There’s been an Associated Press photo circulating on Twitter this past week, coming out of Ukraine –
…And we know the tensions, violence and riots that have been going on there for the past while between protestors and the police.
An Associated Press journalist right in the middle of it all, managed to take a photo from behind the protestor’s lines.
So in this picture, we see the backs of protestors facing the police in full riot gear, with shields, helmets and guns aimed at the protestors.
Just by looking at the photo, you can sense, almost in a palpable way, the tension, the danger, the imminence of a violent outburst…
But – and here’s what’s remarkable – in the “no-man’s land” area between protestors and police, standing there is a priest, a clergyperson, dressed in full church regalia, and he’s holding up a cross.
There he is, quietly standing there, in the breach, between two “warring peoples”, right in the middle of an imminent violent outbreak.
What a fiercely courageous thing to do!
A stunning image. An image that sends me thinking about the call of Jesus.
The Gospel reading today is about Jesus calling his first disciples.
Jesus is walking along the shores of Lake Galilee, and meets up with some fishermen.
Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” “I will make you fishers of people.”
Notice that Jesus didn’t say: “Follow me, and I will make you keepers of tradition … or,
“Follow me, and I will make you wise, holy and perfect …. or,
“Follow me, and I will make you spiritually superior … or,
“Follow me, and I will make you into busy, work-a-holics to set up and run a mega, world-wide institution designed to perpetuate itself for generations to come…
Jesus says: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”
It’s all about people,… about being in real and genuine relationships with others, relationships that are healthy, good, and right.
Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoon, once said: “I love humankind; it’s people I can’t stand.”
Therein lies the sweet irony true for many of us in the church.
We can so much come to love the idea of church, of religion, or the concept of prayer, spirituality…. but can’t stand people.
We may so much come to love the idea of God, or our place in the church, or the history of Christianity, theology, or the concept of being a religious/spiritual person in today’s world… but people drive us nuts.
In the day-to-day reality, we end up treating each other with such indifference, lack of consideration, even mean-ness of spirit.
We know there’s a difference between a concept or idea about something, and the on-the-ground, in-the-field, in-the-trenches experience of it as expressed in our real relationships with others.
So when it comes to our faith, where it really shows whether or not we take seriously the call of Jesus in our lives, is in the realm of our relationships, our real, lived relationships with others, in the here and now.
We are called to be “fishers of people.”
…connecting with, listening to, engaging with, and being real with others…
…being truthful and honest…
…bearing each other’s burdens, walking with each other, caring for especially the more vulnerable, and holding on to each other through thick or thin, no matter what,
…really, listening to the other…
…imaginatively putting ourselves in the shoes of the other, and considering the other person’s perspective, seeing the truth in the other person’s perspective, and not just quickly and lazily leaping to conclusions about where we think the other person is coming from…
And all along, despite our best efforts and best attempts at good, quality relationships, all along allowing Jesus to shape and mould us, to inspire and fashion us into truth-telling, loving and caring persons towards others…
All along, through it all, together, resting in God’s abundant grace and mercy, and trusting that God, in God’s good time and interesting ways, will bring about that for which we long: A reconciled universe, healed relationships, God’s shalom between all people.
Keeping that vision front and centre, despite our failures and persistent inability to get it right.
Many of us have experienced, I’m sure, the discouraging and frustrating scenario, whereby no matter how hard we may’ve tried to “make things right”, no matter the best creative efforts and processes put to a relationship problem, the result is nowhere near what we would’ve wished.
And brokenness remains.
There’s no telling, for example, if that priest’s action, standing there in that dangerous breach holding up the cross, would’ve solved the problems between the protestors and police.
Likely, it didn’t.
We all know the infuriating frustration of the “Middle East problem” between the Israelis and Palestinians since the 1940s – a decades-old serious problem that just won’t get resolved.
The best minds, the best diplomatic and peace-making efforts and processes over decades have been put to the problem… and still, the result is not what we’d all want.
And yet, that doesn’t stop us from trying, from time and time again, standing up, and witnessing to God’s reconciling love and justice, working toward good and right relationships between people.
Someone once said: “If you want to build a boat, you don’t drum up people to collect wood. Instead, you teach them to long for the immensity of the sea…”
Do we long for the immensity of the sea?
Do we long to see fulfilled God’s vision of restored and healed relationships?
Are our imaginations fired up, our hearts moved, our minds excited by the ministry our Lord Jesus carried out – extending loving, and compassionate care, especially toward those needing the basic necessities of good health, good food, good shelter, and good friendships?
Do we long for the goodness, fairness, and beauty of the reign of God in our midst today?
Do we “long for the immensity of the sea”?
If we do, let’s start “collecting some wood.”
Let’s start doing something, even if it’s one small thing toward realizing the vision of reconciled, healthy relationships.
Saying a kind word. Offering some help. Expressing consideration and
gratitude to another. Offering an invitation.
It may feel small, but we do our small bit anyway, plugging away at it, persistently trying…
…while keeping one eye on the larger, beautiful vision of God’s reconciled world,
…always “longing for the immensity of the sea.”