, nor his auto, his bank account, his job, nor anything that is our neighbors.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Heavenly Father, help us to maintain peace within our own households, with our neighbors in our communities, within our own nations, and in the world.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father we pray not only for the absence of war, but more especially for Thy peace, which passeth all understanding.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father, grant us Christ’s wish that we may become One with Him, and with Thee; that in union with Thee, we may desire only what Thou dost desire, and thus come to know Thy perfect peace.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace, this day and for evermore. Amen.

Radical Hospitality and Good Manners

We are radically inclusive: Believing as Saint Isaac of Syria, “Do not try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all people be equal in your eyes for a good deed.”

As our life is built on love, we must let our love be genuine and practical. Love does not put on airs, it is not haughty, not even inside where only God can see. For out of the abundance of the heart do we speak and act. Love allowed to work in our relationships, both with ourselves and with other persons, is respect. Let us treat each other as Christ has treated us. My brother is lonely; my sister is frightened; both are struggling to do the best they can to find love and happiness. From a gentle heart be gentle with them. See their frail humanity, created for glory by God, and love it for what it is, respect it for what it can become.

Accept those around you for who they are. Accept–but this does not always mean to agree. Respect for your own integrity will not allow you always to agree with others.

The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart does not discriminate and holds no regard for a person’s race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, preference, relationship status, nationality, socioeconomic class, nor a person’s state of grace. We are fully committed to inclusivity and our support for the LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) and anyone who would seek to find a spiritual home within the Shepherd’s Heart is unwavering and unapologetic.

Dearest Folk,

The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart is a radically inclusive religious order and practices radical hospitality, meaning our doors are open to anyone. In fact, I have a saying that I took the doors off their hinges years ago.

As such, we’ve had a lot of different folks through our doorway over the years. Some came and went, some treated it as a revolving door – coming and going at their own leisure, some came and found a home and stayed, some are still here and some have passed into blessed memory. Everyone was welcomed the same, treated the same, and offered a home for as long as they wished. However, while our hospitality toward everyone has been the same regardless, the reaction to our hospitality over the years has varied from person to person, some wonderful and healthy, some manipulative and coercive. During our discernment process we hope to help encourage the former and heal the latter but sometimes we fail.

I recently had a great conversation with a dear friend of mine, also a religious in a different order, and we were speaking of radical hospitality and what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Her order also practices radical hospitality and she shared some of her experiences with me and I with her, finding great similarity in our respective journeys.

The analogy that she introduced in our conversation was that of hearth and home. I dare say, maybe hopefully so, one would never be invited to another’s home, and upon gaining entry, set about rearranging the furniture and or redecorating the place. Would they? Who would, upon being invited to the table to share a meal, criticize the host’s dinner plates or flatware? Would you? While we may or many not like the food being served, who would throw out the meal and offer to teach the host how to prepare a meal more to their liking? Who would criticize the cook for his or her menu selection, preparation style, or cooking attire? I would hope no one. Would you be critical of the gender of the host? Really?

Can you imagine doing any of this? I hope not.

Alas, this happens all too often in the Independent Sacramental Movement when we welcome people who seek to join us in ministry. When we open our doors and practice radical hospitality, all too often, people come in and then want to recreate the ministry in their own image, stylizing it to their own individual sensibilities, vision, practices, theological meanderings, and liturgical leanings. They often seek to come into our hearth and home and redecorate the place to suit themselves and to move the comfortable old furniture around to meet their needs or sense of proper decor, even setting some of our most treasured pieces out on the curb with a sign that says “free to haul off.”

Most of us wouldn’t dream of being welcomed into someone’s home and behaving this way. Why then do so many in the ISM think it’s okay to do this in jurisdictions or religious orders they join? I think it speaks to a much larger dysfunction and is part of the explanation of our fractured reality as a community.

Be that as it may, we cannot control others and how they respond to our hospitality, but at the same time, seeking to be inclusive, hospitable, and to provide sanctuary, does not mean that you become a door mat on which people tread and wipe their feet even though that seems to happen regularly.

