Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sweet Surrender

Epiphany 3, January 22, 2012, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church 

A month ago our little Jack Russell had a puppy.  I've noticed some amazing things that happen in the presence of a puppy.  First of all, our little dog had never been a mommy before, but her mothering instincts kicked in incredible ferocity.  With only one little one to care for that little thing was fat and content ALL of the time!  You couldn't get momma dog away for more than just a minute or so or she was whining to get back to her precious charge.  Overnight, this dog went from a care-free puppy herself to a dutiful mother.  Now, we have enough dogs as it is, so we were looking for a home for this little one.  The mommy and the daddy are really good hunters, so this last weekend when I gathered with my falconer friends in Abilene, I put the puppy in the raffle.  The winner is a 12-year-old boy in Austin who can't wait to have his own dog!  Here are best friends forever in the making—guaranteed!  He wants to know about shots, and pick-up dates.  He wants to know about feeding and care and exercise and housing...overnight this 12-year-old boy is going from a care-free boy to a responsible young man.  There is a magic about puppies that really does change the world.

It’s really not magic.  It’s the power of surrender.  It is an innate thing in the human psyche to seek some great calling to which to give ourselves.  There is part of us that would always like to do precisely what we want to do and nothing more, but a deeper, wiser part of us knows that such a life grows pointless very quickly.  That wiser part seeks after something larger, some great high calling to which to respond.  Surrendering to that high call is the greatest thing we can ever do.  The highest and noblest of those calls is the call to a great journey, a journey into the heart of God as we know Him in Jesus Christ.  All humanity is called to that great surrender.  But each of us also has our own particular call, one that is ours alone.  The greatest task a person can ever do is to discover that call and live into it.

Jonah had such a call.  We know the story well.  God says, "Go, preach to the great city of Nineveh, lest I destroy it for its wickedness."  But Nineveh was one of Israel's enemies, and Jonah did NOT want to help out the enemy, so he sails the other direction, gets into a big storm, gets thrown him overboard and he spends three days and nights thinking about his call in the belly of the great fish.  The story today picks up after all that.  He goes, obedient to the call, and preaches to Nineveh, and the whole city repents, and God turns away from the destruction God had in mind.

Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth about such a call.  It was believed that the return of the Lord would happen just any minute.  In view of that, human institutions like marriage and wealthy, and the earthly experiences of loss and joy are secondary to the call of the advent of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus lays such a call before four of the disciples.  Jesus walks up the shoreline and finds these men tending their nets, for they were fishermen.  He calls Peter and Andrew and promises to make them fish for people.  He calls James and John and they follow him.  They spend the next three years learning to surrender themselves to that call.  Of the original 12 only one refused.

Where did this surrender take these four men?  Peter was martyred by the Emperor Nero in Rome.  There’s a great legend about Peter fleeing the persecution.  On the way down the Appian Way he meets the Lord going to Rome.  “Where are you going?” he asks.  “To Rome to be crucified again,” he replies.  Peter immediately returns and is martyred, asking to be crucified upside down for he did not feel himself worthy of dying in the same manner as his Lord.

Andrew is reported to have gone to Scythia preaching the Gospel, and legend has it he died on an X-shaped cross at the hands of pagans.  James was the second Christian martyr recorded in the Bible, he was killed by Herod the King in the infancy of the church.  Early sources place John in Ephesus after the church was scattered from Jerusalem, where he alone of the 12 died of old age.  There he mentored another great father of the Church, Polycarp.

This morning five women will lovingly surrender to a higher calling.  They will be admitted to the Order of the Daughters of the King.  The Daughters of the King was founded in 1885 by Margaret Franklin of New York.  It is open to members of the Episcopal Church and churches in communion with it.  It is a religious order, not a club or association, members pledge to live under the order's Rule of Life, which includes the rules of prayer and service.  They pledge themselves to a lifelong work of prayer, service and evangelism, dedicated to the spread of Christ's kingdom and strengthening the spiritual life of the parish in which they worship.  When they pass on into the larger life they will be buried with their crosses.  Our own Chapter prays for the parish and for its priest, they perform work days, like they did yesterday and cleaned up the kitchen, they reach out to the needy in the community, and they run the Prayer Chain for the church.

These five women have studied, and they have prayed, and they are ready this morning to surrender themselves to the rule of the Order.  It is a moment of deep spiritual power and significance; they undertake a surrender so powerful that it really can change the world.

To what will you surrender?  There are false calls and there are true ones.  False calls will always stroke your ego instead of your calling.  There will be little sense of mystery, no calling beyond yourself, and no real long-term good.  The true ones, on the other hand, will always have these signposts along the way.  They will call you beyond yourself, turn you from fishing to being fishers of people.  Even if they demand great sacrifice, as in the case of these four disciples, they will bring great good into the world in Christ's name.  And finally, in surrendering to their call you will know the only true happiness and peace that you can know in this life.

To what does your heart hearken?  What great mystery calls to you?  To what will you surrender?

1 comment:

ceshaw said...

Such a great reminder that in surrender there is strength.