This month, on Kodiak Island, it is raining almost every day.
We are mending our fishing nets in the cold and rain. We don’t love it. (But I did get our wonderful crewmen to smile for a moment!)
I am not too holy to complain: I want to graduate to a real summer. I want a promotion to another job.
And, this week, a small heartbreak too. No, let me be more honest: a big heartbreak that I'm not sure will ever go away. What to do with all this disappointment, small and massive? I know you are carrying some today too.
What else to do but Cross the Waters, then, to a time and a place that yields unending truth and fruit? Especially with something to say about disappointment.
In last week's post, Jesus showed up on a Palestine beach and snagged a ragtag gang of the least likely followers ever: Scaly fishermen, a revolutionary, a tax collector and other men not known for anything in particular.
These men have done the incredible unthinkable: when Jesus said, “Follow me,”----they did. They dropped their nets, left the tax booth, the secret Blow-Up Rome meetings. They gave up their families, their jobs, what little security they had to tag along after this maybe-rabbi.. Why? This maybe-rabbi might be the Messiah---and everyone knew what that meant: He’s going to Make Israel Great Again! Rome will be Crushed like a Bug! The Temple will be Restored! The Kingdom of God is coming! Sound the trumpets and Grab a Sword!
But in those first weeks, Jesus must have disappointed them. Again and again.
Their first stop, a wedding. Water turned magically into wine. Can you imagine what they thought?
“THIS is the miracle? THIS is the Messiah’s power? We’ve left our father high and dry for this? We need him to restore the Temple, save our people---and instead he saves the host embarrassment for running out of wine?” ----Simon Peter, former fisherman
James is ready for battle, not a wine-tasting at a wedding. Andrew wants to see the Roman Empire collapse, want its ruin. Wine? John longs for the days of fasting and atonement, when the people mourn over their sin. The kingdom of God is coming and this is what we get----wine? A wedding? Feasting? Where’s the blood?
Not long after the wedding, they sat on gentle hillside with thousands of the sorriest mass of villagers from around the sea. Jesus seemed to collect them: the ones every other leader ignored, the kind of followers no one else wanted: the sick and weeping, the lame and palsied. It could not have happened, but it did---the mute wagging their tongue to sing! Crooked legs made straight! The blind watching the flight of a hawk! It was a riot there on the hill for hours! The start of a revolution? This was more like it! This was promising indeed! Maybe he’s raising an army! But then, what’s he teaching? They could not believe his words at first:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the pure in heart, the peacemakers, Blessed are those who are persecuted, Blessed are you when others revile you . .love your enemies
"Love your enemies What is this?" Peter and James, John and Andrew must have wondered. This does not sound like a triumphant Messiah! And maybe a few of them felt confused. "Don’t bless our need, our emptiness and poverty. Don’t tell us this is blessing. Change it! Take it away! Just like you fixed all those legs and hands and eyes. Fix us! Be our king and vanquish our enemies!"
Jesus kept going. “You have heard that it was said.”. . . and now he was talking about adultery, taking oaths, divorce, an eye for an eye. But this rabbi changed the words. He didn’t do as the Pharisees did, who tightened the noose around every command from God to make it smaller, harder, and longer. This man opened up the words to make them larger, generous, capacious even, opening up a meaning that penetrated straight to their hearts. And scaring them as well:
Give him your other cheek to strike as well, give him your cloak also, do not worry about your life, go the second mile, pray in secret, forgive their debts, do not judge.
Everyone who heard these words were astonished. Astonished! And 2000 years later I am astonished too.
What is this kingdom you’re giving us, Yeshua? Love our enemies? Here, strike my other cheek, too? Here, take my last cloak? We who have little----are you taking even our "little" away?
And later, after those words, where did he eat and drink, whom did he consort with but the worst of men and women: traitorous tax collectors, prostitutes, the greedy, those as broken on the inside as the ones on the hillside hospital that day. How disappointed and shocked they must have been.
But maybe they began to see it. Do we see it now? Maybe this man has come to save us not from Rome or any human government, but from ourselves. And maybe this new kingdom is a place of such surfeit, such unending provision, such upside-down bounty that what is given up and given away is not lost? Maybe heaven is beginning right now, and the guilty are forgiven, meekness is winning, the persecuted are blessed, the reviled are loving their revilers, the mourners are being comforted, the pure in heart are seeing God, the thirsty and disappointed are already being filled?
Yes. I see it too.
When I finish these words, I will go out and stand in the rain until 10 tonight with my family and crew, mending net. I will not forget my heartbreak, but these words will pulse and echo all the while, mending me.
*Parts of this are excerpted from Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas
This week, I'm also smoking salmon and I'd like to send some out. I'll send out 2 small boxes of my jarred smoked salmon and my famous Wild Rose Petal jam, both made here in my kitchen and the smokehouse:
Friends, listen. Giving away stuff is fun. But what I care about most is that these words go out to those who need them. This is a way of encouraging you to help me share the gospel good news. Here' show to enter the salmon and jam drawing:
1. Find 5+ friends you know would like these weekly journeys into faith (and Alaska).
2. With their permission, send their email addresses to firstname.lastname@example.org where they will be added to the list of weekly subscribers.
3. Let me know you've done this in the comments below or by email (email@example.com). Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to the comments so you'll find out if your name is drawn!
Thank you, and may God meet you in your disappointments this week!