I think mutual acceptance is the key. Now notice, I didn’t say mutual agreement. Sometimes agreement is a stretch and something to be working towards. Agreement can sometimes be an educational process. Acceptance however, is always an intentional choice. When we welcome new folks into our order we are saying, “we accept you, warts and all” and we’re asking them, “do you accept us?” A marriage is much the same way. I’m sure we all know someone who married another with the hope and or intent to change their partner. This is an ill-conceived practice that leads to madness, breakup, and despair.

Our Common Rule of Life in the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart suggests this when seeking to live in community and I think it a good practice to keep in mind:

VII A Respect Born of Love

“Do not ever think yourselves better than the rest of your companions who share the same faith.” -St. Cuthbert

“Do not be deceived by those who seem to seek perfection, yet do not keep the basic commandments of God. There are people who eat little, who live simply and who are celibate; yet they show no love and compassion toward their neighbors. Before seeking perfection a person must first learn to love others and to be generous towards them.” -St. Morgan

“See in each herb and small animal, every bird and beast, and in each man and woman, the eternal Word of God.” -St. Ninian

As our life is built on love, we must let our love be genuine and practical. Love does not put on airs, it is not haughty, not even inside where only God can see. For out of the abundance of the heart do we speak and act. Love allowed to work in our relationships, both with ourselves and with other persons, is respect. Let us treat each other as Christ has treated us. My brother is lonely; my sister is frightened; both are struggling to do the best they can to find love and happiness. From a gentle heart be gentle with them. See their frail humanity, created for glory by God, and love it for what it is, respect it for what it can become.

Accept those around you for who they are. Accept–but this does not always mean to agree. Respect for your own integrity will not allow you always to agree with others.

In humor, be kind. In griping, be truthful. In conversation, be patient. In gossip, be silent. Trust your sisters and brothers to make their own decisions; believe them when they speak of their own inner state. It is our calling to support and pastor each other, but never to manipulate or mold our free fellows into our own pattern.

For those who practice radical hospitality, keep heart and hold fast to your calling. You are offering a way of living on earth as it is in Heaven, and as such, an answer to our Lord’s Prayer. For you guests, remember to open your heart and do your best to respond with love, gratitude, and humility. Accept one another for who you are and let’s all celebrate our diversity in this wonderful creation God has given us.

Love,
Abbot Brian

Pope Francis and True Christianity

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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus,

Greetings and apostolic benediction from this humble servant of Christ and His Church and may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you and yours now and always!

It is with joy that we offer our prayers and heartfelt well wishes to our brothers and sisters under the spiritual care of the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis I. We pray that the Holy Spirit will empower, encourage, and inform our Brother Bishop as he assumes his new role within the Roman Catholic jurisdiction and takes his place on the thrown of St. Peter. In all charity and humility, we pray for him and his ministry to over one billion souls of the catholic faith.

We would also offer prayer for our own jurisdiction, Christ Catholic Church, and for our sisters and brothers within the greater Independent Sacramental Movement as well, that we all might find compassion and patience within our hearts as the Holy Spirit continues to perfect Her work in the conversion of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio into that of Pope Francis I and within the Roman Catholic jurisdiction itself.

Rome was not made in a day and certainly one man will not rebuild or even disassemble it in one day. As a venerable brother commented recently upon the election of the new pope, “when the problem is the empire, a new emperor is not the solution.” A new pope is not the solution to all the troubles and trials of the Roman Catholic jurisdiction, though he may be an aid in righting some of the wrongs, only time will tell the story.

We acknowledge and give thanks for the humility that Pope Francis has shown thus far as he has assumed his new position within the church. True servanthood demands great compassion and charity and perhaps even greater sacrifice in death to oneself. It is a process with which we all grapple and are challenged by, whether we be a pope, bishop, priest, deacon, or lay person. Let us show charity for the conversion and process that Pope Francis now undertakes realizing our own shortcomings in our own similar spiritual growth process. Not one of us is perfect, though we follow He who was.

However, in our rush to celebrate the joy and hope this recent papal election brings, we would also pray for our LGBT sisters and brothers throughout the church, and the world at large, who now face the new reality of the election of a pope who once, as a “Prince of the Church” demonized the LGBT community and now will exert an extreme power and influence upon the entirety of the church and indeed the whole world.

