It seems like just last week we were at the manger….gazing at an adorable swaddled baby, a young mother, a scared father…and suddenly…we blink and here he is …Jesus – all grown up.
Mark obviously didn’t consult Jesus’ mom and dad when writing his gospel, because he completely skips over Jesus’ childhood…all the memories…the preparation, the birth …. all the birthdays…all the tears and laughter, the struggles and questions…. all the times he drove his mother to the edge with worry. All the stuff that is raising a child entails. Mark just jumps in after it’s all done…right at that moment when parents suddenly look at their kids and realize…that we blinked…and there they are. All grown up. Following their own path.
And Jesus’ path, as Mark tells it….is all about the Spirit. It’s led by Spirit, awash in Spirit, pulsing with Spirit. In the gospel of Mark, the first time we meet Jesus, he is dripping with water….and the heavens are being torn apart….just like the temple curtains will be torn apart at his death…and the Spirit is descending upon him.
In Mark’s gospel…the good news of Jesus begins and ends with every barrier between God and earth being ripped in two…so the spirit can get at us. The kingdom of God is near, Jesus says….not far off in a someday heaven in the sky….but here is where God is present. Here is where the Spirit is revealed.
Here.. on this earth…with its rivers and valleys…like the Jordan and the Pend Oreille. Here on this earth…with all its crazy unique individuals who challenge us and reveal God’s presence in new ways….like John the Baptist and all the odd ducks who remind us how vast God’s grace is. Here on earth…with all the governments and powerful people that are threatened by oddballs….like Herod who arrested John and executed him.
God is here. The Spirit is here….even in our wilderness. Even when we question and struggle. Even when we wonder what we believe in and are tempted to believe the worst about ourselves and others. Even where things are untamed and unsafe — where the wild beasts roam. God is present. God’s angels are present.
Any of you feel like you’re wandering in a wilderness sometimes? Like things are unsafe and untamed. I do. The truth is…I don’t understand the evil that persists…the death and violence….the bombs and shootings…the hatred and cruelty in this world. It’s chaotic. It’s a wilderness…it’s frightening. And there are a lot of days I feel lost in a wilderness of information. There is so much information, constantly bombarding us…swirling around us….it’s hard to figure out what’s important….what I need to worry about…and what I don’t. Or even what’s true and what’s not.
Mark’s gospel…Mark’s good news…makes it clear that the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness… where we live…and you know what? There are angels there. It says the angels ministered to him….cared for him.
And you know what? There are angels in our wilderness too. Mr. Rogers….the best neighbor my generation could have imagined having while we were growing up… often told the story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
The helpers….those are the angels I’m thinking. In the midst of the wilderness — look for the angels. For the ones ministering to the folks who are lost and hurting. They are always there.
Or better yet….be the angels. That’s what Jesus does, after all, when he comes out of the wildnerness. He recruits angels….helpers. “Fishers for people”….people to pull others out of the sea…out of the chaos…and bring them into the boat. People who bring others to safety. Because that’s what the kingdom of God is about. That’s the good news. That God finds us where we are…and brings us into the boat…into God’s safety…into God’s arms.
And we all get to join in the adventure. We are all called to follow Jesus…to fish for people…to be helpers….to be angels. In the midst of a beautiful and terrible world. And to do it…like Simon and Andrew, James and John did…right now. Immediately. Here’s the thing — the need is not “someday”. We’re really good at “somedays”. Or at least, I know I am. “Someday” I will get around to volunteering at the library….or at YES …or at Rural Resources…or at the school….or at Union Gospel Mission….or wherever. “Someday” I will spend more time with my kids….or get to know my neighbors….or check in on that friend who is struggling. “Someday” I will spend more time in prayer. “Someday” I will be more kind, more gentle, more gracious, more generous….I will be a better fisher of people. “Someday” I will pay more attention and I will notice Jesus walking by me on the beach….Jesus strolling through my world inviting me to walk with him. I wonder how many other fishermen missed Jesus entirely that day…too focused on their work to see that God was there with them.
This morning, we hear Jesus’ voice…saying follow me. This morning, the Spirit is coming after you — in bread and wine….in dripping water. This morning…it’s time for us to pay attention. To realize that the time is fulfilled…the time is now. The four men on the beach pay attention…they realize in their world there is nothing more important they could do than be helpers…angels… disciples. Our wilderness world is no different. There is nothing more important this morning for us to do. Everywhere we look, there are hurting folks who need to be hauled into the safety of God’s boat…God’s grace. God’s love. Not someday… but now.
Let God’s pushy Spirit have her way with you. Guide you. Impel you. Enfold you. Right now. Immediately. I’m talking about when you pass the peace and when you drink your coffee. When you get in your car, when you stop at Safeway, or go out to lunch or when you get home. There is nothing between God and you….anywhere. Open your eyes, people ….the heavens are ripped open. The temple curtain is torn. There is no holy of holies where God is shut away from us….from any of us.
This world may feel like it’s gone mad….but this is the world God enters. God inhabits. God loves. So with courage….with crazy abandon….we can live our lives as people catchers. As helpers. We can surrender to the Spirit on the loose…and live in the kindgdom of God. And we can do it…in the blink of an eye.