Opening the Door

Mark 1:14-20

I found myself listening to the music of Pete Townsend this week, who sings,

“When everyone keeps retreating
but you can’t seem to get enough.
Let my love open the door …”

He continues,
“When everything seems all over,
When everyone seems unkind …

Let my love open the door;
Let my love open the door;
Let my love open the door to your heart.”

As I heard those lyrics this week, I wondered about the ways in which those words reflect Jesus’ call to those on seashore, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

Perhaps this is Jesus’ way of saying to us, “Let my love open the door to your heart.”

Jesus says this to us because he knows what it is for us to experience dead-ends, harshness, land disappointments; Jesus knows that we have known what it is to feel the door to our hearts shut.  We know so little about the lives of Simon, Andrew, James and John.  I wonder about the ways that that they have experienced this reality too.

I am curious about the ways that they encountered exclusion because they were not citizens of the Roman empire?  Or loneliness because they didn’t have someone with whom they could meaningful talk about their life?  Or fear because of the violence and crucifixions they had witnessed?  Or turmoil because they had to provide for their families but found themselves lost in the everyday drudgery of the task?

What did they struggle with? How did they close off their hearts?  What parts of their lives had they written off?

I was thinking of that question this week as I read the book Barking at the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who works with gang members.  In the book, Greg talks about his encounter with magicians from a group known as Magicians without Borders.  Now, this group, Magicians without Borders, goes to refugee camps and third world countries and desperate communities and speaks the language of magic.  They connected with Greg because they wanted to bring this same ministry to the gang members with whom he works.  They sold Greg on the idea when then they shared a principle from Harry Houdini: Houdini notes that the purpose of magic is not just to amaze and amuse. It also seeks to awaken hope that the impossible was indeed possible.

The impossible can be possible.  Maybe Jesus is seeking to bring some magic into our lives, to teach us that even the most jarred doors can open.

Into all of the events of their life, Jesus speaks to these people with torn nets, sea-worn clothing and fish-smeared boats and says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

“Follow me and I will make you …”

The word ‘make’ here means to form or create.

“Follow me and I will make you …”

Jesus stumbles upon these fishers casting lines and mending nets and immediately sees their possibilities, their value, their giftedness.  Perhaps others would sneer, “Oh you’re a fisher.”  Yet, Jesus sees them and says, “Oh you are a fisher! That is so needed in this kin-dom that I am building.  Come with me and fish for people!”  I imagine if he came across others of different talents he might have said, “Come and I will make you a tent-maker for the house of God,” or “a baker of bread of life” or a “teacher of tenderness” or a “mechanic who fine-tunes our lives.”

Jesus invites people to be themselves in the fullest form, because who they are is just right.

Follow me and I will make you.

There is something freeing about this invitation.

It reminds me of the line in Pete Townsend’s song that says:

“There’s only one thing gonna set you free,

That’s my love.”

We can rest in Holy Love, because we know we don’t have to put on a happy face or a mask or pretend to be someone else to fit in with the Divine.  God sees through all of our guises, looking with awe at our pain and with wonder at our bravery, and says to us: Come!

Come my be-loved.

As I contemplate this invitation, it astonishes me.  Just this week, I met someone who has been sober for decades.  I met them on their sober anniversary and, with admiration, I said, “That’s bravery.”  My words hung in the air, the person looked at me for a moment.  They cocked their head back in surprise as if they hadn’t thought of it that way and didn’t quite know if it was true; then they looked at me and said, “I’ll take it. Thank you.”

The person’s pause reminds me that there is something about God’s call that shifts how we see the world, how we see others and how we see ourselves.  Perhaps we have a tendency to shrug off the things Jesus says to us, to say I don’t quite see what you see in this other person Jesus or I don’t quite see what you see in me Jesus but perhaps part of our spiritual task is learning to say, “I’ll take it. Thank you.”

I wonder if this is part of what happens in this exchange between Jesus and John, James, Peter and Andrew.  I wonder if they too hesitate just a moment when Jesus says to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”  Perhaps they ponder: Do we have that kind of potential?  Can we become something different that we have always been?  Is the rabbi really talking to us in the fish-stained smocks?

Yet, after that pause, they respond immediately, because Jesus’ words are enough to crack open the gates of their heart.   They turn around as a way to say, “I will practice being God’s beloved; I will walk in that direction; I will practice fishing for people.

I’ll take it. Thank you.”

They turn around and begin to walk for this is not the summit of their spiritual journey but its beginning.  As they trek and journey, I am curious how long it takes them to soak in the words of Jesus, Jesus who cares for them and says: Come.

I wonder because soaking in words of be-loved-ness does not always come naturally to us.

I was reminded of that as I read Barking to the Choir by Greg Boyle.  In the book, Greg recounts a story of a time that he gave an evening talk at a private school in Los Angeles.  The place was packed with parents and handful of students and in the front row was his friend Vivienne and her ten year old Diego.  Though young, Diego was mature beyond his years.  As Greg spoke, Diego held onto every word, laughing at the right places and dropping his jaw when things got serious.

Greg finished his talk with a heartbreaking story of Puppet and Youngster, sworn enemies who became brothers while working together until Puppet was beaten to death. Suddenly, Diego was sobbing.  Greg continued on auto-pilot with this eye on Diego.  Vivienne turned to him and slowly, sweetly put her arm around him.  In response, Diego reared up and said at full volume: WHAT?  Greg stopped speaking.  Everyone turned and looked.  Diego leaned closer to his mom and in a large stage whisper said, “WHAAAAAAAT?”  It was clear he meant it as in, what did I do now or I how did I disappoint you.

Yet, Vivienne had been looking on with a face that said, how did I get so lucky to have this kid; she leaned over because her heart was broken by the very same thing that had broken her son’s heart and she wanted to console him.

Is it sometimes similar in our relationship with God?  Are there times when God calls out to us that we are tempted to respond with a, “WHAAAT?” as in what do you want now?

Yet, God comes to us, seeing our pain and our giftedness, saying to us,
“When everything seems all over,
When everyone seems unkind …
Let my love open the door;
Let my love open the door;
Let my love open the door to your heart.”

When I think about the invitation, I can’t help but think about the stain glass window we have here in the sanctuary of Jesus knocking on a door.  Many people have told me how this image has spoken to them, shifted something in them or invited them to a new season of their lives.

These stories remind me that Jesus keeps knocking on our door saying to us,
“Follow me and I will make you.”

How will we respond?

Perhaps when someone, like Jesus, sees the beauty in us, we can practice replying, “I’ll take it. Thank you.”


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