Christ Catholic Church, while offering prayers for the conversion of Pope Francis, that he may one day celebrate the diversity of all of God’s children and support equality across the spectrum of the human condition, stands firmly and unapologetically in support of the LGBT community and the beauty, worth, and equality of all of God’s children regardless.

As the Presiding Bishop of Christ Catholic Church I would like to remind us all that as a Christian people we are to embrace faith, hope, and love. Ours is a faith built upon conversion and reconciliation, and founded in charity. Let us offer ourselves and our prayers for all concerned, Pope Francis, the See of St. Peter, the LGBT community, the Independent Sacramental Movement, Christ Catholic Church, and the world at large that the will of our Father in Heaven be made manifest and perfect here on earth and that someday we may all be one in Christ Jesus and celebrate together the beauty and diversity of creation as a unified people of one voice.

Pax et Caritas,
The Rt. Reverend Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
Presiding Bishop – Christ Catholic Church

Celtic and Old English Saints 29 November

Celtic and Old English Saints 29 November

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* St. Brendan of Birr
* St. Sadwen of Wales
* St. Ethelwin of Athelney
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St. Brendan of Birr, Abbot
————————————————————–
Died c. 562. Breandan is Gaelic for Prince. Born into the family of
Fergus MacRoy, Saint Brendan of Birr a contemporary of Saint Brendan the
Voyager (f.d. May 16), and his fellow-disciple under Saint Finian (f.d.
December 12) at Clonard Abbey. An ancient, but incomplete, manuscript
says that the 12 apostles of Ireland, who were together at Finian’s
school, saw a wonderful flower from the Land of Promise. Although
today’s saint was chosen by lot to go in search of that land, he was too
old or frail for adventuring. Brendan of Clonfert went in his stead.

His abbey of Birr was somewhere near Parsonstown, Offaly. The ruins are
said to be near Emmet Square where Old Saint Brendan’s church stands. He
was the great friend and adviser of Saint Columba (f.d. June 9). He
intervened at a synod of Meltown (Meath) to end Columba’s
excommunication. Later, Columba had a vision of Saint Brendan’s soul
being carried by angels to heaven at the moment of his death. Columba
immediately said a special Requiem for Brendan at Iona many days before
he had confirmation of his mentor’s death.

>From the “Gospels of MacRegal” or “Mc Regol” (9th century), we
know that Brendan’s school at Birr endured through that time.
This book, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is a wonderful example
of Irish illumination (Anderson, Benedictines, D’Arcy, Farmer, Healy,
Kenney, Montague, Ryan).

Troparion of St Brendan of Birr tone 8
Most glorious ascetic and chief of Ireland’s Prophets, O Father Brendan,
thou wast a bright beacon in the western isle guiding many to
salvation./ At thy heavenly birthday the Angels rejoiced and
miraculously announced their joy to our Father Columba./ The prayers of
the righteous avail much for us sinners./ Wherefore O Saint, pray to God
for us that He will find us a place in the Mansions of the Blest.

St. Sadwen of Wales, Hermit
(Sadwrn, Saturninus)
————————————————————–
6th century. Brother of Saint Illtyd (f.d. November 6) and disciple of
Saint Cadfan (f.d. November 1) to whom some Welsh churches are
dedicated. (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia).

Troparion of St Sadwen tone 8
The remoteness of the Welsh mountains was thy desert, O Father Sadwen,/
where thou didst serve God in fasting and humility./ May thy continual
intercession avail for us sinners that our souls may be saved.

St. Ethelwin, Hermit of Athelney
——————————————

Sources:
========

Anderson, A. O. (tr.). (1961). Adamnan’s Life of Saint Columba.

Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

D’Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most
useful book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author
provides a great deal of historical context in which to place the
lives of the saints.]

Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints, October. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Healy, J. (1902). Ireland’s Ancient Schools and Scholars.
Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker.

Kenney, J. F. (1929). Sources for Early History of Ireland,
vol. 1, Ecclesiastical. New York: Columbia University Press.

Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.

Ryan, J. (1931). Irish Monasticism. Dublin: Talbot Press.

