Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Turning to and turning away.....

The 3rd Sunday after Epiphany                       
Year A                                                                        
Matthew 4:12-23

The broken down houses in the village of Bethsaida at the north end of the Sea of Galilee highlights the loneliness of the place.  It's been abandoned for centuries - this town of Andrew and Peter and James and John.  Everyone has gone.  One of the lonely houses here has been identified in legend as the House of Zebedee the fisherman - marginally bigger and perhaps more prosperous than the neighboring buildings.  In fact, one of the loneliest characters in the New Testament must certainly be "old Zebedee" himself in this week's reading from Matthew's Gospel.   Zebedee began his day in a boat by the Sea of Galilee with his two sons James and John.   He finished it alone after the two boys stepped out over the gunwales onto the beach and became followers of Jesus.  They formed part of a coterie of men and women following Jesus who proved a disruption to their extended families, who broke out of their niches in village hierarchies, who disappointed their parents and who ceased to function within their guilds and syndicates.  As such they wasted an education and abandoned whatever promotions they had received to this point.  Nothing was ever the same again.  Not for them.  Not for their families.

They might have been called quitters or splitters or leavers.  Someone out there, no doubt, considered them an utter waste of space.

Now old Zebedee has no one to fish with.   That's a shame.  It's not by accident that the reader feels the poignant loneliness.   He could not possibly have been made to understand that his sons had left something good for something better.  His boys were simply up and gone.

These opening chapters of the Gospel are about exciting times - Jesus is calling together his band of followers.  We are here reminded that we can start again in the midst of life - that the call of Christ comes to those who already have a history - that there are none of us nailed into place.

But every "turning to" is a "turning away" and every "yes" is a "no".  How many doors have you shut in your lifetime?  And do you regret these departures?  In your cleaving to Jesus, in your excitement about his words and your recognition of the compelling part of his character which seemed to call you out directly, were you at all conscious that you were leaving something behind?  Did you hear the door click?