Now is the Time

January 24, 2021

Someone told me last week, one of the sins of the Church is that we have worshipped Christ, when that is never what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Follow me, he said to fishermen; set aside your vocation, set aside the ways your fathers made their identity and find a new purpose in life. Find your identity in more than the way you earn your living; find your identity in the way your life echoes mine. Follow me, he said.

Follow me. Watch what I do. Stand in my shoes and do the same. Follow me, Jesus said Follow me; into the lands of gentiles; beckon strangers to become siblings, enemies to be transformed into co-laborers in common cause. Follow me, Jesus said; and show the world what it means to fish for people. Follow me into the wisdom of the ages, into the words of the prophets, written on subway walls and tenement halls and on the hearts of the broken-hearted, disappointed by life’s evil corruption. Follow me, Jesus said, and learn a new life.

Follow me; into Isaiah. Hear the echoes of God’s word through the quill of Isaiah who knows it is God who sends the ones who feel the oil of God’s anointing, and who proclaim the vision,

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

    because the Lord has anointed me;

has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

    to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

    and release to the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of Jubilee,

    and the day of vengeance of our God;

    to comfort all who mourn;

to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

    to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

Follow me, Jesus said, into the wilderness of the wicked world, into the careless cruelty of the ones who cling to power, using fear as a weapon, goading brother into killing brother; sister seduced into betraying sister.

Follow me, Jesus said, bringing good news to the oppressed, into the world, to a different way to fish. Not naively, but full of the nerve that nudges us to confront injustice because:

[1]We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Liberty to the captive and release to the prisoners; calling to the hoarders and the hardheads that this is a Year of Jubilee- the 50th year, when the books are swiped clean, when a new start begins, when hope is resurrected from the ashes, garlands are given, and the oil of gladness slathered all around extravagantly from never-emptying bowls of mercy and grace. Follow me, Jesus says, and turn your neighbor’s mourning dirge into delightful dervish dancing.

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

Follow me, Jesus says, up to the mountain top, where we might gaze through the misty veil, and see the splendor of the Kindom of God in all its glory; not yet arrived, but on its way.  Stand with me on the mountain top, Jesus says, and behold the land of what may be, if only you will follow me.

Jesus calls us, as surely as he called Simon and Andrew and James and John, he calls my name, and your name. Jesus calls us away from the ruts we have worn in our daily habits, calls us to lift our gaze from the ground before us into the hope that calls us. Jesus calls us, above the distracting noise, the jackhammer clamor of prejudice and negativity, of violence and bigotry. Jesus calls us to echo back love and dignity when we have been bludgeoned with hatred and hostility. Jesus calls us, not to escape the world, but to show the world a way that leads to life, abundant and eternal.

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

Follow me, Jesus said, and do what you see me do. Feed the hungry, tend the sick, embrace the outcasts, receive the repentant, love the unlovable. Follow me. Let your eyes be opened to the abundance of the universe God has created; reject the lie that there is never enough, open your hand and learn that you cannot outgive God. Let abundance flow from your hands, and see how God responds. Shower others and see how the flood of blessings from God pours over you in a cataract of grace.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Jesus beckons, “Follow me.” Follow me and see the abundant life God has created for you, if only you will open your hands and heart and accept it. If only you are brave enough to leave behind your familiar and follow Jesus.

Now is the time. Be better than what surrounds you. Put down the insults and the put-downs. Rather seek to lift up. You are not diminished by raising others to your own level. Now is the dawn of a new day; waste no more energy on what has passed. Be the light the world needs to see today. Now is the time.

[1] These beautiful lines, in Arial Bold italic script, are from Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” delivered at the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

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