For All the Saints:

http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/ss-index.htm

These Lives are archived at:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celt-saints

Feast of St. Martin of Tours November 11

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” -Sermon on the Mount

Blessings and Apostolic Benediction!

I would like to invite all of our friends, who feel called, to join us in prayer on November the 11th, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, praying for the peace of the world. As is our tradition, we will be offering the Litany For Peace every hour on the hour. Our local observance will take place here on Bear Mountain in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Pax Christi,
+Brian E. Brown, OSH
Order of the Shepherd’s Heart

Litany For Peace
By Bishop Karl Pruter

Lord, Heavenly Father help us to become peacemakers, that we may be called, “The Children of God”

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father, help us purge ourselves of those attributes which make not for peace but which set the stage for war.

Lord hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, open our minds to see ourselves as Thou seest us, or even, as others see us, and save us from all unwillingness to know our infirmities.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

From all hasty utterances of impatience; from the retort of irritation and the taunt of sarcasm; from all infirmity of temper in provoking or being provoked; from love of unkind gossip, and from all idle words that may do hurt, save us, O Lord.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Grant us, O Lord, the strength to obey Thy commandments, that we defraud our brother in nothing. May we never commit adultery or do anything to disturb our neighbor’s home or family.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father, grant that we covet nothing that is our neighbors, neither his house, nor his auto, his bank account, his job, nor anything that is our neighbors.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Heavenly Father, help us to maintain peace within our own households, with our neighbors in our communities, within our own nations, and in the world.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father we pray not only for the absence of war, but more especially for Thy peace, which passeth all understanding.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace.

Lord, Heavenly Father, grant us Christ’s wish that we may become One with Him, and with Thee; that in union with Thee, we may desire only what Thou dost desire, and thus come to know Thy perfect peace.

Lord, hear our prayer, and grant us Thy peace, this day and for evermore. Amen.

Hiding Your Light

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16

Often times in the Independent or Old Catholic Movement, our very existence and or simple presence is the heart of our ministry. It’s not a ministry meant to dazzle, nor one that makes lots of money, nor one that gathers lots of people in the pews, nor even one that usually engenders respect or acceptance. No, it more likely than not, doesn’t accomplish these things. It almost always isn’t a ministry where one can tout great success or even show much accomplishment at all, in worldly standards that is.

However, showing the world that there’s “another way to be catholic” is the kind of ministry of presence that can empower people and give them hope and courage in a world where the current religious climate can often be hostile or worse yet, abusive, and that’s exactly the kind of ministry we are most often called to.

Nelson Mandela said it well: “And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

When we were baptized and confirmed, and later perhaps ordained and or consecrated, we were charged with sharing the light of the Gospel message, a message of faith, hope, and love, in this dark and broken world. We were charged to do our best to carry that light to the dark corners of our society, to the dark corners of our hearts, and to help others to find their way.

It isn’t always comfortable, it isn’t always safe, and it most certainly isn’t good for “business as usual” but it is necessary, if we are to be true to our calling and faithful to our Lord. It’s the cross we are called to, it’s the cross we carry, it’s the cross of sacrifice, and it always calls for sacrifice.

The paradox is that, it is in the very act of sacrifice that we find abundance! It is in that experience of dying to ourselves and living for others, that we find life! And it is in the simple ministry of presence, that simple sacrifice of being who God made us to be, that we find love, bravery, and power, power to change lives and to change the world.

Our presence, or lack there of, speaks volumes to those around us. We may never know who’s life we might touch and change, but we will change lives, one way or the other, for the better or for the worse.

What kind of ministry of presence are you offering in your life, or are you hiding your light under a basket? Do you stand in the darkness and let your light shine for all to see or have you hid it for fear of drawing attention to your faith and or out of the fear of the sacrifice that might be demanded of you because of your faith?

A modern musical artist, Jewel Kilcher, wrote a song entitled “Life Uncommon” that speaks to freedom, love, bravery, and courage to be part of the solution and not part of the problem by no longer giving strength to those things which we wish to be free from, by virtue of our silence. It was a great success on the pop charts for quite a while. Here are the lyrics:

“Life Uncommon”
By Jewel Kilcher

Don’t worry mother, it’ll be alright,
And don’t worry sister,
Say your prayers and sleep tight,
It’ll be fine lover of mine,
It’ll be just fine.

