Mark 1:14-20; b:6b-13
Shane Claiborne says and I’m afraid he’s right:
"It’s what always happens to the saints and prophets who are dangerous:
we bronze them, we drain them of their passion and life and trap them in stained glass windows and icons, confining them safely in memories of the past. St. Francis becomes a birdbath. Malcolm X is put on a stamp, and Martin Luther King gets a holiday. And Jesus gets commercialized, whether it’s the plastic night-lights or the golden crucifixes. (And now there is a bobbing-head ‘Buddy Jesus’ for your car and the ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ T-shirt). It becomes hard to know who Jesus really is, much less to imagine that Jesus ever laughed (or) cried…" 1.
I wonder if Shane is right. I wonder if we have safely tucked Jesus away in our Bibles and in our doctrines and statements of faith… so that we forget that Jesus was an actual living, breathing, person of passion and drive… who inspired others with his life.
I wonder if we’ve done the same thing to those who followed Jesus. We have forgotten they were people of passion… looking for purpose and meaning in their lives. Instead, we made them Saints and set them apart… putting them in stained glass windows and have come to believe we could never be like them… or maybe more to the point, we believe they would not understand what it is like to be like us.
But we are wrong. Read their story, we are more like them and they are more like us than you may think. For example, I want to ask you to picture in your imagination what the disciples look like. How old were they? Did they have beards? (like those Sunday School pictures) Were they tall, short?
Take a moment and share with your neighbor what you think they looked like? Or how you remembered them looking as a child in SS.
Did any of you describe them as teenagers… as the youth of the church of their day? As 16-18 year old youth or young adults whose life was ahead of them… who were looking for adventure… for a purpose? Or have we drained that possibility from our minds?
There is good evidence that at least Peter, Andrew, James and John may have been youth or young adults. Others may have been older- like Matthew the well established tax collector… but those four may well have been in their youth. For when you read the story of when Jesus invites them to follow him, it sounds as if they are young.
As you may remember me telling you a couple of weeks ago, it was common back then for a Rabbi to have students who would learn the torah at an early age- by 10 years old. Advanced students would go on for further study-sort of graduate Rabbi school… learn all the scriptures-by age 14-15. The most gifted of those would be invited to follow the rabbi… to learn from the rabbi… to learn to be like the rabbi. Those who did not get chosen or who did not choose to go-would return home to learn the family business as their life’s work.
Does any of this sound familiar?
In the story of the call of the disciples, Jesus comes and sees Peter and Andrew fishing… perhaps they didn’t make the cut… didn’t graduate with honors from Synagogue School. You see James and John working for Dad… learning the family business. Maybe they too had been dropouts or rejected. We don’t know. What we do know is that Jesus comes along… and these young men receive an invitation… to follow him… to learn from him… and to learn his trade… to fish for people…
I’m sure like those who love to study abroad, it sounded like an invitation of a lifetime. Leave home to follow Jesus- to, as they say in star trek, "to boldly go where no one has gone before." To go with Jesus to a life that few had tried… and truth be told, few still try.
If they were youth, then I can see them dropping the nets to follow Jesus. Can’t you? Fishing business (mending nets day in and day out in the hot sun) or adventure.? Working with Dad or following a charismatic leader? Sorry Dad.
And they went… they went with him… and received a mission from him that gave meaning and purpose to their lives. Again, I wonder how many of us have a sense that we are on a mission from Jesus… given by Jesus.
I think of that old TV show I watched as a youth. Mission Impossible. My favorite part was the opening with that reel to reel miniature tape recorder (that was awesome technology!)… it would be hidden somewhere… and Jim Phelps would find the secret location… the mysterious voice would describe the mission… "Jim, your mission, should you decide to accept it is to…." It would describe an impossible mission. And then at the end the voice would say that if they are captured, "the secretary would disavow any knowledge of their action and of course, the tape would self destruct"… And off they went on a grand adventure with a mission.
I can’t help but think that this was a way the disciples saw it. They were on a mission…. Another impossible mission in a way. A mission, according to Mark… to proclaim the kingdom of God to a busted and broken world among a busted and broken people.
Later, after some period of training, Jesus would send them out on the mission:
"He called the 12 and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over unclean spirits…" And he tells them what to take… travel light… (no bread, no bag, no money, wear sandles but only 1 tunic- no carry on luggage!)… he told them what to do if they are welcomed or not welcomed… and they went out… casting out demons, healing the sick… in other words… doing the things that Jesus did. They were on a mission.
