Welcome to Word-seeds dear friend. This is where we pray the Scripture roots into every crevice and crack of our life, breaks up the hard ground.
Word seed is a Bible study that may take longer than a day. We wind around a thought, give questions for meditation and begin to open up the Scripture that you may be hearing this next Sunday. Feel free to stop at a picture question and come back later for a bit more time in the Scripture. This week we are on the rocky shores of the Lake of Galilee with the fishermen cleaning their nets for the day. Read it in Matthew 4:12-22 before you read here?
(These word seeds will always correspond with the lectionary because I have a need to join others on our common pilgrimage. Today’s post comes from the gospel, Year A, Epiphany 3)
Pray that I don’t loose the hands of Jesus in my attempt to feed the poor.
–Mother Teresa to Henri Nouwen
Kathy Sicard wrapped the scarf tight around my head and the world dimmed. With the second scarf I went blind. I felt like I had walked into a movie theater late, groping for chairs, hoping I didn’t end up in someone’s lap. Marie Diebold grasped my hands, facing me, walking backwards. Her voice was low and soft.
We were in her house for our Tuesday night inner healing study. One Tuesday night we went through the lessons, the next Tuesday we gave it to others. It was our first year doing the 16 week Healing Care study by Terry Wardle.
Marie guided me slowly through her kitchen, around the butcher block island, the metal sink cupboard from the 60’s, the collection of hanging mugs by the window. She talked me straight through the narrow kitchen doorway shuffling our feet from the wood floor of the kitchen to the oriental carpet in the living room. “Walk straight. OK, a small step to the right, and there now, here’s the coffee table. Can you feel it against your legs. Ok stop. Turn left. Walk ahead two steps.” We wound through the downstairs of her farmhouse like this.
I do fine with trust exercises like this. Not so much in real life. I know God is guiding but I find myself fumbling wildly for the wall, the doorways, begging to take off the scarf.
This scripture reveals my heart. I’m the one walking in darkness. I’ve seen the great light but much of the time the brightness doesn’t register. Let’s just say I don’t spend enough time basking in the glow.
So much of my calling has seemed like a straight line. No, that’s not quite true. There have been plenty of times of uncertainty, I have just repressed them. I like straight lines. Receive calling. Go to seminary. Work in a church for ten years.
Every line looks straighter when looking back right?
The truth is that after ten years of parish ministry, I’m down to a congregation of three. I’m a mom to three blondies with big blueberry eyes and small unwrinkled hands. I fold them up onto my lap and smell their heads. I’ve been smelling my children ever since they were born. Primal, I guess.
They are beautiful and I struggle to be an intentional mother, wrapping them in truth and fuzzy blankets at night. I spread pasta on our table like I’m asking them to take forkfuls of love. I’m an Italian mama by osmosis after having been born there, I guess. But my calling? This is where I struggle. I like adventure and large purposes. I like to see where it is that I am headed. I want to get my hands dirty in the fight. I want to climb in bed at night exhausted for more than just wrestling children into their jammies.
So I’m listening to His voice in the Gospel, looking for direction this week. And it is His words that begin to open up a new way to see my calling inside our brick bungalow.
Until now, I always saw Christ’s calling of the fishermen as Jesus sending them out on a quest. Set down your ordinary life and I’ve got a new purpose for you. Something big. Something dynamic. We’re going to go fish for people! I imagined the disciples going straight from cleaning that fishy smell off their hands to a brainstorming session. But Jesus’ words indicate something quite different, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Some of the translations leave out the “come” but it’s right there in the Greek. Deute. Come hither. Come follow. The next time we see the verb spoken straight from Jesus’ mouth it is in Matthew 11:29, “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” The literal translation of the Greek here is: “Come follow after me and I will make you fishers of men.”
So much of my calling feels like a groping in the dark instead of a knightly quest. No gallantry. No coming home with the holy grail.
But “Come” makes all the difference in the world. Come means that He is walking in front of me. “Come” means that He is present as I walk forward into the darkness.
We are not alone in our callings, we are following.
Just the definition of following calls us to walk forward with Someone growing big in our field of vision. When we follow, He fills our focus.
Christ grows bigger as we follow closer.
I think over my mental landscape this past week, my mind twisting with that fear that I wasn’t enough, the tantrum at dinner time, the day spent wrapped up tight in disappointment. How much of my mental landscape is consumed with the One I am supposed to be following? Perhaps that is the unfortunate answer.
Perhaps what or who I am following takes up most of my mental landscape.
Marie walked backwards and held my empty hands and I grasped tight.
They were the same hands where I had placed the Eucharist bread that tasted of honey and fed us of Jesus. They were the same hands that had massaged my tired pregnant muscles and the same hands I held between mine before she went into surgery to get the cancer cut out. That Tuesday night in the dark I grasped tight the familiar hands of a friend. I grasped trust.
When they heard the call of Jesus, Andrew and Peter put down nets, families, lives, expectations. They opened their hands to grasp a hold of His. They opened the tight fists of their lives, and everything fell through.
When we open our hands to follow Jesus, we drop the what for the Who.
We drop the tight-fisted control, the shiny magazine lives, the surge for self-expression when we follow the Call. Following requires the hard purging. Following requires repentance. Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near. It requires setting down everything heavy. It requires the healing of the fears that have us tangled in their nets.
But perhaps following is freedom, the first steps onto heavenly ground, arms empty, lifted in worship.
I want to go back to school to get a counseling degree. I want to write. I want to be a midwife to God’s redemption, do spiritual direction and inner healing prayer. I want to get back into the life of the church. Right now I feel shut out of all the callings that make me feel most at home. But perhaps that’s the point. This move is stretching me and stretching sometimes happens so fast it leaves scars.
I think Jesus understands the strangeness of being sent away from the comfortable. After his desert temptation, Jesus was not welcomed home. His hometown of Nazareth had not been able to transform their definitions from Jesus the carpenter son of Joseph to Jesus the Christ.
Just like old times, on the Sabbath He had sat with the others in the Synagogue, rolled out the scroll, found the job description of the Messiah in Isaiah 61. These were the verses I imagine kept him awake at night. His mission.
THE mission that all other callings reflect back.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
But people don’t want to “know” their Messiah, their neighbor. They want celebrity and a charismatic Samson who will fight their enemies with the jawbone of a lion. They don’t want their Messiah to be the boy that grew up on their front lawns.
And so Jesus found himself homeless with a mission still burning deeply. He was kicked out of the synagogues and into the streets. But, again, perhaps that was the gift.
I found this in Barclay’s Gospel of Luke: “Jesus would go anywhere men would listen to him.” Then Barclay links us to John Wesley’s journey,
“Our [Methodist] societies were formed from those who were wandering upon the dark mountains, that belonged to no Christian Church; but were awakened by the preaching of the Methodists, who had pursued them through the wilderness of this world to the higheays and the Hedges—to the Markets and the Fairs—who set up the standard of the Cross in the Streets and Lanes of the Cities, in the Villages, in the Barns, and Farmers’ Kitchens…”
Barclay says in closing, “When the Synagogue was shut, Jesus took to the open road.”
Same mission. Different location. Same purpose. If the mission burns within us, we proclaim it wherever we can. The kitchen table or the internet. We implant it as hope into a friend’s heart, or whisper it into our daughter’s hair.
We join His mission and it becomes our heartbeat: Proclaim. Release. Restore. Redeem.
Wherever we are.
Would you like weekly Word-Seeds to be slipped into your email? Slip your email address into the Connect button on the front page of “a thirst for God.” Let’s pray that the Word plants in all the crevices of our lives.
Writing in community with the lovely Jennifer Dukes Lee here: