Sunday, January 17, 2021
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
We are halfway through the first month of the new calendar year and things were supposed to be different, better even. But the days of 2021 aren’t looking any different to the days of 2020. The pandemic is still very, very real with a new variant that is more contagious. The vaccine rollout is not going smoothly and our frustration levels are rising along with the number of folks testing positive, hospitalizations, and deaths. Our law enforcement agencies are on high alert as Inauguration Day approaches because some people want to violently force their way of hate and anger on the rest of us.
Where is the good? Where is the peace? Where is the compassion? Where is the hope?
It is in each of us – it is in the Image of our loving and compassionate God in each of us.
In the reading from the gospel story today, Jesus is beginning his traveling ministry program by selecting his ministry team – the 12 individuals who would work closest with Jesus to spread the good news message of love and compassion as they themselves learn to live on earth as it is in heaven by learning to live like Jesus.
And, believe it or not, Jesus’ invitation wasn’t always met with enthusiasm and trust.
Philip wanted his friend Nathanael to join their band but Nate wasn’t so sure.
Nathanael responds to Philip’s invitation with skepticism based solely on his ideas of the place where Jesus grew up: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But Philip doesn’t get upset or angry or attempt to argue Nate into submission. He doesn’t even unfriend him. Philip keeps it simple. As Jesus had said to him, he extends his invitation with, “come and see.” Check this Jesus gig out and make your own decision.
The first part of this exchange could be heard in so many introductions today. Can there be anything good about that person because:
They are from (insert that place you don’t like).
They went to (insert that school you don’t like).
They voted for so and so.
They commented against my best friend’s facebook post.
They posted something I disagree with.
Like Nathanael, we’ve decided that nothing good can come from certain people groups, even though most of us get more than a little irritated when we are characterized by a single aspect of our multi-faceted personality.
We’ve let go of the fact that people experience and interact with the world differently. We want to claim our uniqueness and then get angry when people don’t see things as we do. Sure, there are similarities that come from the family, society, and culture we’ve grown up in but we each add our own flavor. It is part of being the humans God created us to be, each of us bringing a needed and necessary part to the collective whole. Being human is complicated. When we demand that everyone think and behave exactly like us, we are denying their humanness and our own.
Our meme and twitter culture exacerbates this. We think we can boil down our life’s philosophy into a few pithy words that define everyone and if we post that catchy phrase on social media, that we are changing the world. I know this is a bit ironic coming from someone who has ventured into the writing world through social media, but I write what I do with the full acknowledgement that it is my point of view.
I know that you will translate my words from your own perspective. And, yes, I do want to hear your perspective. I need you and your perspective to be fully who I am.
With the knowledge that we are all different, I know, too, that there is much between us that is the same – we are all uniquely created by a loving and compassionate God, in the very image of God, who wants us to participate in the purpose and plan of all of creation. We each have skills and talents and ways of seeing and experiencing the world that enable all of us to be fully who God created us to be.
When we seek to see the world as Jesus does, with eyes of compassion, we are better able to see the totality of each person. We all have both positive and less desirable traits, we all have good days and bad days, we all at times perform at our best and at others fail completely and most days are somewhere in between.
Come and see how following Jesus, learning to live as he teaches, can better equip us to walk the path of 2021 with compassion and love for ourselves and others.
Come and see this world through the lens of knowing we are all God’s beloved children and find the peace of being loved.
Come and see what it is to participate with God in answering our prayer that it be on earth as it is in heaven and find hope in knowing God is with us.
Come and see.