There seems to be a fascination with looking back in history and trying to figure out the events that triggered major events.
This past Christmas the movie “Selma” looked back at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, and chronicled the stepping stones that led up to the march from Selma to Montgomery.
Heavily advertised, complete with a Rolling Stones soundtrack is a new feature for the History Channel looking back to see the forces at play that triggered the American Revolutionary War, the “Sons of Liberty” examining the personalities of revolutionaries.
Another Ken Burns film on PBS recently took a look back at the Roosevelts, Teddy, FDR, and Eleanor to understand the forces that shaped their policies and public service.
Almost all of these have in common a “tipping point” moment, if not done for dramatic effect, then at least to show when the course chosen and the action taken.
Selma is the tipping point for the use of Non-Violent protest by the Civil Rights workers, it will be their course of action, no matter what.
The call for Independence is the tipping point for the Colonies. Not just better representation, but self-determination. That will be the goal for the Founding Fathers, no matter what the cost.
A call to greatness is the common element in the story of “The Roosevelts,” whether it is Teddy launching the nation onto the world stage with his “big stick” and bully pulpit, or Franklin and Eleanor championing recovery from the Great Depression and launching a New Deal for the American People, or guiding the ship of state through a World War, there is a sense that the United States will grasp it’s greatness, and all be included in that greatness, no matter what.
The tipping point is reached.
As I read the Gospel today, I wonder if we haven’t overlooked that “tipping point” in the story of Jesus.
We don’t have a lot of background to Jesus’ development. We have sparse birth narratives, some exposition on him being a precocious child at age 12 in Matthew’s Gospel as he gets left behind at the temple and astounds the teachers.
In John’s Gospel it is a reluctant Jesus who at age 30 performs his first sign of Water turned into wine.
“Where was Jesus for those first 30 years?” we wonder. Did he have a life? Was he just quietly working in Joseph’s carpenter shop? Was his only interest in crafting tables and chairs?
He is called “Rabbi” by his disciples, does this hint at Jesus perhaps being more widely known at the time than we might have assumed?
We know from Luke’s account that he was regularly in the Synagogue, and has no trouble at all reading from the Scroll of Isaiah when it is passed to him as the appointed reading for that day.
The Pharisees seem well acquainted with him, and now only begin to question his teachings and actions when he goes beyond the standard interpretations to introduce the arrival of this Kingdom, or reign of God in the present, or when as a sign of that reign he dares to forgives sins and performs healings and exorcisms.
So, when I read this Gospel and hear the phrase, “Now after John was arrested…..” and “The time is fulfilled….” I begin to wonder, is the announcement of John’s arrest the tipping point? Is this the event that launches Jesus into a ministry that he has been preparing for his whole life?
I have always been puzzled by the call of the disciples. What makes a person just up and drop their nets to follow Jesus? We assume it is Jesus’ charisma, or the power of his teaching, or his magnetic personality, and maybe it was!
But, maybe it was also a decision born of much thought and preparation.
Was this the first time those disciples had seen Jesus, met him, or heard of him?
Or is the arrest of John the “tipping point” moment? Simon and Andrew, John and James had heard of Jesus, perhaps listened to his teaching in the synagogue. Maybe they have been in the Synagogue with him week after week, but now in the arrest of John, comes the moment of decision.
Now we announce that the Kingdom of God has come near. We can wait no longer, court no more of Herod’s whims; and stand no more of Rome’s occupation. Now we announce that God has other plans for this world, no matter what.
I think there is a particular power in seeing that as what happens here, because it makes Jesus and this matter of a Kingdom breaking in upon us somewhat more accessible.
I can’t imagine just dropping everything to follow Jesus, and I don’t think you can either.
I can however, imagine frustrated fishermen seeing in Jesus a glimmer of hope for a different world. I can imagine them listening to Jesus’ words and thinking, “If he ever does more than build benches, I want to be a part of that.”
I can imagine them just waiting with aching longing for when that different world might come about, and when they might see Jesus start to move.
I can’t imagine responding to an enigmatic call to “go and fish for people.”
But, I can imagine seeing in someone, namely in Jesus, the hope that he/we could fix the broken pieces of this world.
I can imagine having seen that, being willing then to tell others what I have seen in him, the hopes that I have for what he will do.
I can’t imagine, in other words, a Jesus who just comes at me out of the blue.
But, I can imagine a Jesus who has been weaving himself into my life all along, telling me that someday the time will be right. Someday, what I hope will one day happen, will happen.
I can connect with that Jesus who has been encouraging me to believe that it is possible all along, and who finally one day looks at me as I’m working in my boat and says, “it’s time… it’s YOUR time.”
That would likely get me out of the boat.
Is that how Simon and Andrew, James and John heard Jesus that day? The invitation was not out of the blue, it was “now is the time.”
This makes sense to me in the way the rest of Mark’s Gospel plays out, because this is one breathless sprint from here on out, from the Sea of Galilee to streets of Jerusalem. Jesus has no time to waste, no dallying or delaying. The time is fulfilled. They arrested John. This is the tipping point, now we have to move!
I can imagine that, because then it makes me wonder, and ask myself, “Just what is my tipping point with Jesus?”
Oh he’s been at work in my life all along, as he has with yours.
Jesus has been weaving himself into the fabric of who you are for quite some time now. You have heard him preach, and teach, and argue with the Pharisees if you’ve been coming to worship, or if you’ve been reading the bible, or attending a study or gathering.
You’ve pondered this Jesus, from a distance, a little like the fishermen in the boat.
From time to time you’ve probably even thought to yourself, “I would go in for that.” When he forgives, or when he heals, or when he accepts the outcast. That seems right, or like what should be done, or maybe makes you suddenly startle and wonder if that is right.
Or maybe, as you look around in your week, in your world, you think you recognize things where you have a hint that Jesus might just be active there. A place where God seemed to intervene on behalf of others; or you overheard a comment made by someone that seemed inspired by more than just general good will.
You think to yourself, “I wish I could have done that, said that, been a part of that…”
Oh God is weaving God’s self into your life, has woven God’s own self into the lives of others. Into the life of Jonah, reluctant prophet that he was, who when the moment came knew what he had to do but just could not do it, because he knew what God all too well. God will have mercy on those whom I would rather see burn.
God has woven God’s self into the lives of Mary and Joseph, and Anna and Simeon, using the taking on of flesh to get woven into the lives of Andrew and Simon and James and John, showing and inspiring and confronting and calling, and to each in turn comes the time when he looks at them and says in one way or another, “Now is the time…Your time.”
Sing, Simeon. Prophesy Anna. Follow Andrew. Be known as Peter from now on, Simon; and thunder John and James…. Now is your time!
God has woven God’s self into the lives of many since them, Dr. King, and the Founding Fathers, and wittingly or unwittingly into the lives of elected officials, and maybe, just maybe into your life as well.
Maybe, like all those whom God has called before, you are just waiting for the right moment, for the sense of call to have clarity, for you to experience the tipping point in your own life. The moment when with absolute clarity you understand that it’s time to throw off what you have been doing and launch into the opportunity that presents itself because THIS IS YOUR TIME, AND THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO, HAVE BEEN CALLED TO DO, NO MATTER WHAT!
Could that be the Gospel for us today?
I don’t know what your tipping point is.
I don’t know what you have a passion for, or what gnaws at you, or what you can’t stand to see happen anymore.
I don’t know what you want to throw your life into, what you feel is worth whatever the cost may be, what you will be willing to work for, suffer for, die for, and give everything to see through.
I can’t tell you what to take up, the Cross before you is the one that God presents, and it’s not one of pointless suffering, but rather one that will get you moving and pull you inexorably toward your own destiny.
But this much I can tell you. Whatever it is that you are called to do with burning passion God has already been weaving God’s self into you and into the task to give you the strength to see it through.
This is how the Kingdom comes. One day Jesus comes along and looks at you in love and in confidence and says to you, “Now is the time, YOUR time.” This is what you have been preparing for your whole life.
Can you sense that in the “come and follow me?” It is not an “out of the blue” call to the unknown, but rather a burning desire to commit to what God calls you to do, here and now, with your whole heart, no matter what.