Texts: Matthew 4:12-23 and 1 Corinthinans 1:10-18
Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up in the land between two rivers. She was pretty happy, this girl, because she had a family that loved her and she lived in a town where everybody knew each other and most of the time loved each other. And God was with the girl from the moment of her birth, loving her, guiding her and watching her every move. And God was with her friends and family, and all those who helped her grow into a pretty decent young woman.
One day, like most girls her age, she had to make a decision about college. Her family and the people of her town were excited and ready to help her with this momentous decision.
“You should major in business,” said the businessman. “You’re smart and you could go far.”
“Oh, but I want to be an actress,” said the girl. “I want to be on stage and perform all the great plays in front of an audience.”
“You’re crazy,” said the businessman.
One of her high school teachers said, “Hey, you really should become a teacher. You’re good at it and it’s a really important job.”
“Well,” said the girl. “Maybe I could teach theatre, but what I really want to do is direct a play on Broadway.”
“You’re not making any sense,” said the teacher.
Her mother tried to be supportive. “I suppose you could double major,” she said.
Her father wasn’t sure what to say, so he just said, “Theatre major? What can you do with that?”
Some of her friends tried to warn her, “This is foolish! Don’t do it.”
But the girl knew what she wanted to do and so she went to college and majored in theatre. She loved the theatre and years later, she was so glad she spent her college years doing what she loved.
While she was there, she met a handsome young prince of a guy in a punk band. He wore a leather jacket and rode a Triumph motorcycle. He lived with some other punkers and he was really cute. He turned out to be really nice. And his family was nice. And his friends were, for the most part, nice. And the girl fell in love. And in the middle of her college years, she got married.
“You’re crazy,” said her acting teacher.
“You’re not making any sense,” said her roommate.
“This is foolish! Don’t do it,” warned one of her sisters.
But the girl knew what she wanted and she was so in love that all the little details didn’t matter. And God was with the girl from the moment of she started college, loving her, helping her and watching her every move. And God was also with her friends and family who were worried about her.
The girl and the prince decided to move to San Francisco. It was a cool place to live and they were sure that there would be jobs aplenty. Anyway, some of there friends lived there and they really liked it. So they had a yard sale and got ready to move.
The Prince’s family shouted: “You’re crazy. There are jobs enough right here. We want our only son to stay close by.”
The girl’s family cried: “You’re not making any sense. San Francisco is too far away. We’ll miss you too much. Don’t go.”
The girl’s directing teachers lamented, “This is foolish! You need to go to grad school. You could be a really good director.”
But the girl and the Prince had other ideas and besides, they wanted to get out of that little land between two rivers and see the big wide world. And God was with the girl as she set out on this journey, loving her, supporting her and watching her every move. And God was with her friends and family who reluctantly and very sadly watched her go.
When the so-called Prince began to drink too much and take too many drugs, the girl tried to help him. She tried and tried to make things better. But one morning, when she woke up so tired and so worn out, she realized that she needed to get some help. So she decided to go to church. It had been a long time. She found a church in the yellow pages and walked through a beautiful park to get to it. There she met a fairy godpastor who spoke with authority of God’s love for people in pain. The church members opened their homes and their hearts to this girl, even though they had never met her before. And when the girl realized she needed to leave the prince so she could have a healthy life, they supported her on her journey to the San Francisco courthouse where she got a no-fault divorce.
“We don’t think you’re crazy,” Betty the lounge singer said as she hugged the girl.
“You’re making a lot of sense,” Charles the choir director told her one night after rehearsal.
“It would be foolish for you to continue to try when the Prince doesn’t want to help himself,” the fairy godpastor advised after many weeks of anguished conversation.
And God was with the girl, loving her and supporting her, even though some would say that divorce is a sin. And God was with her friends and family who grieved for her and for themselves because they couldn’t prevent her pain.
Even though she loved San Francisco, the girl wasn’t finished with her travels. A friend invited her to come to Japan to work for a year. It seemed like a good thing to do, so she went,
even though some of her family thought she was crazy to go halfway around the world just to work,
even though some of her friends thought it was foolish to give up the great job she had with one of the nation’s top advertising agencies.
But God was with her and God brought something really amazing into her world – a real prince this time.
A prince who loved God almost as much as God loved the girl.
