Watering our roots
May 28th Based on Matthew 5.1-16 The Beatitudes
The day was cold, wet and slushy. The wool wrapped around my feet and calves was soaked from the pools of water that we had been trudging through for hours.
Fishing had always left us wet to the skin, but then we were busy hauling nets, oaring the boats and sorting fish. It was easier to ignore how cold we were. But this, this was exhausting, lacking direction and with no apparent benefit.
And now my parents were without a son!
My father left to provide for the household. I barely said goodbye, bringing but a few things in my rucksack to carry me through.
I longed only to wipe my mother’s tears and crawl back into my boat.
That familiar place which held both purpose and refuge.
I focused on the heels of James ahead of me, just to keep my eye fixed so as to not stray from our path and be overwhelmed by my own exhaustion and desperation. The teacher’s steps were steady. He said little, but carried on with determination toward some unknown destiny. We had been together several weeks now and a devoted group of us had become committed followers.
I knew that something had to give in our land. The people were hungry, unfairly treated, unjustly accused and too often enslaved, imprisoned or just disappeared.
When Jesus first came to my boat and spoke to me, I could not resist, I was thirsty for what he offered and so I left everything that had ever mattered to me, behind. Yet now my body wore the wet weather with heaviness and my soul still felt dry.
When would the teacher reveal his plan for us? When would he show us, through the voice of the prophets how we are to stand and look into the eyes of our enemies and see freedom? Jesus was not what I had expected. He did not rant about oppression like Isaiah and Micah.
He did not beg for Judah’s patience like Jeremiah. He sat in circles with neighbours, strangers, sick people and untouchables. Some of us would stand behind and watch, unsure of what to do. Our teacher was determined yes, but he was not a crusader ready to break down the endless rule of persecution and assimilation, we had known for centuries. He was a storyteller. A gentle, forthcoming man that ate with lepers and prostitutes as if they were queens and high priests. And yet, he challenged just about everything we did and had done since we were born.
It was so hard at first to be surrounded by the very people we had been taught to ignore and imagine did not even exist. People who lived outside the city and town walls, who left their homes without more than a rag of cloth around them and a small leather pouch from which to draw water. Entire families dwelled in the caves hoping someone would come by and throw them the meager leftovers of a recent meal. Hoping their children might have just one small morsel of food, so they could sleep without pain rolling in their bellies.
I had not even noticed these people before. So caught in my own life, they were nothing but ghosts and shadows. Why should they matter to me? But when I watched Jesus, how he would cradle a young child still and parched from weeks without nourishment, I trembled into change. I began to feel my dry roots moisten. I began to understand why I could no longer catch fish. My life belonged to this tired, yet unstoppable man, whose very walk breathed out God.
I did not know until many years later why Jesus called me not just Simon, but Simon Peter. I did not realize that he had a vision for me. A vision where I Peter, meaning small stone, would be one of the first to cast into the wanting pool of society, an entire new way of living. A society that invested in the unseen. A society that made inroads and large spaces for God through the movements of their hearts. A society unashamed of differences that did not destitute widows, children, the underprivileged or the unwanted. When Jesus told me that my life would be laid down so that this new society could come into being, I did not realize the magnitude of his words. I followed him willingly because he believed in me. And I believed he spoke with words that came from the very heart of God.
So here we now have arrived, on the northern plains of Galilee. My home is behind me. Many local communities have gathered here under the shade of the mountains. Jesus has been quiet for hours. But I can see by the look on his face, by the pensive sway in his brow and the embers jumping to life in his eyes, that he is about to reveal to all of us a significant page in our journey.
No longer do we stand back from the circle gathered round him. We sit close, near others and him. We wait while he prays. Our minds unable to calm in the midst of anticipation. Soon we watch as those who seemed hidden among the crowd come forward. Some walk with sticks and some are carried, others hobble and some crawl. Families hold out their hands and their children, wanting only to be touched. The ill, the lame, the elderly and discarded, they are all here, unafraid and hopeful for maybe the first time in their lives. I have no words. I am a part of the living dream and hope ready to awaken. And then he speaks, revealing his secrets. On the cold damp plain, where only our breath offers some warmth, we listen. And in our listening we are watered by the testimony of our teacher Jesus. We leave in the background the world and enter the river of God. We are the new streams, the creeks that will flow to an arid land. We will be voices for God until all our voices are one and the great Shalom embraces the entire countryside. This land today may be cold and damp, but it warms and flows with the new river of God. The voice of our teacher, our Jesus, trembles the very earth beneath us.
“Because you are lost, God will find you and you will find God.
Because you are hungry you will eat at the table of God’s new creation.
Because you weep for the world and each other, your joy will come with every sunrise.”
And when you are cut down or are thrown out or discredited in my name, you are blessed! Because this means the truth is too close for comfort and that makes others uncomfortable.
Be glad when that happens, you have discovered the inroad to God.”
I realized these words; this gospel that Jesus was creating was challenging the world to be uncomfortable with what appeared normal. That nothing was truly is as it seemed and we were about to turn the world around us onto its head.
I was never more terrified, and I never felt freer, in my life. I was soaked to my very bone, soaked with the unrelenting spirit of my teacher, my Jesus the Christ.
Do we know this Jesus?
Do we listen for this uncomfortable justice that begs to bleed out from the depth of our beings?
Do we realize that in us resides this sacred story?
The story of divine inclusion.
The story of unmitigated love and hope and belonging, of all life.
Perhaps it is time for us to Re-view. Re-think. Re-vision Our faith. Our following. Our accountability and the perception we have created about who God is and how Jesus, our master, emissary, living water and holy breath, consecrates everything.
Nothing is left behind. No-one is cast aside. Everyone and everything belongs.
Perhaps it is time for us to explore just where God has led us and the world community too.
There are pieces of heaven everywhere.
A piece of heaven is here and it has led us all to this place, to this time.
God’s eye is on us.
God’s hope is in us.
God’s faith is for us.
Can you see it? Can you feel it? Can you hear it?
A new community of faith is being born.
Labour pains are acute. Tearing and wrenching and waiting and uncertainty are unrelenting.
But when new life arrives, it arrives with the face of God.
We look upon it and know that it has our heart and we will, with gentle, brave and outstretched hands hold it always with the One who entrusted us with its care. We are the bearers of God’s good and gracious news. We hold a seed ready to root and birth heaven on earth.
Blessed our those who awake from the very heart of God, for they will save the world.