Sermon: “The Gospel of Bilbo Baggins”
“The Gospel of Bilbo Baggins”
Third Sunday of Epiphany
First Christian Church
They didn’t turn out the way that I wanted.
I’ve said that in one form or another over the years when it comes to baking. Now, I love baking breads or cakes or cookies, and most of the time things turn out fine. But every so often I end up with some kind of baked goods that are terrible.
A few weeks ago, I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies. I followed the instructions as usual, but with a few changes. One change was that I used whole wheat flour. I wanted to be healthy while I ate something delicious.
So I make the cookies. I allowed them to cool and then I started putting them into some tin cans to eat later. I decided to eat one to see how good it was. That’s when I realized something wasn’t right. It was soft, which I liked, but it was too bready and just tasted awful. I thought maybe it need a few more minutes in the oven, so I placed them in a bit more. No change, the cookies were horrible. I couldn’t understand why. I had made chocolate chip cookies many times and they never turned up like this!
After a while I learned what the culprit was: the whole wheat flour. After much reading and sharing by friends on Facebook, I learned that you have a mixture of regular white flour and whole wheat flour to avoid the catastrophe that I witnessed. The experience reminded me that cooking at least for me is adventure. To borrow a line from Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re going to get.
In today’s scripture, we find Jesus calling the first disciples. He has begun his public ministry starting in the small town of Capernaeum. His message is simple: “repent for the kingdom of heaven draws near.”
He walks and sees Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea. He tells them to follow along he will make them fishers of people. Peter and Andrew leave their nets behind and follow Jesus.
Jesus then sees three men working on the fishing nets; brothers James and John and their father, Zebedee. Jesus calls them and the brothers leave their nets and their father behind.
In our lectionary study this past Wednesday, we talked about how the disciples just dropped everything and everyone to follow Jesus. A number of us found that whole concept as odd. Did James and John really leave their father hanging? In the culture of that day, having children was a person’s social security. Did James and John have other brothers to take over or was Zebedee left to fend for himself?
Most of us couldn’t just do that. We have commitments to a job and family. So, we see this action as troubling. Why would Jesus allow this? What was it about Jesus that made Peter and Andrew and James and John to do something so radical and dangerous?
As we were talking about this Wednesday evening, my thoughts went to the beginning of The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien. The beginning starts with Biblbo Baggins, our Hobbit who is quite satisfied living in his nice living house in the shire. He wasn’t not interested in adventure, no he liked his life to be predictable and orderly.
All that changed when he meets Gandolf the Wizard as well as a number of unruly dwarves who make a mess of his house. It wasn’t long before Bilbo was on a journey with Gandolf and the drwarves, leaving the safety of the shire behind.
Most of us have what I would call pedestrian dreams. We want a nice job that pays well, a nice home and a nice car. None of this wrong per se, but notice that what we are all looking for is safety, predictibility.
But the life of faith in Jesus is not safe or predictable. Jesus calls us to leave our own shires to follow him; to tell people of the good news of Christ, and to participate in ministries of healing to help show all of creation that the kingdom of heaven in near.
Most of us feel uncomfortable about what the disciples do because it is so foreign to us. We don’t think we could ever do something like that. The thing is, God might not call us to just drop everything to become a disciple. But that doesn’t mean that we are not called by God. We will be called to leave something behind, it just won’t be leaving your parents behind.
And that’s what this story is all about: our calling. That word might sound familiar to you because it’s the word we use when a pastor is chosen to pastor a certain church or when someone decides to become a pastor. I wish we would expand the meaning of that word, because in early 21st century America, we think only pastors can be called. The reality is that anyone can be called and we are always being called. The only difference between my call to be a pastor and your call, is that I get a new title and a fancy new robe. We are all called to work with Jesus telling people that the kingdom of heaven is near.
God may not be telling you to leave your job and go to seminary, but God might be calling you to work with the poor or educating children, or healing those with diseases as a doctor. We are all called by Jesus to let go of our nets. The trick is to learn what that net is and to be able to trust God and let go.
In the last few months in my ministry with you, I’ve seen how you have let go of one way of being church and follow God in various ways. The early disciples never knew where they were headed, but they trusted God and so has First Christian-Mahtomedi. Our “shire” could have been to end the ministry here, but instead you all took a risk. It is exciting to see all of you living out your communal call as a community.
Jesus calls us to join in God’s mission just as he did to Peter, Andrew, James and John so long ago. What do we need to give up to follow?
Thanks be to God. Amen.