And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.
~ Mark 2:14
Years ago while living in Texas City, Texas, near the Galveston Bay, I would get up early some mornings and make my way to the Texas City Dike to watch as men with their nets would walk out onto sandbars that were only present at low tide, to try their luck.
So often, I would watch and marvel at the techniques many had developed. The sway of the net, the right turn of the body, and away, the net would be cast, opening for maximum coverage and hitting the water. Then I would watch as a rope would be pulled, tightening the net, and securing the bounty.
As I watched, I often would think about the fishermen that Jesus came upon, and with two words, "Follow me," the men left their fishing nets, empty, along the shoreline, leaving behind not just a way of life, but their families and everything that had been their life for a new journey.
The act of "following me," means that we are willing to surrender our current journey for one that is new. To "follow," means that we relinquish our illusion of being in control. In many ways, following Jesus means that we relinquish our small vision of who God is, for a greater understanding of what God is willing to do to be in relationship with us.
The incarnation, walking among the creation, and the power of that presence, simply saying two words, and the rest is "history." The gospel is given life, and in that life, the lives of even more people are changed.
When we come to the "Follow Me," moments in Jesus' ministry, I am reminded that it did not end with simple fishermen. No, it continued beyond the dusty roads that Jesus shared with the disciples, and even beyond the cross. These words can be found today on street corners, on buses, in hospital waiting rooms, and even while sitting in our car stuck in traffic. Our encounter with these words is as varied as each one of us.
To "follow," doesn't mean to no longer be who we "once were." While it is an invitation to relinquish the life that we once may have lived, that life "lived," is filled with many gifts, experiences and expressions that will then help with the journey. Our wounds, our gifts, and our experiences, will continue to be an important part of the journey. These are the very things that make it possible for each of us to follow, and to invite others to walk with us.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2021
Having real hope
"Be transformed by the renewing of your minds."
~ Romans 12:2
One thing is for sure, none of us could have planned for all the events that have taken place over the past year. As I am encountering more people who have had their initial COVID vaccine shot, I am begin to sense that there is a feeling of "hope."
Hope is definitely something that when it takes up residence in your life, things begin to look differently.
In many ways, I'm grateful that hope is not dependent on peace in the land, justice in the world, or a list of successes. Hope is our willingness to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown. Hope seems to allow for us to see God's guiding hand, not just in gentle, sacred moments, but also in the shadows of uncertainty.
One thing is for sure, if someone would have asked the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" five years ago, I sure would have not responded, "Living through a pandemic."
If anything we have learned from the last year is that we hold lightly to dreams and fears, and that we must be open to receive each new day as a unique expression of God's love for each of us.
I remember a woman from one of my first congregations I served saying, "As long as there is life, there is hope." If anything the past year has taught us is this, "As long as there is life, there is hope."
This new sense of hope that I am encountering seems to be giving power to live in a new way, with new strength. It's not that our life has changed that much since yesterday, but there is this underlying understanding that at "some point, hope will prevail."
While the pandemic continues to be very real, the paradox of the expectation is that those who believe in tomorrow can better live today; those who expect joy to come out of sadness can discover the beginnings of a new life in the midst of the present condition.
It is important to have hope, and to Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2021
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.