Receiving Your Inheritance started out as a weekly email I sent out to a couple hundred recipients, mostly members of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew. Some were fairly topical, some, like this one, were reflections on some bit of the Lectionary readings for a given week. This one caught my eye because it’s for the same week (III Epiphany, Year A) that we’re in now.
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
Last week, after I sent out the piece I’d written already, I woke early one morning in a bit of a panic. “Okay, Jeff, Jesus speaks this way to the two disciples of John, but what about Peter and Andrew? Does he “invite” them too? What if you’ve overstated your case based on that one verse!
I got up and went right to my Greek New Testament resource and looked it up. What is there?
An invitation. What we translate in the imperative mood, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people,” is in fact just a couple of adverbs that roughly translate “Following after me, I will make you fishers…” What’s more is that one of those adverbs, the one translated “Come” (Follow is made out of “Come” and “After” together.) is often used with an imperative after it. “Come, and DO this thing…” Guess what, there’s no imperative in the sentence anywhere. Here Jesus uses a word that is often associated with that mood of telling each other what to do, and he undoes it!
Okay… That’s really last week’s stuff. I just wanted you to know that long before I read this week’s Gospel from Matthew, I had looked at it in panic!
This week, I’m having trouble getting past the first phrase of the Gospel reading.
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.
This call of Peter, Andrew, James and John all happens in this context. It follows on the heels of Jesus’ baptism and his time in the wilderness. He returns from this time and discovers that his cousin and friend has been arrested. And he goes home, he “withdraws to Galilee.” (Remember, he was born in Bethlehem, but he grew up in Nazareth of Galilee.)
He goes home.
I’m one of those people who grew up as part of the mobile society of the 60’s and 70’s. We moved a lot, sometimes twice in two years, sometimes every four or five years because my dad’s company transferred him all over the place, and we were either moving to a new city or moving to a new house in a new city. As a result, I have never had much of a sense of “home” connected to a place. When I managed to live in Greenville, NC for 15 years (though there were a lot of dorms and apartments in those years) I finally decided to call that “home.”
But it’s still not a place I would retreat to if I’d heard that my cousin and fellow servant of God had been arrested.
In some ways, that is a boon. Because I don’t associate “home” with a place, I’ve never had anywhere to look for home except God’s arms. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to go there until very recently, but now that I do, at least I’m not confused about where to go when things get difficult or I find myself in grief.
Jesus does this more than you’d think in the Gospels. He withdraws when he learns that the authorities are plotting against Him, when he learns of John’s death, when the disciples return from their preaching adventures, when He is facing His Passion in the garden. He goes home.
If there were a gift I would wish for each of you this week, it is that you would come to a place where you can withdraw into the Father’s Presence and find the comfort and strength that Jesus found when he did the same. Sometimes a place may help us experience Him, in the way that Jesus went to a familiar place here at the beginning of His ministry. I can just see him walking pathways that he had walked with John early in life, places where together they had sought the Father and come to know the power of His plan for the near future. I can feel the comfort He felt in those moments when he needs to be supported in the face of the brutality of the world.
And as Jesus grew, He found home in places He’d never been before, but places where he found His Father even so. When John died, Scripture tells us that he withdrew to “a desolate place.” No comfort in the geography here, but I know that He found His home nonetheless. And He found rest, and comfort and courage.
Because I didn’t have much of a sense of “home” until lately, when I was challenged, I tended to hide instead. I would hide in my head, thinking lofty thoughts, or in mystery or adventure novels and stories of someone else’s life, or in chemical aids like beer or my favorite, a good single-malt. Or I would hide “in plain sight” by just charging ahead as though I weren’t wounded by what I’d experienced. I didn’t hide myself, but I hid my woundedness in this. No matter, though. Hiding is hiding, and it doesn’t bring healing and comfort and strength.
The world deals us a lot of blows along the way. The enemy loves to throw those “flaming darts” at us when we’re most vulnerable, and when we’re most elated. In both cases, the wounds can really sting if they catch us by surprise. And the wounds need to be tended. If the Son of God needed to withdraw and seek comfort in the “home” that He knew in His Father, then how do we dare hope to get by on less?
God will really become our home if we turn to Him for this. He does not just give us refreshment and courage, but He IS our refreshment, our strength and resolve. He simply asks that we hear His invitation to turn back to Him when we are wounded and let Him bathe and reclothe us in His power.