I’ve spent the weekend watching my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds pour over with images of friends and strangers taking to the streets for the March on Washington and sister marches all over the country and around the world.
In our Epistle this morning Paul writes: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel…”
This is what proclaiming the Gospel looks like. Millions of people using their voices in the name of love. Millions of people marching and holding signs with messages such as:
“Love conquers hate.”
“Hope lives here.”
“May the force of love be with you.”
“My voice, my story, my body – unite for hope.”
And many, many, many more messages with a similar refrain.
This is Gospel truth proclaimed. These signs, these people, these voices sounding: love is what matters most. Love is gospel. When we stand on the side of love the kingdom of heaven draws near.
One of many hashtags being used in conjunction with the marches is #whyimarch. The reasons why people feel called to action are countless and diverse. Criminal justice reform, education reform, gender justice, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, economic justice, disability rights, indigenous rights, and more. And though the reasons one may feel called to action are vastly different, there is a common thread. The thread is love.
Paul, in his letter, says, “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”
These marches, these millions of people called to action, are what it looks like when people come together with one mind. This is what it looks like when people come together with one purpose.
It does not mean being in full and total agreement. It does not mean sharing the same platform or values or reasons for marching.
It does mean standing on the side of love. It does mean proclaiming the Gospel. It does mean drawing the kingdom of heaven near.
We are, in our current age, much like the people of Corinth to whom Paul writes. We are a people divided. Divided because we choose to not engage with each other. To not spend time in the company of those with different social, political, or theological beliefs. To only love our neighbor if they march for the same reasons we do.
A friend of mine, who was in Washington DC this weekend, shared on her Facebook page: “Just spent an hour on the roof with [someone with different beliefs.] Lesson learned: say hi, introduce ourselves, ask questions, build bridges and work together.”
In the thread of comments below, her wife responded: “It was very challenging but very important. I think I have been changed.”
As followers of Christ we are invited to do what is challenging, because it is important, so that we might be changed.
In our Gospel this morning, we see Jesus extending this invitation to the first disciples. It is difficult to say what Peter, Andrew, John, and James may have been feeling that day when Jesus called them to follow him. Though their actions give at least a piece of it away. Each one of them immediately leaves behind what they are occupied with to follow Jesus. In that moment, they are willing to give over their trust fully to something outside of themselves.
The disciples choose to follow Jesus and are willing to be changed along the way. In doing so they learn from Jesus a new way of being in the world. Jesus, a stranger, invites them to come along, to listen and ask questions, to sit down with people who they would normally not come into contact with. To approach their neighbors with empathy and compassion. To say hi, introduce ourselves, ask questions, build bridges and work together.
Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy work. Truly listening to our neighbors takes patience and understanding. It involves compassion and empathy. Loving our neighbors involves setting aside our own egos and truly being present to one another. Following Jesus necessitates a willingness to be changed along the way.
Paul writes, “Now, I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”
Jesus calls, “Follow me.”
And so, this morning I ask you: What will you do to love your neighbors? Which divisions will you work to heal? How will you proclaim the Gospel truth of love?