A prince who loved the girl because she loved music and good wine, because she spoke Spanish and liked to cook and eat good food, because he has a thing for tall blondes – but mostly because she loved God as much as he did. So they decided to get married.
And everybody’s jaw dropped.
And there was dead silence on the other end of the phone line in the land between two rivers.
But no one said the girl was crazy, mostly because this was beyond crazy. This was so crazy it almost made sense. How could it be that the girl had to run like a fool halfway around the world to find a Peruvian prince to marry?
Most everybody just shrugged and said: “We give up.”
But God was with the girl and with the Peruvian prince, loving them, helping them and traveling with them all the way from Japan to Wisconsin, from Mexico City to Maryland, from New York to Illinois.
When the girl went to seminary and lots of people thought she was crazy to leave her kids in the hands of day care providers, God was with her.
When the Peruvian Prince got a job in New York, God helped the girl go, even though she really thought it was crazy to leave her wonderful home and her best friend and go to a city that was so big and so overwhelming. And God was with her best friend who cried and cried the day the girl left town.
When the girl began to work at a church in a run-down and really pretty dangerous neighborhood, some of her neighbors thought she was crazy to walk up and down the street, extending the hand of friendship. Some people told her it didn’t make sense to take such risks. Some of her own flock just thought she was a fool. Even then, especially then, God was with the girl, walking right beside her, pointing out people in need, showing her how to connect, inspiring her to get involved, but most of all, loving her with every step she took.
Most days, it was really hard to for the girl to comprehend what God wanted from her. Some days, she didn’t even really notice that God was there at all. Often, God was just a kind of benign afterthought and when things didn’t go the way she hoped, she wondered whether God was with her at all. It’s only been in the last few years that the girl has been able to look back and make some sense out of the crazy foolishness that has shaped much of her life. And you know what? God has been with her, loving her and supporting here, even in that wondering and questioning and doubting.
Now some people find it really easy to direct their lives by the words of this book. Each story, every sentence helps them set a course. I admire people like that. They seem to have God’s will all figured out. There are commands to be obeyed, promises of hope and salvation to be trusted and offerings of grace and mercy to be believed and received. But I’m more like the girl. I often struggle with this book. Sometimes I think it doesn’t make sense that the Savior of the world should have had to suffer like he did. Sometimes it seems crazy that we are supposed to live our lives just like the barren women, old men, outcasts, nonsense-talking prophets and uneducated working class folks in this book do. Sometimes I wonder if whether those fishermen made a foolish mistake when they decided to drop what they were doing and follow Jesus. And on some days, maybe more often than I care to admit, I wonder whether this whole Jesus-following project is just plain crazy.
It turns out that much of what this book asks me to do, so much of what it asks me to believe looks downright foolish. Think about it. What kind of crazy people leave the family business and take up work that not only doesn’t pay well, but that doesn’t really even provide for basic needs? What kind of people give up decent jobs and wonderful homes and walk into a wilderness where nothing is certain? How many people do you know who would choose to walk away from loving families to follow a stranger who asks them to help him do some unknown, perhaps dangerous work? It doesn’t make any sense. It seems foolish that again and again, the people in this book are asked set aside what they know, to leave friends they can count on, to start something new so that more people can get to know this loving and supporting God.
You have to wonder.
The good news for the girl, for me and for all of us is that God is with us in our wondering. God is with us in our worrying and in our wailing. God is with us when we turn left and when we turn right. Even when we walk straight into a wall, God is with us, loving us, supporting us, saving us. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we need God to save us from our own worst enemy – ourselves.
The good news for the girl, for me and for all of us is that God is with us when we watch the people we love make bad decisions.
And God is with us when the decisions we make don’t turn out so great either.
God is with us when Jesus asks us to do what “normal” people are sure to call foolish.
God is with us when we hold on to our nets a little bit tighter and resist the call to go.
God is with us when we put down our nets and without question, follow.
God is with us even when we doubt that what we’ll do will ever have an impact – even when we don’t know what’s going to happen next.
God is with us loving us, supporting us and helping us make sense out of the crazy foolishness of our lives.
As she has stumbled and blundered through her crazy, nonsensical, sometimes foolish life, the girl has come to believe this with all her heart and I do too.