The Rev. Josephine Robertson
All Saints Episcopal Church, Bellevue
I vastly prefer “mountain tops” to the ordinary valleys of everyday life, how about you all?
Our spiritual mountain tops can be wildly varied. Mine tend to be mystical. There is the time an altar vibrated like a drum beneath my hands, or the day I stood outside the ring of Stonehenge and felt the stones humming. There was the time my heart was broken open and remade the first time I witnessed a woman preside at the Eucharist, the day I spent a whole morning flirting with God in the Michigan woods, chasing the beauty of a snowfall that somehow was also prayer through the lens of my camera.
I could go on.
But today isn’t a day for mountain top experiences. We are firmly and squarely back in what the church calls “ordinary time” and while the word ordinary is actually about counting this time is, truly ordinary. We are not in one of the great seasons of preparation (Advent or Lent) nor in one of the seasons of festival (Christmas and Easter).
And this reminded me of the oft repeated advice of spiritual mentors down through the years, remember, they would say: we don’t live on the mountain tops, our lives are lived on the slopes and valleys.
It is a little like what I tell couples preparing for marriage: careful, I say, right now all this laser focus is on your wedding but that is just one day. It is all the ordinary days of your marriage that really deserve your attention; those are what count.
And today’s gospel is, in some ways, the most ordinary of things.
There are Simon and Andrew, at work, like you do. Going through the routines of ordinary life; when Jesus waltzes in and calls out “follow me!”
And a little later we find James and John, those famous “sons of thunder.” They too are at work, doing what they’ve done every day when Jesus appears and calls out “follow me!”
These aren’t extraordinary experiences. Unlike the call story we heard last week where a thunderous prophet (John) names Jesus as the preverbal “It” and his followers all head over to see what’s shaking, here our heroes (such as they are) are just at work. It is an ordinary day and they are just ordinary folk doing ordinary things to make ends meet.
The setting could be our office, classroom, or kitchen table. All the places you have lived your everyday life. And in walks Jesus, without a by-your-leave, and with a shout and a wave calls out: follow me!
And this is the truth of ordinary time: Christmas and Easter are brief wonderful interludes. But the majority of our life is about following Jesus in the midst of the ordinary, even mundane moments of our lives. Jesus’ disciples are just folk. Like you, like me. Regular men and women with families, jobs, and zero fame.
They aren’t brilliant (I mean Simon’s nickname is blockhead, or rock head if you want to be nice). They aren’t special the way we’re used to identifying special. And their lives, though filled with mountain tops and valleys will continue to be fairly ordinary, day to day.
So what, then, do we take away from this odd little story of very ordinary prophecy fulfillment and absent fishermen?
For me Matthew’s call story is a reminder that the stuff of faith is the stuff of our everyday lives. That what feeds and sustains us is not the mountain tops (nice as they are) but the day to day effort to respond to Jesus’ call to “follow me.”
This is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road. For me it serves as a reminder that the place where following Jesus matters isn’t here on a Sunday morning, or while I’m reading my Bible, or writing my sermon, or planning liturgy.
Where following Jesus matters is when, in the midst of my ordinary day I am given an option: heed the call to discipleship or keep casting my nets. There’s no miracle here, just an ordinary moment that calls for four ordinary guys to do something odd, different, maybe even subversive.
They leave their families, their obligations, and they follow Jesus.
Our call moments probably won’t be so dramatic. But we will, in the midst of going about our days hear (if we’re listening) Jesus’ call, we will hear: the kingdom has come near you and the next choice we make will be the choice that matters most.
Last week one of our members, who can identify themselves if they chose, approached me about an idea to help our unhoused neighbors. It might have seemed a very ordinary idea, a bag to keep in the car with things someone living on the street might need. But this idea was a little different. You see this person wanted us to put these tools in gift bags not ugly plastic bags. This person wanted to make sure that with the tooth brush, and protein, there was a gift card so our neighbor could choose for themselves what they wanted to eat.
Y’all that’s answering Jesus’ call to “follow me.” Jesus who treated everyone he met as a gift, who always acknowledged the agency the choice of the people who came to him for help (what do you want?).
In the midst of ordinary life, the choice to see and treat as fully human someone who is often invisible, and less than.
Will we live as if the kingdom really is near? Will we be the friend to the poor, outcast, sick, stranger? Will we follow Jesus’ steps, model our choices on his?
This is the question, here in the ordinary days of our lives.