Jan 21st, 2023: “May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts..."
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
In the Church calendar we are now in a period of ordinary time. The hangings and vestments are green. Most of our year is considered ordinary time. The word comes from “Ordinal” a way to convey numbers and counting.
But our sense of what ordinary means is also helpful. Ordinary time is ordinary in part because of what it is not! It is not Advent or Christmas or Lent or Easter.
And it is ordinary because of what it is, a liturgical season that makes up most of our year. It is a time when we are called like Simon and Andrew to follow Jesus simply because he says “follow me”.
Each time we come to the calling of the disciples I am struck once more about how this story is told. Jesus says follow me and they do. And the Evangelist tells us that they did! And they did it “immediately”. They did not hesitate. They did not take time to consider what this might mean. They did not ask about what qualified them to do this work or how they were going to feed themselves. They responded immediately.
They put down the nets - they put down their livelihood. They walked away from their families and support networks. And they walked away with Jesus. And they went to work talking to people about the Kingdom of God and healing all over the countryside.
Each time I hear this story I am incredulous that the disciples just did this. I do not think I could. I would be saying please just wait a bit Jesus, I have things I need to take care of. I wonder if you could just walk away immediately?
When Jesus called these disciples it was a yes or a no. Their response was a yes. But I think for us perhaps it is not a yes or a no to Jesus’ call. But perhaps the question is “how”. How do we follow Jesus?
The Episcopal Church in the United States has an answer. They came up with practical practices for following Jesus. This is what they suggest: turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, rest. This may be helpful as we struggle to follow Jesus, to be disciples and to share our faith.
In our Gospel reading today Matthew introduces the term the “Kingdom of God”. This may be the most important image in the New Testament. But it is an idea or image that we may struggle with. Jesus said the Kingdom of God has come near. But what does that mean? Throughout Christian history it has often been interpreted to mean something separate from life on earth. That it is a future thing. That salvation and the Kingdom lie ahead of us.
But that is not really the message Jesus was trying to convey. The Kingdom is already here. It is already present, it has come, it is near, it is real. And that is the Good news we need to hear and share over and over again.
When Jesus says “Repent for the Kingdom of God has come near” this is what he came for, to announce and usher in the Kingdom.
Jesus did not come to die. Jesus came to live. Jesus lived for and proclaimed God’s Kingdom.