Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Right People, The Right Time - A Sermon

You might not have noticed, but there’s been a lot in the news lately. Less than a week ago, we inaugurated a new president. Less than two weeks ago we had a dramatic airplane crash in our own Hudson River. Those are important real events that speak to today’s scripture.

Which is why I’m going to start by talking about a fake event -- a scene from a movie -- several years ago.

You might remember “The Lord of the Rings.” There’s a scene where Frodo sits in the belly of a mountain and says to the great wizard Gandalf: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf’s wise reply gives him strength: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is, what to do with the time that is given to us.”

I started thinking about that when I read an article in Time about the passengers of that flight that landed in the Hudson. You know, the “Miracle on the Hudson.” One point the article made, which seems to have been forgotten, is that not on the brilliant pilot and brave crew had a role in making sure everybody survived. Each and every one of the passengers played a role, too. We’re all able to take an active role in our salvation.

Then during President Obama’s sobering inaugural address, he reminded us that we are all responsible for the mess our country is in, but that we can all “pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off” and get back to work.

In other words, we will not wait for somebody to make things all better. We’re not going to wait for the right person to come around at the right time, because WE are the right people, and this is the right time.

So, how does that even remotely have anything to do with the scriptures we heard? Think of a single word in the Gospel. Immediately. “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

James and John even left their father right there in the boat. What could have convinced them to do such a crazy thing?

Jesus. They found something in him so compelling, so important that they stood up and said “We’re in. We’ll do what it takes.”

These fishermen did not ask Jesus to come and disrupt their mundane but secure lives. But he came, and they saw the moment that lay before them as life changing -- and life affirming.
In our reading from Jonah, the prophet was startled and upset by the reaction of the Ninevites to his prophecy. He told them that if they didn’t shape up -- and soon -- they would be destroyed by God. He HOPED they would ignore him because he hated them.

They didn’t. They all repented -- immediately. They were partners in their own salvation because they acted. They did not want Jonah’s message, but they saw it as a wake up call -- to rejoin life.

Now the time is ours. We live in stressful, austere times where money is tight, jobs are insecure, and nobody knows how things will turn out. We are Frodo inside a mountain. We are passengers inside a floating plane. We are James and John asked to leave their father. We are the Ninevites facing destruction.

We did not ask for these times -- nobody does. But praise God, we are the right people to deal with them, to stand up and say “I will help lead this congregation not only back to financial solvency, but to the promised land. I will be one who discards spiritual timidity and dig deeper into my soul because Jesus is saying to me -- right now -- “come follow me.”

We are -- you and I -- the people God has called to serve right now -- to bring St. James’ through tough (financial and spiritual) times, to bring the country through. There’s no one else, and no one else is the right person.

Nobody asks for such times. All we have to decide is, what to do with the time that is given to us.