5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
‘if there’s nothing better to do’
(Last few words missing)
The devil, they say, makes work for idle hands . . . proof were it needed of where cell phones come from 🙂 Of course children of the Protestant work ethic that we are, we tend to think that this means that if you are idle, you’ll easily get caught up in something you shouldn’t be doing, so ‘get busy!’ – but that assumes that we know what we should be doing . . . and that we haven’t just mindlessly and complacently taken on board the stories The World, and its Prince tell us . . .
You see, you could put it another way. What if there was a point to your idleness – that seeing someone watching or waiting, the Devil suggested ‘Here! Look at this! Do that! . . .’ The Devil making work for those hands that were meant to be open and ready to serve – that is is you were waiting for someone or something, you knew not what.
If you were busy, because ‘someone’ gave you ‘something better to do’, then when who or what you were waiting for came along, you would miss out. And what of those others who would miss out because you ‘had something better to do’?
I think about this a lot to do with those good people of St John’s, the ambulance people that is 🙂 I hope that all the time some if not all of them are idle, because if they are all busy, and I need them . . .
Perhaps . . . what if, more mischief is done in the world by those who are busy and ‘important’ . . . and that the truly important things that must be done are not being done, because everyone is too busy with their own stuff? Everyone has found ‘something better to do’
The World is full of stories of ‘the things you could be doing’ The Devil will happily make work for idle hands. It is difficult to look at the world around us and come to the conclusion that everyone is busy doing that which is truly the best – that perhaps we might all find something better, true better to be doing
Last week we considered two people, Simeon and Anna – very old – ‘just’ praying, ‘just’ waiting. They weren’t the movers and shakers of society as it was understood . . . of course that doesn’t mean that it was correctly understood . . . but they were waiting – at rest, Old Simeon, sufficiently at rest that the Holy Spirit could rest on Him, the Life of God could find a home in this man at rest, and similarly Anna – a widow for 84 years, into her hundreds, and she’d had nothing better to do than to pray and fast in that time, oh, and speak God’s word. For she was a prophetess.
Of course we might say, ‘well, they were old, so there was nothing better for them to do . . .’ but they’d been doing this for years. ‘Just’ watching, ‘just’ waiting, ‘just’ praying. And so both of them, people whose lives made no discernible impact on The World as we so readily think of it, were ready when God’s King came, for they had nothing better to do . . .
God’s people were waiting – they were waiting for God’s King. But most of them had in the meantime found better things to do . . . it was only Simeon and Anna, these two elderly people with ‘nothing better to do’, who saw Jesus coming to the Temple, who saw the completion of God’s Work – who Saw the Kingdom of God.
So too the disciples.
If as a Christian you’ve never been given serious pause regarding those who followed Jesus, you haven’t been paying much attention. They are as one writer called them ‘Christ’s Rabble’ A tax collector – that is a national traitor. A religious zealot, and a bunch of fishermen . . . oh, yes, and the women . . . people whom the people of the day didn’t take at all seriously. After all, they came from Galilee, which was itself pretty much beyond the pale. The boondocks, out in the styx, out where the ignorant people live . . .
A little Geography lesson. In the South, you had Jerusalem in Judea – this was the happening place – those was the Wellington and Auckland of New Zealand. This was where the people who really mattered lived and worked. The Important people.
Then North of Judea and Jerusalem, was Samaria, which was full of those terrible people, the Samaritans, and then away up to the North was rural Galilee. The people of the land, the humble poor, just scraping a living, nobodies, or indeed ‘a rabble’
When Jesus goes looking for followers he returns to his home country, Galilee, where the nobodies live, and he calls people to follow him. People with nothing better to do. People whom the world looked at askance and thought of no use to their grand projects – so people not caught up with the story about the life they are going to make for themselves, people just trying to get by.
And the fishermen are doing just that. When Jesus finds them they’re mending their nets. They’ve fished all night and caught nothing. They have nothing to do. No fish to sort or sell. Nothing. Just, well put their boat out for this wandering preacher . . . who suggests that they let down their nets, in the middle of the day when the fish would be swimming deeper down in the lake beyond the nets, ridiculous idea, but the have nothing better to do . . . and suddenly their nets are full of fish and the boats are on the point of sinking . . .
But it’s just these nobodies, with nothing better to do who see the miracle. Of course we might also point out, that like with changing the water into wine, its only those who have nothing better to do who see what has happened – who see the miracle – the little children. The ones who haven’t learnt that ‘they have better things to be doing’
[The little children whose parents haven’t filled their days with activity so that they’re not idle, so they have no space to wonder, so they have no space to wait and watch and follow Jesus.
As parents about the worst thing we can do if we want our children to follow Jesus is to fill their days with activity . . . of course, if they did follow Jesus, who knows what they might do. I think of several young women of my acquaintance who gave up good degrees, good careers etc etc to go where Jesus led . . .] I think it is fair to say that it’s hard if perhaps not impossible for the busy and important to enter the Kingdom of God, yet we all too readily direct our children in this direction.
I know far far far too many adult Christians who tragically tell me how well their children are doing in their careers, and then wonder why they are not following Jesus . . . because of course they have something which in their eyes is better to do . . . such is the challenge of Jesus to the way we see the world. As the God of Israel says, my ways are not your ways, and my thoughts not your thoughts. We should be most wary of those stories about what life is about which are so prevalent, especially when Jesus starkly contradicts them. As we journey on with Luke, we shall come up against these stories over and over again
Simon Peter is struck to the core – ‘get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man’ I am a nothing in your eyes. And Jesus tells him, you’re just the sort of person I’m looking for. One who hasn’t got such a high opinion of himself, one who hasn’t got lots of plans for all the things they have to do. One who doesn’t fondly imagine he is God’s gift to the world, something we as Christians are often trained to think of ourselves as. ‘I am a sinful man’ – how can I be of use in the Kingdom. Yet it is Peter who can receive God’s gift to the World, Jesus. This is why we come with empty hands . . . not to be God’s gift to the world, but to receiver it.
If we just follow every distraction, every bright and shining thing, and the Devil has put the gadget for that in your hands – we will never know what it is you are really here for . . . All we can do is join Peter in his astonishment that Jesus would have anything to do with someone like us . . .
Jesus finds his followers amongst those with nothing better to do . . . what if its only those who have nothing better to do than follow Jesus, discover that there is nothing better to do than to follow Jesus . . .?
Peter, James and John and the rest of Christ’s rabble – They had nothing better to do, and discovered that in truth there really was nothing better to do – may Christ give us the grace so also to lay down our nets