5 May—Easter 3
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
Here are your instructions:
Did you hear them?
They’re pretty simple. Just two words.
That’s it. That’s all you’ve gotta do. Follow Jesus.
These are his final words in John’s account.
In John’s version of the passion, death, and resurrection there is no meeting on a mountain… no assumption…no disappearing in the clouds…
No talk of a last judgement with sheep and goats.
No Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.
There is just this…a fishing trip…breakfast on the beach…a conversation about love and feeding…love and tending…love and leadership…a really a summation of all that has come before it…and finally the only instruction we really need…”Follow Jesus.”
“Do you love me?” If so…“Follow me.” Follow the Way of Love.
It’s so simple…but not easy. Maybe if there was a map…
In the Sufi Muslim tradition
The disciple asks: How does one follow the Way?
and the Master replies:
“Go where you are sent.
Wait until you are shown what to do.
Do it with your whole self.
Remain until you have done what you were sent to do.
Walk away with empty hands.”
Which actually maps nicely onto John’s account.
Go where you are sent.
Jesus tells Peter that someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go…
Following Jesus very often means going places and doing things that you might not want to do…that you never imagined that you could do…
That could be teaching Sunday school…or working with the homeless…starting a conversation on racism…or becoming a parent…facing an illness…grieving a death…life is going to present you with all kinds of situations…some happy…many not…a few really painful…
Following Jesus doesn’t eliminate the pain in life…it merely means holding onto the promise that he is with us in the hard times and the good.
Jesus is with us so we go where we are sent.
Wait until you are shown what to do. That’s hard, right? We like to dive in…and fix things…make improvements…taking charge…
It makes us less anxious if we do that, but it can do great damage. Because there is a huge difference between “knowing what is good for someone” and truly “doing what is best” for them.
Following Jesus requires patience and a willingness to be Ok with discomfort and mess.
The old saying that we have two ears and only one mouth because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak…we should really do that.
Jesus does give us some clues about things to listen for…
Feed my lambs…who is hungry? who doesn’t have what they need?
Tend my sheep…who needs help? Nurture? Comfort?
Listen…and Wait until you are shown what to do until you really understand what the need is…
Then do it with your whole self…which sounds easy, but doing something with our whole self means knowing who and what your “self” is. We can’t help others grow, if we are not grown up ourselves.
There’s a funny bit right after this reading…Peter starts to follow, then turns around and sees the beloved disciple also following…
and asks: “What about him?”
And Jesus says: “Don’t worry about him. You, follow me?”
Don’t worry about what someone else is doing…or whether they’re are doing it right…work on yourself. Figure out who you are…What “your” gifts really are.
Notice, Jesus is already cooking fish when the disciples get there, but he says them to “bring some of your fish” …Bring your gifts…Those ones you’ve dredged up from the deep dark waters of your soul…add those gifts to the community…share those with the others….Do the work with your whole self.
Remain until you have done what you were sent to do. Again, sounds easy…but we get distracted by things don’t we…new things…new opportunities…new challenges…and we need to careful about that…
But we get attached to certain things…and stuck in certain roles…and we need to know when to let go…Following Jesus means always discerning…weighing and sifting among many options…and figuring out when it’s time to stay…and when it’s time to move on…knowing when your task is complete.
Maybe the job changes…Maybe you change…maybe there are others have other gifts…who need an opportunity to do their work…
Knowing when the job is done and letting it go is hard…but it has to be done if we are to…Walk away with empty hands.
Which, as I recall, is how Jesus tells his disciples to go into the world…with no bag, no purse…
Take with you the ineffable gifts and blessings that you’ve received.
Leave behind the hurts and disappointments…
Walk away with a full heart, and empty hands.
At clergy conference this past week the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, reminded us of the pledge activists involved in the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama were required to sign which became colloquially as Martin Luther King’s Ten Commandments. And which are also a map for following Jesus…following the Way of Love…
10. Follow the directions of the movement, and the captain on a demonstration. (Go where you are sent…the next set can fall under wait until you are shown what to do)
9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
8. Refrain from violence of fist, tongue or heart.
7. Seek to perform regular service for others in the world.
6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
(do it with your your whole self, and remain until it is done)
5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all people might be free.
4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all people might be free.
3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.
1. (from which all of the others flow) Meditate daily on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. [source]
Follow Jesus…Follow the the way of love.
Bishop Curry also reminded us of The Way of Love…which is another ancient map for structuring your life around following Jesus.
Turn: Listen and choose to follow Jesus
Learn: Reflect on scripture daily, especially the life and teachings of Jesus.
Pray: Commit time each day to dwell in God’s presence.
Worship: Gather in community weekly to thank and praise God.
Bless: share faith and unselfishly give and serve
Go: cross-boundaries, listen deeply, live like Jesus.
Rest: Receive the gift of grace, peace, and restoration.
“If you love me…Follow me” Follow Jesus…Follow the Way of Love.
Super simple, not at all easy.
Sufi masters also say
“No one will ever tell you that the Way is easy: only that it is possible.”
If anyone has ever told you that following Jesus is easy, I am sorry.
They were wrong.
Following Jesus is not easy: but it is possible.
It is possible to recognize how God active in the world…
It is possible to see resurrection happening in the world…
It’s possible to taste and see the goodness of God in the simplest things in life.
It’s possible to have the scales fall from our eyes…
It’s possible to be open and giving…
It’s possible to see that we need each other…not just those who are most like us…but actually what we most need those who are most unlike us…just as Saul and Ananias need each other to see what they have been sent to do.
It’s not easy, but it is possible.
So here are some maps…One from the Sufi tradition, one from MLK, one an ancient Christian one as revitalized by our presiding bishop…
take up one…and know that the journey won’t be easy…but Jesus will be with you…and all you have to do is “Follow him.”