Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Follow Me"

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

In our Gospel Lesson this morning [Matthew 4:18-23] we witnessed our Lord calling His first disciples to follow Him. When the time came for Him to do this, He did not go up to the Temple to select holy and respected priests to become His apostles. He did not call lawyers, those men who were experts in the Law of Moses and thus would have lent great credibility to His ministry. He did not choose from among the Pharisees, the supposed spiritual elite of Israel. Being Himself the son of a carpenter in the eyes of men, He intentionally picked men of His own station in life. In modern terms it would be as if He had walked into a Home Depot and called a grubby housepainter or gone out to the parking lot and called a few day-laborers to follow Him. He selected men who by human reasoning should have been an impediment to His ministry, since much of society would have naturally disregarded such lowly figures.

From there, Jesus immediately set about ministering to the lowest of the low, healing the diseased, the demon-possessed, and those with every human sorrow. All these actions together were designed to reveal to us that sin has in fact made us all lowly people despite outward appearances, and has robbed each of us of the glory that God originally intended for our race.

Man was created to fulfill a truly magnificent role, beyond comprehension in wonder. God had first created the unseen world, the splendid heavenly hosts of angels and spiritual beings. He then created the material world and the many physical animals that populated it. He last of all created man as the unique spiritual and physical creature, the perfect union of both worlds in one being, and the one who was to become the Priest of both, assisting the worship of God on behalf of all creation and, being a visible creature made in God’s image and designed to be filled with His uncreated life and grace, to offer that grace and life and the love of God to all creation in return. It is a truly staggering destiny we are made for! Whatever small potatoes you or I have settled for in our lives, this is what God had in mind when He made us.

When Lucifer, then the loftiest of God’s spiritual beings, sensed that this new, funny-looking creature was destined for a stunningly higher calling than even his own, he was filled with envy. He led a rebellion against God, saying to himself, “I will be greater than man; I will be greater than even He who sits upon the Throne!” He was cast down for this and his lack of repentance, and soon instigated the fall of man to derail God’s plan and cause man not to grow in divine grace, but to return to the dust from which he was taken. The devil’s plan seemed to be successful. The generations of men and women soon forgot their incredibly high calling and gave themselves over to a mere and miserable earthly existence, exploiting creation and one another for personal satisfaction.

In God’s great mercy, man was allowed to experience the consequences of his fall, and sickness, torment and death soon entered the world. This curse was not from God. In Genesis we read that God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you”. Adam brought about his own curse of death as the result and natural consequence of his separation from the Giver of Life. Being the head of the material world, this curse of Adam’s own making soon spread back to the world itself and Paradise was lost. In its place arose the world we know today; one of despair and suffering, of futility and seemingly endless sorrow and grief.

The Son of God took to Himself our human nature to recreate the divine image in humanity and to provide each of us with the opportunity to return to our pre-fallen purity, and from there to resume the path toward glory, toward becoming a Royal Priesthood, seated at the right hand of God. Jesus came specifically to the lowly, the diseased, the dying, and the tormented to reveal these as the more accurate picture of the human condition when fallen from its intended place. When we read these Gospel stories, we must understand that these poor and miserable people are portrayals of us. Although we do carry with us a nagging and often painful awareness of our sinfulness, we almost never see ourselves as the horribly stricken and incredibly fallen beings that we truly are. We fail to realize that we have fallen fantastically short of the glory that God created us for, and have learned to settle for so much less.

Everything about creation and our lofty calling to reign with Christ as kings and priests speaks of the unsurpassed love of God for us. Yet so seldom do we find it in our hearts to return that love, or to show gratitude by living as God desires. We often approach God out of a sense of duty, or go through the Christian life like sticks of wood. Pinocchio was a little wooden boy who at least longed to become a real boy of flesh and blood. But do we long for authentic humanity? We must admit that God’s intended destiny for us is beyond our comprehension. We, who are lower than the angels, lower in our behavior many times than even the animals, are intended to be glorified and lifted up higher than them all? We cannot imagine such a calling. But more importantly, will we answer it, and allow Jesus to raise us up from our present lowliness to the heights He created us for? Dare we invite the Holy Spirit daily to come and abide in us, to cleanse us from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and to save our souls?

As we saw in our Gospel Lesson, the first disciples left behind everything to follow Christ. Perhaps there are things we should leave behind to follow Him; things such as our self-imposed, habitually low goals in the Christian life, or of being weak and inconsistent in our repentance, or faint and heartless in our pursuit of God’s grace. St. Paul said that we should treat the crown of our high calling as a prize, and train for it like athletes. Many times when we hear the term “spiritual athletes”, we sigh and moan and claim that this is far beyond us. But it isn’t beyond us; this is what we were made for. It is not beyond our God-given capability; it is only just a fingertip beyond our expectation.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. We must envision what God has called us to, as best we can. We the lowly are called to great things, and can see them fulfilled in our lives if we will follow Christ with all our hearts. Come, let us follow Him and discover together what great things we were created for.

+To the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


At 6/25/2006 10:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell me of the Lord and what he has done for you.....


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