And my word to our youth is this… just in case you didn’t get it for the past 16-18 years… that is your mission too. Jesus wants to send you on a mission. Age is no excuse. You are near the age of Peter, Andrew, James and John when they went out on their mission.
In fact, I’d like you to think of the gospels as not only telling us the stories about Jesus, which they do. I would like you-I’d like all of us to think of the gospels as sort of a Mission training manual. Four different people in four different gospels describing the mission of Jesus as they understood it. Even they didn’t agree completely.
For example: In Matthew, the mission was mainly among the Jews and nowhere among the Gentiles… the nations… and certainly not among Samaritans. But Luke sees it differently. The mission was to the world… gentiles are included… in Acts he will be very explicit: you shall be my witnesses… in Jerusalem (yes)… in Judea (yes, among our people)… but not only there… you shall be witnesses in Samaria (yes, even among those half-breed Samaritans)… and yes, even to the end of the world. In other words, when you put the gospels together, the mission of the disciples was both local and global.
What a vision they received from Jesus that filled them with a passion for God’s world and for a mission
Shane Claiborne caught this vision during his college years. Having been discouraged with Christianity, he didn’t give up… he dug deeper into what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus.
In his book, The Irresistible Revolution, he wrote about a time in his life when the Jesus came out of the stained glass window and he saw Jesus with his own eyes.
He was in that period of digging deeper into his faith right after college. He wrote Mother Teresa and finally called her to find out if he could work with her in Calcutta for a summer. He wanted to learn what it meant to be a disciple. And he went… joining many others who were taking that same pilgrimage.
In the mornings he would work in an orphanage taking care of children with physical and mental handicaps… many had been abandoned. In the afternoon he worked at the home for the Destitute and dying. Every week he would take soap and bubbles and meet about 100 street kids at a water hole. They’d set up the station to help bandage wounds, a station to sew clothes that were torn, and an area for washing off the kids and splashing each other… During the summer he had an opportunity to work among the lepers in a leper colony. He mainly wrapped bandages for the lepers-become- doctors to use.
One day at a clinic at the end of the day, a doctor gave him the opportunity to care for a patient. Shane says he was scared… but he began to dress the man’s wound. Shane says, "He stared at me with such intensity that it felt like he was looking into my soul. Every once in a while he would slowly close his eyes. When I was finished, he said to me that sacred word I had come to love: "Namaste." I smiled with tears in my eyes and whispered, "Jesus." He saw Jesus in me and I saw Jesus in him.
I remembered thinking back to the stained-glass window my United Methodist Church bought for over $100,000. I saw a clearer glimpse of Jesus in this leper’s eyes than any stained-glass window could ever give me."
After leaving the colony and his summer experience (talk about your study in discipleship abroad experience!)… Shane said he was ready to come home.
Mother Teresa had always said, "Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta."
When Shane came home, this boy from Eastern Tennessee found his Calcutta living among the poor in a Christian Community in Philadelphia.
Maybe that is your mission and ours, should we decide to accept it. Find your Calcutta.
Mother Teresa, who grew up in Albania, found her mission in Calcutta. In fact she once said: "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."
Find your Calcutta… that is your mission and mine as a disciple. Calcuttas can be found almost anywhere.
Many people at the Kirk have found their Calcutta. Jim Farthing has found it along with other Kirk members by working to provide affordable housing for the poor in our community with Habitat…Bill Boyle has passion for prison ministry… Sandra Clark has a passion for the homeless families as she leads us to support WIHN… and many of you share that passion. Some actually spend the night and get to know the homeless. What a gift to them and to us.Some of you have found your Calcutta in the mountains of Appalachia… among some of the poorest people in America. Others have found it among the poor in New Orleans. Some have found it with Christians Community in Action in Cary. Others have found it on a remote mountaintop among Mayan people- among the people of Pala in Guatemala. Need I go on?
Calcuttas can be found anywhere if only you have the eyes to see.
Graduates, ASP members, members of the Kirk… disciples of Jesus Christ…Our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to find our Calcutta… find the sick, the suffering and the lonely and take Christ there… find that place here God is calling you to follow and to serve… find your passion and follow Christ there. Find your Calcutta and you don’t be surprised if you find Christ waiting for you there. Amen.
1. The Irresistible Revolution, p 37