1 Cor, Epiphany 3A

Priorities

From 1st Corinthians~~

1:10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.      

1:11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.

Get out of town! Church people, quarreling? I've never heard of such a thing!

But seriously, folks…

What are the things we quarrel about at church? They don't tend to be very high-natured. We fuss over a page layout in the newsletter or a bit of punctuation in the annual report or a missed announcement in the Sunday bulletin. We fuss over flowers. And if someone wants to talk about something potentially more explosive, we clam up or complain in private, or in the parking lot.

I would love to have an open conversation about Communion (why do some people feel walking forward is so terrible? Can we get to the roots of that disagreement somehow?).

I would love to explore the adamant attitude some people hold about having an American flag in the sanctuary, and I would love to be heard myself.

I would love to talk about what gives anyone the idea that being rude to a church member or to the pastor is just a way of doing business in church meetings. I would love to talk about why some people think it's okay to drop an accusation against another person's honesty and then move on saying, "I got to state my opinion, I'm satisfied."

I want to think it's a 21st century phenomenon, a product of talk radio and political TV shows. But I fear it's not. I fear it's been with us all along. It's human. But I want the church to improve on other human systems, for people to remember the reason they are together: to be the body of Christ, to transcend our personal issues and be transformed, to be saved, ultimately, from ourselves.

1:17 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.      

1:18 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.

Epiphany 3A, Isaiah

Walking in Darkness

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a
      land of deep darkness on them light has shined.
Isaiah 9:2, NRSV

My walking schedule has been blown apart by short days, cold weather and most of all, ice.

For six months I walked, rain or shine, early or late, but ice and darkness stopped me, and I have not gotten back into a routine. It's not that my training partner has abandoned me; he hasn't. But his walks are happening in daylight hours, and often I am working when he is walking.

I didn't realize until I didn't have it anymore how whole walking made me feel. I thrive on oxygen, and I glide when my endorphins respond to exercise. I'm looking for those feelings elsewhere and not finding them. I am sitting still in the darkness contemplating a cupcake instead of walking.

It was different in the summer. It didn't matter how late I came home from church because walking in the dark was actually attractive, cooler than walking at mid-day. The surfaces beneath our feet were reliable, not covered with a coating of slippery danger.

Those dark walks were actually a light for me, a sign that there was a way out of cupcake contemplation or eternal loginess.

Maybe it was because I walked in darkness that I was able to see the light?

Epiphany 3A, Gospel, Matthew

Immediately they left–

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

Immediately, they left—

After a nightmare about moving, it's on my mind how difficult it is to leave a place, usually. My parents have been gone for 10 and almost 15 years, but I still dream from time to time about having to sort out their household, and in every dream I am on a deadline.

James and John, immediately they left, and followed him.

Last night I dreamed I was with my first husband and younger versions of our children, and we had to leave the place we were living, and we had to be out by a certain time which was only minutes away, and there were still so many things to pack, the task felt similar to Cinderella's assignment to sort trough the lentils. What did we really need? and how would we carry it all? and where were we going?

What did we really need? When you are moving, there is more to it, usually, than what you need. There are things you want as well, and in my dreams there are often sentimental items that need special packing materials. Do I need those things? Or the feelings that go along with them? Probably not, but the thought of being cut off from them, the fear of it, generally plays an important part in those dreams.

How would we carry it all? In last night's dream, there was no truck or van. We seemed to be leaving with only what we could carry. In that case, there was no doubt, we could not bring it all with us. Toys and small objects and clothes not on our backs would be left behind as surely as large pieces of furniture. I wondered what would happen to them, considered the position of the landlord, or whatever person might come in behind us, left with the mess of our lives, unpacked and unsorted.

Zebedee stood in the boat, alone, with the half-mended nets.

Where were we going? It wasn't clear in the dream, and it wasn't clear to James and John, either. Did one of them feel the impulse more strongly and the other follow him more than Jesus? Had they had it up.to.here. with Dear Old Dad, and were they looking for an opportune moment to flee? Or did they truly feel the same calling in the same moment with identical intensity?

We don't know. We only know they left. Immediately.

If you are like me, you fear their choice and envy it at the same time. Most of us stay behind in the unsorted rooms, at least on the physical plane, but the inner journey is open to us. Taking it may not necessitate abandoning the family business or leaving your mother's collection of painted china behind, but it might. You just don't know. And perhaps that is the scariest part of all.

Except for this part. You might be Zebedee. And I can't imagine a lonelier guy in the whole world then Zebedee when James and John "immediately left."  "Left" and "flee" easily mis-type, in the early morning, as "felt" and "feel." How do you feel if you put yourself in Zebedee's place? In the text, even the boat gets priority.