Follow The Beloved
A Sermon preached by Rev. Tripp Hudgins
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto
January 26, 2014- Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Follow The Beloved
Let us pray: Lord, I believe. Help, Thou, my unbelief. Make these words more than words and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
Good morning, Beloved.
Two weeks ago we started this little series with the Baptism of Jesus and how we are all God’s beloved and we greeted one another with a word from God, “in you I am well pleased.”
Last week we discussed Dr. King’s Beloved Community, and the tension between liberty and responsibility. We spoke of the invitation to proclaim such a vision and how we do not do it alone. God will not delay.
This week, I want to visit this idea of “belovedness” one last time together. This morning’s scripture focuses things just a little bit for us.
We just heard the stories. John has been arrested. Jesus goes to another town (not a bad idea) and starts preaching. He also starts putting the band together. Peter, Andrew, James, and John…Why do these people drop everything?
It’s the age-old question, is it not? What would cause people to drop everything and follow someone? They leave their families, their responsibilities. Maybe this was the plan all along and these four friends were just waiting for the word. The scripture is unclear.
Maybe, if we search our own hearts, we already know the answer.
What has caused you to drop everything and go somewhere,
to do something that seems at first to be reckless and irresponsible?
Or even foolish?
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always been love.
Love for a child, a parent, the love of longing and desire for a lover, the love that is loyalty and affection for a friend…
For love we might buy a one way ticket to a new city. For love we might call our boss from the airport saying, “Oh! Right. I won’t be at work this week.” For love we might get in a car and drive all night long to say good-bye to a beloved grandparent, to be by the side of our parents as they lose their parents.
For love, our friends will fill in for us, step into the gaps we leave behind because they too love us and know how to care for us. For love, many of us would do anything. We would make incredible sacrifices for one another and all for love.
You may remember a prayer request I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Some dear friends have suffered a terrible loss. Their five-week old son had died suddenly and unexpectedly. It is crushing news. Their grief is incredible. I cannot imagine it, but yesterday I saw it.
You see, my friends live up on Lake Tahoe. They run a summer camp called Camp Galilee. They had lived in Berkeley. That’s where I knew them, but just last spring they moved up to the mountains with their daughter for this wonderful opportunity to take over the summer camp.
When the news came of Fritz’ death people were already making plans. They were canceling previous engagements. They were picking music and sending cards. They were buying plane tickets and setting up car-pools. They were dropping their nets.
And so we gathered up in the mountains yesterday. Their friends, people from their church home in Berkeley and the churches they serve up in Tahoe. People gathered from all over…some for days…to share their love, to grieve together, to suffer together, to support those who have also loved them so very well.
“Of course,” we say, “of course we’d go.”
What heartbreak. What grief.
What love. What wondrous love. Wondrous, indeed. And reckless, inconvenient, terrible.
Loyalty, caring, compassion, shared suffering…so many people gathering around one another in a sign of deep and abiding love.
Impulsive. Romantic. Reckless. Abiding. Wondrous.
So what are these people in our Gospel reading doing?
What would cause them to drop everything like this?
Maybe it’s simple. It’s love.
They hear in the voice of Jesus the voice of The Beloved, God, the lover, calling to the loved.
The whole of the Gospel hinges on us recognizing The One who loves us, upon us hearing that voice and being willing to follow it.
It’s a terrible way to run a church, but it may be the only way to be Christian.
I think that the voice of The Beloved is always a voice of Love. We’re not always willing and ready to follow love. Paul’s letter this morning reminds us of that. We can become distracted. Confused. Our sense of obligation can become distorted. Often we refuse to follow love. We hear the voice. We even recognize it for what it is, but we refuse to follow.
Love is not expedient. Love is not rational. Love is not convenient.
But in the end, it may be love that turns us around. It might be one of the few things that causes us to drop everything and move to another town or make room for someone in our life in some deeply meaningful way.
Such a love as the love that God offers in Christ Jesus might remind us what it means to be human when we’ve forgotten just what that is.
“I am reminded of a remarkable interview of Jack Leroy Tueller, a decorated World War II veteran. His incredible story says more about the power of loving your enemies than I could ever put into words:
‘This is two weeks after D-Day. It was dark, raining, muddy. And I’m stressed so I get my trumpet out. And the commander said, “Jack, don’t play tonight because there’s one sniper left.” I thought to myself that German sniper is as scared and lonely as I am. So I thought, I’ll play his love song.’
‘And just this little act of grace, this message of love played out across the expanse of darkness is so wonderful. If the story ends here, it is still a beautiful story of human kindness. It seems almost unreal what happens next: the military police approach Tueller the following morning and tell him they have a German prisoner on the beach who keeps asking, “Who played that trumpet last night?”
‘I grabbed my trumpet and went down to the beach. There was a 19-year-old German, scared and lonesome. He was dressed like a French peasant to cloak his role as a sniper. And, crying, he said, “I couldn’t fire because I thought of my fiancé. I thought of my mother and father,” and he says, “My role is finished.”
‘And he stuck out his hand and I shook the hand of the enemy. He was no enemy, he was scared and lonely like me.’ [see video below]
You see, the sniper heard a love song, and in the hearing remembered what it means to be loved, he heard the voice of a lover…
He remembered what it means to be human. To be loved to be a lover himself.
Maybe the call of Jesus is like the peal of a trumpet. The trumpet sounds within our souls. It is passionate, urgent, and reminds us what it means to be fully human.
God bless Jack and his trumpet.
God bless the writers of love songs and those brave enough to sing them.
God bless those who drive hundreds of miles to sit at a bedside.
God bless those who risk everything for love.
God bless those who can hear and respond to The Beloved.
God bless people who, once set against one another, can hear the voice of the beloved in songs and cries, in words and the prayers that are mere groans.
For, you see, what drives fishermen from their boats and snipers from their trees is just this voice. It is the voice of the Beloved. It is the Lover who is the Beloved, who cries out to us, the beloved.
And all of this came to pass so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:.
“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea,
across the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles
the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
Beloved. The cry of the prophet, of The Christ, is the cry of God who is the Beloved, a lover’s call of longing and desire.