Into the Deep
Our two readings today, one from the Prophets and one from the Gospels challenge us to consider what it really means to follow Godís calling.
Isaiah reports his own experience of being called. †He describes his vision of heaven with God on the holy throne. Isaiah is surprised by the privilege of seeing God Ö he is ďuncleanĒ that is heís not worthy and lives in a society that is unworthy. Yet when God asks who God should send to do the divine labor, Isaiah volunteers.
Isaiah walks away from his unworthy life into a life of confrontation and discernment, and most likely of alienation from his neighbors.
In the Gospel, Luke reports a similar story of God calling ordinary people.† Jesus tells Peter (Simon) to go out into the middle of the lake to fish. Peter pushes back and says they were out all night and caught nothing Ö how would they catch anything now. The fish come to the surface at night. In the daylight they will be too deep to catch. But he does it anyway. In return, he and his comrades fill the boat with fish so much they have to call friends to bring another boat.
When they come ashore, Jesus calls Peter, James, and John to leave all of that behind and follow him. They go Ö leaving behind not only a great catch, but the father of James and John and their friends.
In both of these cases the ďheroesĒ if you will take up the call. But what if they didnít. Isaiah could have said, ďWhat a beautiful vision of God. Iíll go to the temple and make a sacrifice to praise God for this.Ē And then he returns to his ďunworthyĒ life. And likewise, the disciples-to-be, could have said to Jesus, ďThanx for the catch. Come to dinner with us and have your fill. But we canít leave our families and friends.Ē
They could have made that choice. God would not have stopped them. Indeed, it was God who gave them that choice from the very beginning of existence.
What would God have done then?
Well, God would have had to look for someone else. And we donít know that God hadnít been looking quite a bit, before Isaiah and Peter came on the scene.
You see, God does not roam the earth like some titan making everything right. God works through us. Even Jesus worked through his disciples and follower Ö and still does today. If we refuse, God has to find someone else, or give up on whatever the divine goal was.
One of the great gifts Ö if not the greatest Ö that God gave us is free will. We are not coerced into helping God. Indeed we are not coerced into even believing in God. We are free to act or not, to believe or not. God will do nothing that would coerce us into believing and acting. Therefore, God must remain hidden from sight. Should God be obviously walking the earth, then our free will would be taken from us Ö because not believing would be psychotic. And not acting would be at the very least foolish, if not out right dangerous.
God only reveals the divine through faith. It is only in the spiritual realm we encounter God. God mixes the spiritual realm into the physical, so that it is always around us, like water soaked into a sponge or salt dissolved in water.† But if do not have eyes and ears of faith to see and hear, we will miss God.
Thus, God cannot get anything done without us.
So why does God let the world be so messed up? Itís not that God has some great plan for the world and messing it up is part of that plan. No. Itís because God works through us and if we refuse to cooperate the world gets messed up. We can fix the world without God. But God wonít fix it without us. God freely chooses this. God has traded off the gift of free will against security.
Remember Benjamin Franklinís proverb: those you give up their freedom for a little security, deserves neither. God follows this dictum. God will not do anything to strip us of our free will, even when we abuse it and do horrible, monstrous things. It is painful and must be devastating for God, but God respects us and ultimately trusts us to come around. In a sort turnabout, as we are called to have faith in God, God must have faith in us that we will come around have faith in the divine.
But if we accept Godís call, we find ourselves diving into the deep of the Spirit. No longer are we subjects of the physical, but citizens of the spiritual who embrace the whole of creation both in its physical and spiritual states.
Both Isaiah and Peter lived in turbulent times. They were well aware of their own limitations and imperfections. Isaiah had retreated to the temple to find some peace of mind in the midst of uncertainty. But instead of finding peace, he found God. He discovered that God was bigger than any temple or any world. He discovered the awe and mystery of God. And in the flush of that grandeur, Isaiah accepts of his own free will a calling to proclaim Godís Kingdom among humans. He discovers that his lifeís expectations will exceed anything he imagined.
Similarly Peter in the midst of failure is asked by Jesus to go deeper, not just in the lake, but in his life and experience of God. On that day when Jesus caught to boat loads of fish for him, his life was changed forever. Peter is given a vision of the deeper reality of Godís Kingdom among humans. This vision embraces our failures, and if we have faith and follow God, will use those failures to launch the Kingdom of God.
In our ordinary lives and in our public lives we expect too little from God and from ourselves.† We often feel very limited in what we can do. The problems of the world feel overwhelming Ö and indeed they are until we factor in Godís energy. Sometimes our own personal world seems to be coming apart at the seams or it is a persistent, relentless struggle.
But God is with us. That God does not independently act is not a deficit or a restriction on God. Indeed, that God expects us to work with the divine is a gift and a challenge.
God lays before us a wonderful, hopeful vision. No one of us can make it happen. But each of us, no matter how small, have a role in that vision. If we open our hearts, our minds, and our souls to Godís revelation and reach out to take Godís hand, we can participate in Godís Kingdom now.
Thereby, we become part of something larger than our lives, larger than the struggles and problems of the world, larger than our personal fear and anxiety. We will stand in the light and grandeur of God.
We wonít know the whole picture. The vision is too cosmic, too grand for any one person to know it all. But in our own lives we will live in the golden light of the vision. Day by day, we may not know what God will expect of us, but if we hang onto Godís hand, God will take us on a grand and wonderful journey.
Our problems wonít go away. Our duties remain. But they need not determine or drive our lives. Working moment by moment for Godís Kingdom to come and thereby living in it moment by moment becomes our lives. And in the Kingdom, our problems, duties, joys, and achievements will be infused with divine hope and divine energy.
Godís grace and love be with you Ö