January 25, 2015

III Epiphany

Jonah 3: 1-5; Psalm 62: 6-14; 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31, Mark 1: 14-20


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

We are all disciples. The word disciple simply describes a person who is still learning, and that is all of us.  An apostle is something else - an apostle is a teacher. If we are all learners, disciples, we are also all apostles, teachers because we are always teaching others through our actions and our behaviors. We teach and we learn.  

This morning we are introduced to for disciples (students) who would later become apostles (teachers). They are Simon, Andrew (for whom this church is so named), James, and John. They were fishermen in Galilee. Not particularly well-educated or sophisticated, but they were good fishermen.  When Jesus saw them, he called them to be his students, his disciples, and they followed. They left their families, their jobs, and followed Jesus in an act one author calls “drop everything discipleship,” meaning they dropped everything to follow Jesus.

Their devotion to the point of leaving everything behind reminds us that there is a cost to following Jesus. Like the four disciples, we also have to leave things behind in order to follow. And while that might seem scary, it is the most liberating thing we will do.

    In the end, the cost of following Christ for Andrew, Simon, and James was one they paid with their lives. But they are not alone in their sacrifice.  Many of us when we hear the word “sacrifice,” think that it means to give something up.  But that is not the full meaning of the word. The full meaning of the word “sacrifice” comes from a Latin word that means to make sacred or to make holy.  So if we speak of “sacrificing” our lives in order to follow Christ, what we are really saying is that our lives are holy, our lives are sacred, our lives are given meaning because we have become disciples, students, and apostles, teachers.  

This week our nation honored the legacy and sacrifice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like the disciples, Martin Luther King heard his Lord calling him to a sacrificial life a holy life that was one of costly and risky discipleship. But looking back on his life, can any of us dare say that there is a better way to live? As the film Selma so appropriately depicts, the cost of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life was an inner wrestling with doubt and struggle.  His life was not easy, and he was not perfect, but because of Gandhi’s influence of non-violent protest, Martin Luther King Jr. forever changed the racial landscape of our nation.  In one sermon delivered at Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., King proclaimed that he could see the Promised Land where children of all races played together, and that one day his people would be free at last. A few days after preaching that sermon, King was murdered by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee. The cost of his dream was his life, and in his sacrifice, he followed in the footsteps of Jesus, who did the same.

Because he died before some of us were born, I will offer a more modern example of Mother Teresa, who spent her life caring for sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta, India. While her reputation as a loving and holy woman is undeniable whose life was sacrificially lived, she was also human. She was a real person who struggled with doubt, and who felt at times abandoned by God, as she wrote in letters published after her death. Yet she continued loving, dressing the wounds of the dying, in spite of the fact, that she often wondered if God ever listened, let alone answered her prayers.  In spite of her doubt, she continued in her holy, sacrificial, work. And that is why she is a saint. She heard a call, and through struggle and adversity and in the presence of God’s absence, she endeavored to labor on, just as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Simon, Andrew, James, and John did before her.

The mantle of their discipleship is now upon our shoulders.  We are the disciples and the apostles of this age. The disciples, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa – they all had a dream. What is yours? AMEN.