Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Daniel Ludik, n/OHC
RCL - Epiphany 3 A - Sunday 27 January 2008
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
When I was growing up in Namibia, my family, like most Namibians, would spend the December holidays at the coast. My father, having been an avid angler, made sure that everyone in the family had fishing tackle so that we could enjoy his hobby with him. We were supposed to be on holiday, but were chased out of bed at all hours of the night to get to the good fishing spots before it was too warm, or the fish had moved on, or whatever the reason was, but he usually knew, at least he thought he did. And there is no denying the thrill of actually hooking a fish and reeling it in.
So, while reading the gospel of today, and how Simon, Andrew, James and John just let go of the nets to follow Jesus, I saw my father’s reaction in my mind’s eye should some of us have done the same thing with our fishing tackle, especially if some unknown young man just happened to pass by and told us to follow him and fish for people! I mean, if those reels fell in the sand it would take hours to clean the cogs. Of course, I would not have been the one to just drop my things to follow this man. He would have had to have his ducks in a neat row to convince me to just drop everything and follow him. But, what I did not know then, was that I was hooked anyway, I was just too anaesthetized to feel it and it took many years for the anesthesia to wear off, but thank God it did!
I wonder what went through Zebedee’s mind when his sons and Simon and Andrew just upped and left.
How did Jesus manage to convince them so easily to follow him? What else did he say that the scriptures do not tell us? Did the four of them know something else that convinced them? I do not know the answer to this, but they were hooked and chose to follow him.
They exercised the amazing gift of choice that God had given us.
I often wonder though why God has given us free choice. Choices are so easy to make, however the difficult part is to live with the consequences of our choices.
Did our four intrepid disciples have any idea of the consequences of their choice to follow Jesus? Like many of us, I am sure, I have bought into the tradition of a smiling, blue-eyed Jesus holding a soft doe-eyed lamb in his arms, and you see the picture as if through some kind of haze. Well, I have become convinced that this is just public relations! This is not it at all!
What I see now is a cross that was made very roughly and it is full of splinters and it is uneven, which means it is very awkward to carry. Yet, what this does not mean is that following Christ is hardship. NO, what it means is that we have to face reality as it is and to live the life that we have. And Christ is always there to share in the load. It is up to us to allow him to help us.
I think one of the consequences of their choice to follow Jesus that the first disciples could not foresee, was the divisions in the church that they were instrumental in founding. If we look at the exasperation with which Paul writes about the disunity in the Church he could have been writing of the Church of today. Christ died for us on the cross, so that we can be one body in him, yet we have lost that focus. How can we attain peace and unity in the world when the church cannot get its act together? Yes, at least not everywhere is a war zone as was the case in Northern Ireland, but is violence necessarily physical and bloody?
How did it come about that we have lost sight of the Cross?
Randy has a T-shirt with a logo that says something to the effect of:
The time for action has long gone past and now is the time for senseless bickering.
Would this be the scenario that Chloe described to Paul in Corinthians? The division that there was in the Church of the day? Why does senseless bickering seem to be such a major part of our lives today as well? What are we trying to avoid or deny?
Are we trying to deny the cross?
As Paul explicitly says in Corinthians: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
Paul is very clear when he calls us back to the essence of the church: the Cross and in whose name we have been baptized.
The promise as given in Isaiah of a new light that has dawned is fulfilled in the folly of the cross, and there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. God fulfills his promise and manifests his incredible love and compassion.
What will we do when we truly love? How far will be willing to go?
Part of my family’s folklore is a story my mother told of when she was a young bride on the family farm in the south of Namibia. The neighbor’s daughter and one of the Nama workers on the farm fell in love with each other. For those who do not know, Namas are indigenous people of southern Namibia and North Western South Africa and they are closely related to the San or Bushmen. Anyway, the father tried everything in his power to break up this affair; he whipped them, he chased the man from the farm at gunpoint, and when he returned to be with the woman he loved, he was shot at and nearly killed. The two eventually eloped and the rest of their lives remains a mystery. What did happen, though, was that this example of love was the starting point of my mother’s conversion to a life of full inclusiveness against some very daunting odds.
How much more should the image of God‘s Son on the Cross be an impetus to all Christians for conversion and a desire for unity in the church?