Let's be on the move
By The Revd Robert Jordan MA
"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi." Would it be fair to assume that most of you recognize where that comes from? But even Maria realized that was not the best place to start and so created a new song: "I will make it easier for you. Listen..." and goes on to the "doe is a deer..." which the children she is with find much easier to pick up. Well, today's reading is one of those moments.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we go from the preaching of John: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near", to the baptism of Jesus and then the temptations in the desert and one in particular: the third temptation where Jesus is shown all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour: the kingdom of heaven versus the kingdoms of the world. With Jesus' response, the tempter leaves for a time, and this is where we begin the reading today.
The passage begins with a "Then" (or "Now...) Jesus hears that John has been arrested and this is a sort of sign for him... Jesus decides then that he has to begin his walk of mission. So he moves from where he was: Nazareth and goes to Capernaum and the Decapolis... and picks up what John was saying: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near: ... but look carefully, he doesn't use that too...he soon decides to go about it in a different way, spelling out the kingdom; and so begins to call a group of people to gather round him.
These will eventually become the Twelve Apostles...and a lively bunch they will be. Known to us for their not understanding what is going on, for their confusions, for their hotheadedness and even for learning a difficult lesson, because eventually they will have to go out and share what they have learnt from Jesus. The apostles are disciples but not all disciples are apostles One is a rather "closed" group, eventually adding Matthias (to replace Judas) and Saul (much to a few people's objection). The disciples are a much larger group of people forming a somewhat disperse group.
What we learn today is that when Jesus calls these first four, he calls people who know about what they do for a living, but not about the kingdom of heaven, so Jesus decides he will start showing them and others what it is all about and how it reaches out. And he does this walking around, seeing, pointing things out, even what seems the obvious, and also changing their assumptions...teaching them a known song in a different way. And this is what challenges me in particular - given the Oxfam report of a few days ago', I ask myself (and ask you) - what does it mean to be disciples given this horrific reality: eight billionaires own the same wealth as half the world's population. That's right - eight individuals own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion people.
Jesus creates a new identity in those he calls, and it is this new identity that the Spirit creates in us the response to our calling to be part of a movement centred round the love of God for people and creation - the kingdom of heaven as Jesus said that first time, which develops much further than just words... and here we are today.
In a world that is at one of its highest peaks of inequalities and struggle we are called to live a different way, where we are, and with what we are, choosing to be in the world but not like the world. So when we share bread and the cup at communion in a few moments, let us remember God's generosity is not based on merit but on love, a love we receive and a love we are called to share.
Where to begin?....it is often a good idea "to start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, when you read you start with ABC, when in faith you begin with L O V E..." And then Jesus says "Let me make it easier for you: you are loved by God, so let's be on the move and love as we are loved." and it all follows from that. Let me finish with what might be a quote from the Talmud (the Jewish collection of study of the written sacred texts): Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. So let us do just that - let's be on the move, loving, now! Amen.