(longer than usual, word count higher than usual – who am I to tell The Editor how to write?)
I like saints. Role models for the rest of us to look up to. I remember one celebration of “All Saints Day” as a young child – that was in addition to the favoured few who had their own day. Is there a pecking order in being a saint?
We are back to Advent again I see. The calendar of Church like a slowly revolving hour hand. And after the fun of the baby, we will move to the pain of the cross, then the joy of the resurrection, and then back to the doldrums of summer holidays season.
A cycle that is well-known and well-loved (it must be – or else we would change it – wouldn’t we?). As well-loved as this morning’s verses.
As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22
There they are. The dusty peeps. Doing their day job, earning a crust, fishers of fish is all they know, all they have done, all they are. Blissfully unaware that they are about to become fishers of men. Immediately (and immediately). That word used twice in close succession. Simon Peter and Andrew – immediately. Then James and John – immediately. They followed Him immediately.
Role models all four. When He calls me – I follow immediately. If I dither – if I delay – if I ask a friend … ? Too late Paul! You have missed the boat (!) – you have not been saved – you are still of The Lost World. Are you with us or agin us (because if you are not agin us you are with us – if you get His ambiguous drift).
Is that pressure or is that pressure?
“God here (in the warm and fuzzy form of Jesus – obviously). Now, young Paul, you have read a bit about Me, you have talked a lot about Me, you seem to have a growing affection for Me, you think a lot (I call that praying – but let’s not split hairs) – I think you are ready for Me. Listen up, young Paul, I am ready for you! So, Paul: Follow Me – Immediately. Now. This very second. Don’t even look back. Never look back.”
(Why never look back? What do we “saved” beings imagine was so good “back there”? What does that say about the fun of following – NOT?)
Because God doesn’t seem to be that turned on by “immediate”. We are the ones who seem to hold “immediate commitment” as “good and wholesome”. And for ever more have preached this “immediate” as how it is – how it should be – how it must be. Because once you say “yes”, there is no turning back, no changing your mind, no second thoughts – and you are fried if you have doubts (and deffo fried if you voice those doubts).
So when we bring to the Body of Christ all the living and lashing and pain and fury we each have suffered before He said “Follow Me” … ? All those marks and scars that do not suddenly heal … all those lashings of life that are not suddenly wiped from our memories ?
And when we become our own role model – and still have “issues” to resolve. When we now join others on our own (tarnished) pedestal. When we now have the same diary and calendar as the Church (Hello Advent, it’s good to see you buddy!) …
Now we have immediately followed Christ, we seek out others who have followed Christ. We particularly seek out those who are qualified in God. The collared clerics. The shepherds and teacher and preachers appointed by God. We need them!
And find (over time) that they are also became their own role model.
Find that they too sit on their own tarnished pedestals. Their collar so often a chain around their own necks. Surrounded by the living rag-tag of good, bad and ugly that we call “the institution of church”. The same mix of humanity that surrounds all pedestals.
If there is a more “immediate” way of dividing our heads from our souls from our body … please let me know.
Role models on pedestals separate those looking up and those looking down. They separate those looking up from those looking up. And they separate those who are not looking down (but are told they should be looking down because they are so “role model”) from those looking up (who refuse to allow those looking down to look them in the eye).
That’s why I have outgrown putting God on a pedestal – I like Him closer (much closer!). And that is why – for me – “Love is Always the Answer” – it is a ”pedestal free zone”. And that is why I have resisted for so long dipping my toes into the “institution of church” (and I now think that is why He has kept me from “dipping my toes in” for so long). Like almost six decades long.
Because when you outgrow putting God on a pedestal – it’s almost impossible to put anyone else up there. Me included.
When you outgrow pedestals – Love becomes much easier. Love that cuts across hierarchies, institutions, role models, distance, division,,,, Love that insists “each is sacred”. And THAT – for me – also becomes “and your neighbour as yourself.”
Immediate? This morning He caressed my shoulders as we read those verses. And He whispered with Love:
“Why does no one get the timing? SP, Andy, Jim and Johnny – it was their time. I could have asked thousands and they would each have said “no”. I did ask thousands and they did say “no”. I KNOW when it is YOUR time to say “yes”, Paul. I know THE TIME for each to say yes. And when that time is YOUR time – it will be “immediate”. But until then … ?”
Pedestals and role models? Both get in the way of relationship. Both obstruct Love. Both invite us to live this “God Stuff” focused on where the pedestals are, where we are in relation to the pedestals, whether we are getting too close, stepping over the line, being irreverent, not paying our dues, not praising enough, not praying enough, not being good enough.
I cannot and will not put God in a pedestal. I cannot and will not live a life of service and sacrifice. I will not set aside relationship today for “Heaven when I die”. Me and my God?
God drives a batmobile, God gave me my own loom, God checks his fingernails, God gives the best shoulder massages, God has been growing on me for nearly sixty years. Why would I even want to keep a thread of distance between us? Why would you?
Why does no one get the timing?
Maybe we are too busy arranging pedestals … too busy admiring role models … too busy making the bible our own fanzine comic.