Installation of Jeff Teeples
Hawley Lutheran Church, Hawley, MN
January 27, 2008/Epiphany 4
Poor Zebedee. When the dust clears, he’s the one left holding the bag—or (should we say?) holding the net.
Zebedee is Left Behind here in this gospel lesson. And nobody ever bothers to tell the rest of his story.
Like many characters who come and go in the four gospels, Zebedee is frozen in time here in Matthew, chapter four. The last we see of him—looking back in our rearview mirrors—the last we see of him is this puzzled expression, shoulders shrugged, a look on his face that reads: “What happened?”
Well, here’s what happened.
Jesus “happened” to these working men along the Sea of Galilee, and the local fishing fleet was never quite the same again. Four veteran anglers were just spirited away, leaving nets unmended, boats still leaking and CEOs like Zebedee wondering: “Now what am I supposed to do?”
All because Jesus happened by.
Why am I even giving the time of day to Zebedee, the father of James and John?
Well, it’s because most of us are more like Zebedee than we are like James and John.
I’m betting that Zebedee had a big long “to do” list tucked into his pocket. Zebedee was very much embedded—as we are—in space and time. Zebedee had places to go, things to do, just keeping body and soul together a while longer—and Jesus came along and messed that all up.
I’m starting with Zebedee this morning because Zebedee’s life is our life. Most of us are just trying to stay on top of our game. We have our work cut out for us—getting school assignments done, keeping the house in order, punching the time clock, meeting our deadlines, hoping the Social Security check gets deposited on time, trying to stay in business one more year,
Zebedee was immersed in clock time—and so are we.
And then Jesus swept past him, and nothing was ever the same again. In a nanosecond, Jesus reduced Zebedee’s work force by 66%--without even asking for permission or offering an apology.
Zebedee was immersed in clock time—but Jesus was carried along by another time--call it decision time, critical time, kingdom time.
If Zebedee had lots of things on his “to do” list, Jesus had just one thing on his list: proclaim the nearness of God’s in-breaking rule, God’s startling reign, God’s reclaiming of the whole creation.
And because Jesus wasn’t bound by clock time, he made waves wherever we went—and no one in this path was left unscathed.
So, John the Baptist is dragged off to a dungeon by evil King Herod. And does Jesus go into hiding, to keep a low profile?
No. Jesus isn’t bound by clock time, with all its concern for safety and security. Instead Jesus relocates his center of operation to Galilee, to territory controlled by the same wicked King Herod—“Take that, you tyrant!”
John the Baptist is removed from the scene—and that triggers Jesus’ determination to go to the frontier, the mission field where the trade routes pass, where Jews and Gentiles are always bumping up against each other. Jesus, rather than retreating to a mountaintop, thrusts himself into the thick of it, heads for the place where people sit in darkness, to shine some light on it all, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold it.
And when Jesus got the whole thing rolling, he proclaimed just one thing: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
There it is: Jesus’ kingdom-time mission statement: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Hold on to your hat, because God is bursting into your clock-bound world. Get ready to change—brace yourself for a top-to-bottom “makeover.”
This is something more than what the presidential candidates are chattering about every day. Which will it be—“change” or “experience?” Thanks but no thanks, I say to them all. I’ve voted in enough elections to be suspicious of any human being who promises me “change.” We might bite on that in 2008, but I guarantee you, we’ll all be ready for change again in 2012 or for sure in 2016. Change in our clock-bound world is all too often another way of saying: “more of the same.”
But Jesus—Jesus is different. He is the original Candidate of Change. And the proof is in the pudding.
Whenever Jesus sweeps past, someone has to clean up the pieces, reset all the clocks.
- When Jesus preaches in synagogues, as he did, folks sometimes got so ticked off they were ready to lynch him.
- When Jesus proclaims good news, persons start behaving strangely, acting as if they believe it.
- When Jesus “cures every disease and sickness,” people actually get over it, actually get better.
- And when Jesus enlists others in his cause (like Andrew, Peter, John and James)—they leave good jobs behind, they turn their backs on the safety and security of clock time—ready to embrace the fierce recklessness of decision time, critical time, kingdom time.
And guys like Zebedee get Left Behind—wondering where his two boys are heading off to now.
Jesus, whatever else he does, brings about a collision—a collision between clock time (which is most of our time) and kingdom time.
And, unless I miss my guess, that sort of thing is still happening.
I realize that you all probably have your own “to do” lists, and maybe your list includes things like: “buy kitty litter,” “pick up a loaf of bread” and “go to church.”
But here’s the deal: that last item, “go to church,” assures one thing: that your one-step-ahead-of-another clock time world will bump up against Jesus’ kingdom time world.
And that is what is happening even here and now, right in this moment.
Because you’re here, and because Jesus is here, things won’t ever be the same again.
Have you noticed how that sort of thing happens, whenever you stop by here—whenever you step out of clock time—if only for an hour a week—whenever you open yourself up to kingdom time here at Hawley Lutheran?
You meet Jesus here, and he re-orients everything else in your life. Jesus resets all your other clocks, re-calibrates your ways of thinking, feeling, acting, hoping.
And then: watch out. You’re changed.
You arrive here weighed down by guilt and failture.
You leave here with a lighter step.
You arrive here wondering “what’s the point of it all?”
You leave here, with a renewed sense of direction.
You arrive here, fresh out of hope.
You leave here, confident again that God’s in charge.
You arrive here, perplexed about your purpose.
You leave here, ready again to follow Jesus.
Watch out, though. Coming here messes up the rest of your life, all the moments and hours and days you spend in clock time. They’re never quite the same again.
All because you happened by the same place Jesus was visiting this morning.
I think, rightly so, that we have an even sharper, keener sense of that here this day at Hawley Lutheran. Because this is going to be one of those days you use, in future histories of this congregation, to mark a transition, a turning point.
For today, as we meet up with Jesus once again, we also widen our circle to receive and welcome one of Jesus’ followers, your new pastor, Jeff Teeples.
Pastor Jeff’s presence with you is a sign that kingdom time is upon us once again. Jeff and you somehow were led to each other—your paths crossed in the providence and wisdom and grace of God.
And now, Pastor Jeff is among you, doing just what I’m doing—doing it better, I hope. Pointing out Jesus. Helping you hear Jesus. Washing you with Jesus’ water, feeding you with Jesus’ body and blood, filling you with Jesus’ hope once again.
Clock time truly is colliding with kingdom time this morning. God is opening us all up once again—
- opening us up to God’s Son Jesus,
- opening us up to the extreme makeover that Jesus is always working in us,
- opening us up to the mission God is on,
- opening us up to hearing Christ’s own “follow me” in such a way that our feet just have to start moving.
In the name of Jesus.