The season of Epiphany has followed the wise men as they foolishly searched for a star, a star that would lead them to a new king, a new God. We have watched as the magi returned a different route having been warned in a dream to beware of Herod. And in fulfillment of that warning, Herod in rage and motivated by jealousy, killed all the children under two years old in that region. So Mary and Joseph like many since became refugees and fled to Egypt, returning when the political situation had subsided to live in Nazareth where Mary originally came from. Lots of new beginnings.
The scene jumps some years and we encounter Jesus now at the age of about thirty on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As the scene opens Jesus is as it were idly walking along the lake. He must have known the disciples, Philip, Andrew, Peter, and Nathaniel before this encounter as they were local. We realize as we read this story that some divine preparation must have taken place for this to have happened. Jesus knows Nathaniel.
These men were working class fishermen, not scholars, not teachers but burly, smelly fishermen and they would not have been religious people.But in fact we find that almost exclusively it is to such people that Jesus ministered, the hamarez, the commoners, and it was from such people that he chose his disciples. And they are already captivated by him. What a contrast to the other rabbis, the clergy!
When Jesus called the fishermen he made no conditions, just come he said and they came as they were. Similarly Jesus asks us to come as we are, and he will use us as we are, which is why Rev David Tomlinson buried Ronnie Biggs last week. We are all the same. There are no conditions to being a Christian except to want to follow Christ. You may have committed great sins you may subsequently mess your live up but Jesus says just come. Come, follow me, warts and all.
It was an act which changed the course of human history but it began with a simple act of complete faith. Jesus calls us to leave behind our old lives and just come.
The church in the West has a similar journey to make. It has lived with ways of being and structures that served it well in a previous age, but not in this. In an age of the spiritual the church is surprisingly unpopular. It too has to let go of the past and embrace a new future, one perhaps less tidy. It has to trust God and just come. Warts and all.
This coming year make resolutions that will make a difference, with a divine
spark, listen to your dreams and follow your hunches, foolishly following the God of Truth and Wisdom. It may involve upheaval, upset as people around you don’t want things to change. it may involve a change of attitudes, it may involve traveling and the giving of what is costly. But of such stuff are dreams made of and of such stuff is the journey as Christians we embark on when we decide to truly follow the unusually bright star in a dark sky.