“Getting our Attention”May 5, 2019 – Easter 3 – Year C

“Getting our Attention”

May 5, 2019 – Easter 3 – Year C

            Are you able to hear Jesus asking each of us, “Do you love me?”

Rabbi Moshe-Leib tells the following story.  “What is love?  I feel I ought to tell the truth and confess that I learned its meaning from 2 drunkards.  Yes, drunkards.  I saw them sitting in an inn, drinking – silently.  But from time to time they would stop for a brief exchange. ‘Are you my friend, Alexei? Asked the younger one.  “Do you love me?”  “Yes, Ivan, I do.  I am your friend.”  They emptied another glass and dreamed their separate dreams in silence.  Again, the younger peasant turned to his companion: “Alexei, Alexei, are you really my friend?  Do you truly love me?”  “Yes, I am your friend,” said the older peasant.  They emptied another glass and another moment went by in silence.   Again, the younger peasant spoke up: “Tell me, Alexei, tell me the truth; are we friends?  Do you love me as a friend?”  Finally, Alexei got angry.  “How many times must I tell you, Ivan, that I do!?  Don’t you believe me?  Are you drunk?  You are my friend and I am yours; and my heart is full of brotherly love for you.  Must I go on repeating it all night?”  At that point, Ivan looked at Alexi and shook his head sadly.  “Alexei, Alexei,” he said, “If you are my friend, if you do love me, then how come you don’t know what is hurting me?”

I don’t know about you folk, but I can’t imagine the depth of the disciples’ loss.  These friends of Jesus shared their lives with him and experienced so much together.  And now it was over, from the ordinary daily routines to the extraordinary miracles and lessons.  They didn’t just want to see the risen Christ, the desperately needed to see him.

I must admit to a strange, subtle envy of the disciples.  At times, I feel as desperate as they must have been to have Jesus that near, and real.  How I would love to see him just once, and reach out to touch his face, not so much to squelch doubt but in some fumbling, inadequate way to simply thank him.

But I wasn’t the one who lived his earthly life with him.  I never laid down beside him after a long day, looked up at the starry night and said, “Good Night rabbi” before drifting off to sleep.  Still, every now and then, in my prayers I ask Jesus to come and reveal the truth of his presence in our absurd human condition.  By God’s grace and by the Spirit’s whisper, Jesus responds, “I did that.  Now it is your turn.”

Are you able to hear Jesus asking each of us, “Do you love me?”

Oh, so comfortably we respond with a “yes.”  And yet, we live in a world starved for love.  We see around us folk hanging out in our church’s stairwells, stoned and lonely.  We see the long lineup at the Soupateria every noon hour.  Do we donate food or money?  We experience the long list of people requesting prayer.  Do we keep them in our daily prayers?  But, with all this said, we hear Jesus asking, “Do you love me?”

When God extends a hand and says, “Will you dance with me?  We have the opportunity to transform our world by saying “Yes”.  It is a dance of liberation for our tired spirits.  It is a dance of comfort for our grieving spirits.  It is a dance of jubilation for our buoyed spirits.

All we have to do is look to the story of Saul’s conversion and we find ourselves also transformed.  Saul probably thought he had a pretty good job.  Bounty hunting has certain advantages, after all.  Being the hunter is a good way to ensure that you won’t be mistaken for the hunted.  So, Saul sets out on the Damascus road to hunt down some followers of the Way – and in the twinkling of an eye his life is turned upside down.

He is an interesting person, is he not?  One day a bounty hunter and the next an evangelist.  One day he is a person determined to destroy the lives of followers of Christ Jesus.  The next he is a zealous proclaimer of the Good News of the risen Christ.  Sure, Saul – now named Paul – had his struggles.  He was a stubborn, impatient, ill, follower of Christ.  He had his baggage.  But that is part of the reason we so love him.  He was so very human.  He responded faithfully to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?”

It was out of that deep love that Paul responded with a determination that we can’t help but admire.  He is that same person who penned, “love is patient and kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

So, are we open enough to receive the gracious love poured out in the very life of Christ?  Are we vulnerable enough to break open our hearts to the transformative way of love?  Will we follow Paul along the path of vulnerability?  You see, serving Jesus means we may have to go to places we would rather not go to.   Sometimes it is to the bedside at the hospital.  Occasionally it is to coffee shop to listen to a troubled soul.  Frequently it is right here in our day by day lives that we are called to venture faithfully.

Perhaps a story best illustrates what I am trying to say.  “An old pencil maker took his newest pencil aside, just before he was about to pack it into a box, Imagining the little fellow as a person he recalled a few things about the pencil.

“There are 5 things you need to know,” he said to his pencil, before I send you out into the world.  “Always remember these 5 things – never forget them – and you will become the best pencil you can be!

The 1st thing is to remember that you will be able to do many great things, but only if you put yourself in someone else’s hands.

From time to time you will experience a painful sharpening, but, remember that this will make you a better pencil.

Also, keep in mind that you will be able to correct any mistakes you might make along the way.

And the most important part of you is what’s on the inside.

And remember this, as well, upon every surface that you are used, you must leave your mark.  No matter what else happens, you must continue to write.”

It seemed the pencil listened to him and promised he would remember these 5 things so that he could live his life with heart and purpose.”

So, we come back to Jesus’ question:  Are you able to hear Jesus asking each of us, “Do you love me?”  Amen.