A Faith from the Margins to the Web bible study for Epiphany 3, Year B
Contributing Authors: Lisa and Alisha
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
“And they followed him!”
Unanimously, both Alisha and Lisa agreed this was the phrase that stood out to them. Lisa, a regular at Friday’s Red Door lunch, had been living unsheltered for the past year. Alisha, a student at the University, was eager and interested to hear Lisa’s story as she grew in her own life of faith.
Alisha expanded a bit on that idea of following, “I mean, they just left everything, they were like “ok, let’s go!”
Lisa nodded, “It reminds me that sometimes you just have to let things go, put it aside, be ready to follow. I mean, everybody has family and everyone has problems, like I’m having one now with my mother. But we have to believe that if we take those problems to the Lord, and if we give them over to Him and follow Him, that He is there to lead us through.”
Alisha added, “to me, what caught my attention was that part when it ways ‘after John was arrested, then Jesus came.’ It reminds me that they had to realize that Jesus was the one person to follow. If they didn’t listen to John, now they knew they had to follow Jesus. One thing happens, then the other. It’s hard to do that, when you see problems arising in your life, like they saw everything happening there with John, and then to have to let go of everything and follow Jesus like the disciples did. It makes all the difference, though.”
Lisa spoke with honesty, “That is so hard to do! I’m sorry to say that…
Alisha interrupted her kindly, “Oh, no, you have no need to apologize! It is hard! It is really hard. We are only human and we experience those times when we’re praying, we’re trying and it seems like just problem after problem in our lives. That’s when we are suppose to keep our faith and it’s when its the hardest, too. I read this thing one time that said, “Doubt your doubts” and that really spoke to me. I thought, I don’t need to doubt God. What I’m doubting is that sense I’m having that I somehow need to fix everything, or that everything has to all be OK before I can follow.”
Lisa said, “I’ve always liked that saying, ‘when one door closes, another opens…’ and I had a hard time believing that at first, but I’m starting to come around and see it now. Just because I don’t have a place right now…a “home” home…that doesn’t mean I can’t work or get a job. People tell you one has to come before the other but it wasn’t working that way for me. I had to figure out what would work for me, to go through the process of thinking about what I could do and was being asked to do and now that I’m doing that, I really believe it. Door close, but others open when we follow.”
Alisha was in agreement, “I know just what you mean! It’s like we are waiting, hoping for something better. And God is saying, ‘just wait; I have something wonderful planned for you, in fact its already happening’ but it’s still hard for us to believe it.”
Their conversation continued. Lisa explained her own understanding of this passage, “I’m seeing God working right now in this Gospel in wanting to take care of those disciples. It’s hard to follow but Jesus is wanting to take care of them, too. In my own life, I know that I am grateful to be still alive and I’ve learned that God provides for me what I need and when I need it.”
Alisha said the Gospel spoke to her as well, “It reminds me that I can be focused on all the little things that I want. But as you said, there are people who don’t have even big things I can take for granted: food, shelter, clothes, a jacket or something…sometimes getting what you really need is like finding blessings.”
Lisa related this to her own life, “Now that I don’t have any of the luxuries I once thought I needed, I’m grateful for what God does provide me in my life. It’s a hard lesson to have all that and then to lose it all. But God has been with me; I see God that way in my own life right now.”
Alisha spoke about where she saw God, “In this passage, I see God in that whole thing of following him. It’s one thing to go to church and listen, but another thing personally to decide ‘I’m going to follow you with my whole heart, even when troubles arise.’ In my life right now, I see God working in me trying to pray more and read the scriptures more, even if there aren’t a lot of people my age doing that. But, I’m not just doing that for me, or to make other people happy. I’m doing it to follow God.”
Lisa empathized with her, “I remember feeling that growing up. My family didn’t go to church much, and I didn’t really know a lot about God. But, ending up out here living on the street, often times we turn to churches and it has made me want to learn more about God, about what where and how God is leading me.”
Alisha asked, “What do you think this scripture is saying to us?”
Lisa responded, “I think it’s reminding us to just trust and believe in the Lord. If you don’t get your way, don’t throw a hissy fit and walk off. Maybe the thing we want isn’t the best thing for us. We want it all, we want to have it all perfect. We think “this has to be.” But it isn’t always the way it seems. Like for me, a couple weeks ago there was a job that I thought was perfect for me…a five minute walk, easy. But, I didn’t get it and then I was angry and disappointed. Then, just one week later, I got called about another job which is really wonderful, at the hospital. I didn’t think they would take me. But they did! I got that job and it is right up my alley. I start as soon as they process my paperwork. I didn’t get what I wanted at first, but then another door opened and its one where I will get to help people.”
Alisha was genuinely happy to hear this, “What a blessing to see an example like that for you, not giving up but waiting and following and knowing God is working things out.”
Lisa offered another example, “I have been working for months to get into community college, too, to be a substance abuse counselor. There was a problem with my high school transcripts and I was ready to give up. But the admissions counselor there reminded me: don’t give up. I prayed, and I trusted God, and I kept going and being persistent. It worked out, and I didn’t give up. I’m going to be starting there in January, too!
Alisha was excited for her, “That’s so great!”
Lisa reflected a bit, “I think of it this way. I know how good it feels when someone notices you, speaks to you, reminds you that God is with you. So, I try to do that. I don’t walk past people. I stop and say hello, talk to them. I never knew how much that meant but now I know it means a lot. That is something I can always do.
“We need more people like that!” said Alisha, “People who can see others and remind them, we are all human, too.”
“I’ve tried to do that.” responded Lisa. “I think it’s a skill that I have and something that I’m called to do. People deserve to feel like human beings.”
Alisha was beaming: “You’re like a light! These people may feel like they’re in the darkness but you are a beacon of light, reminding them that to have that hope.”
She went on to reflect on her own life, “My own gifts and skills…well, I feel like God gave us a voice for a reason. I can be shy at times, but when I feel shy, I remember that God gave me a voice. If more people would raise their voices, and remember that God is with them and remind other people of that, the world would be a better place. So, I think a gift is to use my voice, to use the voice that God gave me.”
Lisa echoed this importance of this gift, “You’re right. You never know. Someone you pass by might be depressed, might feel like they are ignored or worthless. They might even have had thoughts of ending their life. And the smallest thing, that time it takes to say hello, could make all the difference in the world. You never know. I’ve been that person. I’ve been the homeless person someone smiled at. It changed my whole day, my whole world. Hearing ‘have a blessed day’ actually touched me and changed me.”
When we follow, our lives can change and so can the lives of others. Sometimes following seems so challenging, so huge, so drastic. But the big, huge, drastic difference can come in the empathetic, compassionate voice that sees God in another human being. Thank you, Lisa and Alisha for listening to your call and for sharing your story with us this week!