Tag Archives: James

I am small and of little account … come and see

I am “in between jobs” for the second time in 18 months.

Because I had so much free time during Lent, I think, I have been dwelling a lot on the notion of “smallness.”

Perhaps it’s time to get off the road and work closer to home. Perhaps it’s time for me to shift my ambitions, to discern what few things I must do instead of chasing all of the things I could do.

Perhaps it’s time to put down roots instead of spreading wings.

Perhaps this frame of mind that I’m in caused the words of Psalm 119 to strike me so powerfully this morning: “I am small and of little account.”

Your word has been tested to the uttermost, *
and your servant holds it dear.
I am small and of little account, *
yet I do not forget your commandments.
Your justice is an everlasting justice *
and your law is the truth.
Trouble and distress have come upon me, *
yet your commandments are my delight.
The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting; *
grant me understanding, that I may live. (Psalm 119:140-144)

We don’t know much about Philip beyond what we read in today’s Gospel lesson, and we can’t even sort out who the biblical James really was — talk about obscurity!

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46)

But that simple invitation from an obscure follower turns everything around. Philip invites Nathanael to know Jesus, and Nathanael, “an Israelite in whom there is no guile,” comes to love Jesus.

That simple invitation to “come and see” also echoes in two of the Friday prayers in the Daily Office.

Every Friday morning, we ask God to “mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace” (BCP 99).

Come and see, says Jesus to his disciples. Follow me in the way of the cross. “Trouble and distress” may come upon you, but I am with you, he says. You will find life and peace with me.

I would guess that most of us who pray the Office regularly also pray this Prayer for Mission on Fridays, too:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

The way of the cross that we follow with Jesus is not only suffering, but also compassion. The Spirit we share with Jesus not only draws us in to intimacy, but also leads us out to embrace.

Here, we pray that we may extend the same invitation to others that Christ extends to us. We pray that we, small as we are, “may bring those who do not know [Christ] to the knowledge and love of [Christ].”

I don’t know what Philip and James expected when they began to follow Jesus. I don’t know what to expect in the next stage of my work and ministry. But I look forward to finding out.

How is God calling you to “come and see” what’s next in your life?

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Traveling light

[Jesus] called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7-13)

I don’t know if it’s exactly what Jesus had in mind, but I do try to travel light as I go about my business.

I’ve written elsewhere about viewing my hotel room as a sort of monastic cell. For me, the point is that I am at home wherever I happen to be. The town may be different, but hotel rooms are pretty much the same everywhere, and I pack my suitcase the same way every week.

Peter Matthiessen, author and world traveler, even turned and bowed to his hotel room as he left, as a mark of his gratitude for the hospitality he had enjoyed. He explained his practice in an interview with Jonathan White:

My first Zen teacher, Soen-roshi, always made a little bow of gratitude to the world around him, and I learned that from him. It’s a wonderful habit. Even if I’m leaving some neutral or lifeless place, like a motel room, it feels right to thank the room for its hospitality. In Zen practice, one bows to the buddha principle, the imminence of awakening, within oneself. I love that idea. A bow is a wonderful way to appreciate this moment, pay respectful attention to the world around you.

Now understand: Our voluntary simplicity as we go about the Lord’s business is not the same as the poverty too many people experience in their daily lives. Perhaps, however, our simplicity can make room for us to see what’s happening around us. Perhaps traveling light can give us the freedom to respond quickly when we recognize a need.

That same spirit of voluntary simplicity (see Acts 2:43-47) may have been working among those same disciples some years later as they considered what to do about Paul, their former persecutor, who now said he had a mission to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Perhaps their simplicity gave them the freedom to recognize that God was acting in a new way. Perhaps their traveling light gave them the freedom to respond to the Gentiles’ need for the Gospel.

When James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:9-10)

Our voluntary simplicity, our freedom to recognize God acting in new ways, and our remembering the poor are ways in which we follow Jesus’ instructions to his first disciples.

God grant that our repentance and our willingness to share our lives with others will likewise bear the fruit of peace and fellowship.

Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

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.