“The tribe or family works because when one member is down, the others can pick him or her up. What we have, including our wealth, is to be shared.” From an Onondaga elder included in a book titled: Listening With Your Heart: Lessons from Native America compiled by Wayne Peate, MD.
And, here is the story of Jesus gathering companions, forming his own tribe of support. Jesus had no intention of going out on his own to do ministry. Last week and again today, we read of his gathering people for ministry--people who would set aside their day-to-day lives and follow him. As Jonah followed God, eventually, and reluctantly.
So, I think about these men who lived and worked in this town on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and I wonder about them. Why they did such a crazy thing as leaving their nets behind to follow this wandering teacher. There are the remains of a synagogue there. A black basalt foundation with a later white limestone structure built on top of it that indicates centuries of worship by Jewish people there. And, I think of these four men: Simon, Andrew, James and John and what their faith practice might have been. If they were prayerful folks, if they prayed throughout the day as they performed each daily task; maybe, just maybe, when Jesus called them, their hearts were open to God’s call.
From the same book I quoted at the beginning there is a quote from a Yakima healer: “The white man talks about the mind and body and spirit as if they were separate. For us they are one. Our whole life is spiritual, from the time we get up until we go to bed.” Even in sleep, a Native American will expect messages to arrive in dreams.
I think these Galileans had more in common with the indigenous peoples of this continent than we realize. They, too, prayed the day long. They, too, lived lives holistically--everything was connected. The community was one, prayer and thanksgiving was incorporated into all daily practices and everyone was aware of living within God and connected to God.
And, what this did for the people like James and John, Andrew and Simon was their hearts were always open to messages from God. The folks that had succeeded in their antiquity, of their ancestors were the ones who listened for the voice of God. When they heard this voice, they responded by doing what the voice told them to do. In this instance, Jesus was a very human messenger and they recognized him as someone with authority from God. They were primed to see God, so they recognized the one who was walking with God.
Even reluctant Jonah knew when God was speaking to him--he just thought maybe perhaps if he went in the opposite direction, God would cut him some slack. But, alas, in Jonah’s case, no was not an answer God would accept.
Which is something else we often speculate about--the folks who told God, “No,” that perhaps the people who did wonderful and miraculous things weren’t God’s first choice. Jonah’s story should give us pause. Maybe no one really gets to say no forever. Eventually, you will recognize that God has you in the palm of the great hand and no one can pluck you out of it. So, keep praying and eventually you will see and hear and know the gifts God has prepared for you.
On Friday, I worked at Simpson and one of the staff people told me a story about some grandchildren. The children had spoken with their pastor in preparation for baptism and had been given some pamphlets to take home. The kids are in the back seat looking at their brochures, puzzling about the pastor’s explanation of baptism and one of them asked their mom, “Have you been baptized?” She answered, “Yes, when I was an infant.” And the response was, “Wow, God has been with you for 30 years?!” We laughed and then I said, “Carl Jung said ‘Bidden or unbidden, God is here.’ And God is always here.”
And this is what our Native American companions know--the healers among them--they know if people pray every day and listen for the Creator, they will always be whole people who can hear the voice of the Creato,r because the Creator never leaves us. Our Galilean fishermen knew this, too. They lived from the land and the water, they wore their sandals on dirt paths, and they were connected to one another and the Earth and to God. Philip had no guile--he was one of those people you could take at face value and Jesus liked that face, that value. Nathanael was amazed that Jesus had even noticed him before they met and he took Jesus at face value. These men were open and ready for God to approach them every day through prayer and action, and one day Jesus approached them and they saw him for what he was: the chosen of God.
And, they formed a kind of tribe of support for one another that continued long after Jesus was gone from the Earth. While Jesus was there, they were focused on learning what they could from him, continuing in prayer and caring for the less fortunate and being a support to his ministry--sometimes trying to protect Jesus from the crowds who wore them all down.
God is with us. We need to keep our hearts and minds open to what we can learn from one another and always open to the voice of God. We can be a tribe of support to one another in our individual ministries, in helping one another discern our ministries, and in listening for the voice of God. “…when one member is down, the others can pick him or her up.” And, we can help one another remain connected to the God who is always with us.