Again, like last week, we see in today’s Gospel, Jesus out and about feeding the hungry, calming the anxious, and assuring his disciples to “not be afraid.”
We see a Jesus who is all about showing deep and abiding love, in tangible, visible actions. Sharing food. Calming storms on the sea. Repeating words of assurance, like “Do not fear.”
And for us always is the question: What does it mean to call ourselves followers of this Jesus? What does it mean to be a “follower of Jesus” today?
Is it a matter of believing the stories about Jesus in the New Testament, as in rationally thinking about, or agreeing with Jesus and his stories? Is it just a matter of knowing facts and details about Jesus’ life and ministry? Is it agreeing with, or ascending to doctrinal statements of faith about God and Jesus?
I think it’s so important to realize that the actual meanings of the words “believe” and “faith” based on Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin roots, and the actual ancient understandings by the early disciples of these words, have more to do with the notion of trusting in God, devoting ourselves to Jesus, giving our hearts over to the Holy One in our midst.
So when we say “We believe in Jesus”, we’re really saying is “We trust in Jesus.” We follow Jesus. We give our hearts over to God in Christ. There’s that notion of real relationship with an actual person, the actual person of God, of finding rest and refuge in the safety and security of God who is always there.
We as a church today need to rediscover a renewed sense of trusting in and giving our hearts over to Jesus, and in doing so, discovering once again in fresh new ways, our mission and purpose. We need a renewed sense of actually stepping forward to follow Jesus on the way, to devote ourselves to ways of God in our actions and our words.
These days, with the predominance of mobile devices and “Google”, it’s easier than ever to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B, from one city to another, from one part of the province to another.
Now with GPS satellite technology, and with “Google Maps”, one needs only to enter a “start location” and “end location” – and then, within seconds, on your mobile device, a map with a marked route will appear, showing you exactly which roads to take. With GPS, you even have a voice saying – with certainty and authority: “Go 2 kilometres ahead and turn right. Proceed for 3.5 kilometres, then turn left.”
Recently we made a short road trip to Burlington to run an errand and catch a movie, and so I used “Google Maps” to help me find the places we needed to go to.
But what I realized is that, even though a map may show the route you need to take, even though a GPS device can tell you with authority to “turn left here” or “turn right there”, the driver still needs to be on the ball, paying attention to the road, and reading the signs on the road.
The car won’t just automatically go where I want it to go. The driver can’t be lazy and half-asleep. The driver needs to be alert, awake, and responsive, with eyes on the road, reading the signposts, turning the car in the right direction.
The map may show me where I need to go, but it’s ultimately up to the driver, to actually and definitively steer the car along the road.
We may know much about the Bible, about the ways and character of God. We may like what we hear about Jesus, and be very familiar with his stories of caring for those in need, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, speaking words of peace, and giving assurances to not be afraid. We may know something about being a follower of Jesus.
But it means nothing, until we actually act; until we actually pick ourselves up and follow Jesus in his ways of compassion, justice, and forgiveness. It means nothing until we “step onto the road” to follow where Jesus leads.
And we’ll find that, when we do this, we’ll find healing, rest and renewal. We’ll find unexpected companionship, and friendships. And most of all, we’ll catch glimpses of the way forward, of where our lives together as faith community might be leading, so we can begin to make a difference in the world for good, for the sake and wellbeing of others.
When we actually act – to give our hearts over to Jesus, to love and devote ourselves to God – we find our true rest, our true home in God. And then good things begin to happen!
A story of a newly sober A. A. member, who was visiting a strange city, and seeks to find an A. A. meeting.
Following directions he received from a friend, he finds a hall that’s part of a large church facility, and begins to search for the room where the meeting is held.
The first door he opens reveals a group of children in choir robes, getting ready to sing. He closes the door quickly… nope, that’s not it.
He looks in another door…. nope, half a dozen women are sewing and talking. That’s not it.
Approaching panic – he never really felt too comfortable in a church – he walks quickly down a hallway, feeling a little lost, thinking that if he sees an exit, he’ll take it, but still hoping to find what he came for.
Suddenly, a cloud of cigarette smoke wafts down the hallway, and he smells the bitter, burnt aroma of strong coffee. He hears voices, and the welcoming sound of people laughing.
Walking faster, he finds a room with the familiar A. A. books on the table and the A. A. mottoes hung on the wall.
Entering the room, greeted by a dozen smiles, he sighs deeply and smiles back.
He’s found home.
In the acceptance and comfort of being in a caring, non-judgemental faith community, the hope and prayer always is that we experience the living Jesus, and his love, healing and renewal.
We pray for the boldness to embrace the adventure of following Jesus along the way of compassionate caring, truth-telling justice, and forgiving love.