Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meditation on this Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, January 18, 2009:

First Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]

Psalm: Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 (Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 NRSV)

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Gospel: John 1:43-51

In today's Gospel, people get an invitation (or is it a command? hmmm). Here are men who get a call from God and answer it.

Of course, it may not be the call they were expecting. We get a sense of that when Nathanael says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (verse 46). Our Scriptures show us a similar story time and time again: God makes an offer, but it's not one that people are expecting. Often, their expectations blind them to the presence of God.

Nothing has changed today. Our Bible stories train us to look for burning bushes, so we ignore the still, small voice that speaks to us out of the darkness of a sleepless night: it's not God, it's indigestion. We're ready for hosts of angels, or bright stars, or wise men who let us know that there's a new savior on the scene--but we're not ready to attend to the daily work of spiritual discipline that might lead us to God's insight.

The story we get in today's Gospel seems like a young person's story. How hard is it to give up everything when you're young and don't really have all that much to give up? I think of the mother of Andrew and Simon Peter, who must wonder if her sons have lost their minds. I imagine her sighing, saying, "Eh, they're young. They'll come to their senses and come back to the family business--I give them 6 months of this homeless lifestyle, following this wackadoo Jesus."

John is the most mystical of the Gospels, so we have this portrait of Jesus, who prophesies that these men will see great things. And they drop everything and go.

Would we follow Jesus, if he appeared today? One of my favorite versions of this story comes from the movie Godspell. It shows young people in 1970's New York City working at dismal jobs. Jesus beckons, and they frolic in Central Park and at various sites around the city (including the World Trade Center, which was under construction when the movie was filmed--eerie).

If I was filming/modernizing the story today, I'd have Jesus appearing to middle-aged people. But there, my imagination stalls. How would I make Jesus so appealing that people could be compelled to leave their jobs, their mortgages, their children, all the duties which keep us so tied to the secular world?

For me, it's this vision of a Kingdom of God on earth, a vision where everyone has enough and suffering ceases. This vision is the Good News that Jesus came to deliver: we don't have to live the way we've been living!

In the coming weeks, we'll read the narrative of Jesus. Listen for that message. Try to hear with new ears, so that you, too, can "come and see" (verse 46).

And in your daily life, be on the lookout for God. God is still alive and moving through the world, making calls to those who have ears to hear.

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