This is a little late but here are my thoughts for last Sunday, the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany.
Last week’s demonstrations against the war in Iraq were somewhat reminiscent of the demonstrations against the war in Viet Nam some forty years ago. It almost seemed as if the same people who spoke out against the war in Viet Nam were there speaking out against the war in Iraq.
Of course, that wasn’t the case. While there were some for the days long past who spoke out, for the most part the organizers and speakers this time were new. It would have been nice if they had offered something new to the proceedings. It just seemed to me that there was no energy in the protests. It was almost as if someone had said that we need to protest because it is time for another protest.
Those who have read my writings know that I am opposed to war. I became opposed to the war in Viet Nam and I have been opposed to this war in Iraq from the beginning. But I have also stated that we need to offer a different vision. The present “war on terrorism” does nothing to end the causes the lead to terrorism. All it does is confirm that terrorism will be present any time violence is used as a response.
I think that the reason for the difference lies in the involvement. Back then, protesting the war in Viet Nam was also a protest against the draft and the inequity of such a system. Today, there is no draft so there is no threat to many individuals. Now, let me make it clear – I am not calling for a draft!
If we reinstated the draft, people would do like they did back then and find the loopholes that would allow them to avoid service. The draft was inequitable then and it would be inequitable now; so let us not have a discussion on reinstating the draft.
But let us have a talk; let us discuss; let us call for a new vision on how to deal with terrorism. Let us work to eliminate poverty and sickness; let us work to reduce and eliminate oppression; let us finally give hope to the hopeless and more than a promise that tomorrow will be better than today. It is almost as if God were calling to us today, just as He called Isaiah in the Old Testament reading for today (1), “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me?”
Are you the one God is calling today? Are you the one who is hearing God’s call to go and take the Gospel message with you? Are you afraid that you do not have the skills or the abilities that might be needed? Note what happened in the Gospel reading for today. (2) Christ did not call Peter, Andrew, James, or John to be his disciples without first teaching them and then showing them.
It is time that we hear the word of God as it is spoken, not as we would like it spoken. No longer should the message be about one’s self but rather about what we can be for others. Isaiah’s message was given to the overtly religious and arrogant but they chose not to listen or look at what was happening. And in the end, they were the ones who lost everything.
There are those today who say that all the troubles of the world are because of our sinful life but instead of working to remove sin, they seek to find blame. Those who find blame with others are the people who God said would hear but not listen; those who find blame with others are the people who look but not see; those who find blame are the people who cannot think.
Paul makes the note in his letter to the Corinthians for today (3) that he was not worthy of God’s grace. The grace of God is given without reservation by God so we cannot determine who will receive it. Therefore, we cannot blame others if we see the world around falling apart or crashing down in flames. But we can work to make this a better world, a world in which oppression is removed, where sickness is minimized, where the homeless have shelter, where the hungry are fed, and where those without hope are given hope and a chance for a better life.
Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s I thought I heard a saying. At first, I thought it was a statement from the Civil Rights movement; “If not me, who? If not now, when?” It appears that this statement has been around a lot longer than I thought. But whenever it was and who ever said it is not as important as is the fact that it is the question we must ask ourselves today.
It is noted that when Jesus asked Peter, Andrews, James and John to follow Him and become fishers of men, they left everything and did just that. No consultation with anyone, no questions asked as to where they were going; they just left everything and followed Him.
When God said to Noah, “I want you to build me an ark” Noah did not check his calendar to see if he was available to do so? He did not ask God to postpone the flood because he, Noah, wouldn’t be available? He did not even question whether it was possible for it to rain forty days and nights when he lived in an area that only received one inch of rain a year. We don’t know what Noah’s initial response was but we do know that he did what God asked him to do.
Moses was chosen by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land; but what did he do? He asked God to select someone else; “Who, me Lord? Can’t you find someone else?” God did not let Moses off the hook but He did give him some help in the form of his brother Aaron.
It isn’t that we don’t hear God speaking to us, but that we often don’t know that He is. When Samuel was young, he heard God calling to him but he did not know that it was God.
“the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down within the temple of the Lord, where the Ark of God was. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ He said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood forth, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for thy servant hears.’” (4)
But, Eli understood and provided Samuel with the necessary guidance. There have been others who have heard God speaking but, without guidance, could not respond. Many others have probably never heard the voice of God. Because of this, God sent His Son.
So it is for us today. We hear God calling to us; we have heard the message from Christ showing us the way. So what are we going to do? The questions are simple ones. God asks who shall go and we respond by saying “we shall go.” God asks when we shall go and we answer “today.”
(1) Isaiah 6: 1 – 6 (9 – 13)
(2) Luke 5: 1 – 11
(3) 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 11
(4) 1 Samuel 3: 3 – 12