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom,
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from,
Fill your lives with love and bravery,
And you shall lead a life uncommon.

I’ve heard your anguish,
I’ve heard your hearts cry out,
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren’t worn out,
Set down your chains, ’til only faith remains,
Set down your chains.

And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom,
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from,
Fill your lives with love and bravery,
And you shall lead a life uncommon.

There are plenty of people who pray for peace,
But if praying were enough it would have come to be,
Let your lips enslave no one,
And the heavens will hush themselves to hear,
Our voices ring out clear with sounds of freedom, sounds of freedom.

Come on you unbelievers,
Move out of the way,
There is a new army coming,
And we are armed with faith,
To live, we must give, To live.

And lend our voices only to sounds of freedom,
No longer lend our strength to that which we with to be free from,
Fill your lives with love and bravery,
And we shall lead…

Lend our voices only to sounds of freedom,
No longer lend our strength to that which we with to be free from,
Fill your lives with love and bravery,
And we shall lead a life uncommon.

When we hide our light or mute our voice, our ministry of presence fades and we actively give way to the darkness. It is in that moment where we indeed lend our strength to that which we wish to be free from, that which oppresses us, and oppresses others. When we hide our light we enable the darkness to exist and to take over where we’ve failed to let the liberating light of the Gospel blaze – due to our own insecurities and or our own fears.

Our ministry of presence, while sometimes seemingly inactive or even insignificant, is amazingly empowering and encouraging. Just letting the world see us for who and what we are, and what we are about, lets our light shine brightly, and that light can illumine the darkest of places throughout the world and the darkest moments deep in our own souls.

Who will be that ministry of presence in the world or in your community? If not you, then who? If now now, then when? When it’s convenient? Sacrifice is never convenient. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from by being silent or by hiding your light under the proverbial basket. Set down your chains until only faith remains and you will lead a life uncommon!

Here I am Lord, send me.

Amen!

Homily for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany


“Warts and All” By Abbot-Bishop Brian E. Brown, OSH

Third Sunday After the Epiphany Year B
Jeremiah 3:21—4:2 Psalm 130 1 Corinthians 7:17-23 Mark 1:14-20

I would like to ask you a question that perhaps we all already know the answer to but first let’s set the stage.

Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…

The alarm goes off and you wake up bleary eyed and weary. Surely it’s not time to get up just yet! Didn’t you just close your eyes only an hour to two ago? How could it be? But there it is, that annoying alarm with the shrill, grating buzzing that you hear every morning. Someday you’re gonna get rid of the thing but out of reflex you reach over and slap the snooze button. Laying back down and snuggling in you drift off with the certainty that you’re going to have to get up soon, but maybe just not right now. Please, just not right now…

Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…

Huh? What? Oh, the alarm again. Okay, okay, okay! You sit up and turn the darn thing off and you sit there. It’s time to get up and get on with things. So much to do and you’re on a schedule. You’re always on a schedule. You sit there, scratch, rub, stretch, and breathe life back into your body and bracing yourself you get up.

After a quick routine your off to work. So far your morning is going along like any other; like every other morning has for the last several years. You get in your car and drive to work, noticing the same workmen working on the same stretch of road that they’ve been working on for the last 6 months, noticing some of the same kind of traffic you’ve seen before, the kids waiving to you from the back seat of the minivan in front, the young lady fixing her make-up in the rear view mirror of the car behind you and a man in the Lexus speaking rather animatedly into the cell phone off to your right. You hear the thump of the base in some other car around you who has their custom stereo turned up way too high. Every day it’s pretty much the same thing or at least some version there of but there’s some comfort in the sameness of it all.

You make it to work, find some caffeine, and settle in for the day. You’ve got so many things to do, some left over work from yesterday, a lunch meeting, a deadline or two and some preparation for the big project coming up. You get to it and that’s life.

It’s been like that for a while. Not bad, but comfortable in the sameness it offers day in and day out. It’s what you know and what your comfortable with.

