“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.