When all of a sudden up walks a guy and he says, “Hey come on, let’s get out of here! The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. Come with me and I’ll teach you how to make your efforts really work towards drawing people in!

What? Huh? Excuse me? Wasn’t this the guy you saw walking down the highway the other day heading into town? Didn’t you figure him for a homeless person or at least someone who was down on his luck? Was he perhaps an Amway salesmen or something? Do I need to call security?

Now be honest and answer this question, would you lay down your work get up, walk out, and follow this guy?

Yeah, sad to say, me neither and I’m into that kind of thing!

Can you imagine the Spirit and authority that had to have emanated from Jesus to encourage these fishermen to lay down their nets, their livelihood, and follow Him? To walk away from all that they had known, and in the case of James and John, to leave their very father, no doubt elderly, in the boat with the hired help and just walk away, just like that? Well, if we are to believe the Gospel, that is exactly what happened.

When Jesus comes into our lives and calls to us, He seldom does so with fore-warning and he almost never gives us the whole picture of what He has in store for us to do. He comes into our lives and simply says, come on, follow me, I have something for you to do. Let’s go.

Here’s the catch. We have a choice and sadly our choice often leads to an excuse…

I’m not ready just yet. Let me work on things, clear my schedule, and get ready and I’ll get back to you; or, I’m not qualified. I’m just a glassblower not a preacher; or, I’m not the right one. Isn’t Bill a better fit than me for what you have in mind? I think you’ve got the wrong person. After all, he has experience in that sort of thing; or, I don’t know enough, really I don’t. I don’t have a degree nor did I even go to seminary; or, I don’t believe. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m spiritual alright, I’m just not religious and I don’t like organized religion; or, I’m not feeling well. I’ve got some health issues so let me take time to heal up and I’ll be right with you or you can heal me right now and I’ll have the energy and stamina to work with you; or, I’m too busy. I have responsibilities you know, and I don’t have enough money as it is. Help me win the lottery and then I’ll have the money and time to do what you want me to do. We can be so creative and our excuses can go on and on…

The letter to the Corinthians deals rather pointedly with our excuses and we’re encouraged that whatever condition we find ourselves in, in this life, this is just where Jesus needs us to be and He can use us right then and there. “Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called. ”

You see when Jesus calls to us, He already knows our state of being, our fears, our concerns, our self-image or lack there of, our education, our understanding, our abilities, our predilections, our preferences, our needs, our responsibilities, our spirituality, and of course our hearts. He already knows all of these things and still He calls us – in spite of it all. He must have a reason. Well, He does.

You see, Jesus wants to bless us by pouring out grace upon us – the grace that empowers our lives filling us with love, courage, and strength to do what He has called us to do, a work uncommon, to reach out to others who are in need, to strengthen the fainthearted, to support the weak, and to help the suffering. He wants to show us that He can work miracles in our lives in spite of our condition or state of grace. To borrow a phrase, He wants us to be all that we can be, all He knows we can be.

He also wants us to do the work that He cannot do, to continue His ministry in this world. He wants us to be His body made manifest here on earth. He wants us to offer our hands, as we are His hands, in order to lift up our brothers and sisters. He wants us to use our arms, as we are His arms, to hold those who are hurting and afraid. He wants us to use our strength, which flows from Him, to help carry others weights making their burdens lighter and their lives a little easier. He wants us to use our eyes to look with love upon everyone and everything and to reflect His love in this broken world. He wants us to use our ears to hear the cries of the wounded and brokenhearted, listening to their sorrow and their problems and our mouths with which to speak his healing and unconditional love, to those who would listen.

Jesus knows that there are people in our lives or perhaps just around the corner that we can reach, right here, right now. These are people in need, with whom we are uniquely qualified to reach out to, because of our unique life experiences, because of who we are, because of what we may know, and because of where we are at any given moment. In whatever condition you are in at the time of His calling you can rest assured that He needs you just the way you are, warts and all.

He needs us all just the way we are and He needs us right now. The world is hurting and in need of hope. Won’t you lay down your nets like the Apostles of old and follow Him. He has work for you and I to do and He’s counting on us.

Amen!