Yesterday morning I sat in a coffee shop waiting to join my sisters at the Women's March on Madison, and I was thinking about fishing. Well, not so much about fishing as fishermen, and not just any fisherman, but those first "fisher guys" called for job retraining by Jesus.
And so I was thinking, Donald John Trump gets inaugurated the 45th U.S. President, and Matthew's Gospel has Jesus inaugurated (installed, like we do ministers) into his public ministry. The irony does not escape. While Donald John Trump's call to serve is a joyless one. Jesus' call is extravagant in its love and generosity. Donald John Trump says, "Fear me." Jesus says, "Follow me." The Madison March, what I hope to be the first of many non-violent public demonstrations, is a demand from "we the people" for our government to represent all of us, and not just the moneyed ones.
Donald John Trump took his oath under God and promptly assumed the bully pulpit, literally as a bully. His previous claims to be Christian proven false by his ignorance of Jesus' great commandment to love. Jesus takes his oath when John the Baptizer's arrested; beginning a three year long protest march of his own to proclaim a new government by, of, and for God. It's a tale of two inaugurations: One of human imbued hate and the other of divinely inspired love.
A closer look at these two men tells us a lot. Donald John Trump, a son of wealth and privilege, and a man who made and lost more cash than all of us combined - and then some. He opens his mouth and the most vile, hateful, and factless opinion rolls out. His call to the highest public office in the land is all about his personal brand. Jesus, on the other hand, comes to public service as the ultimate calling; service to others, not just himself. Actually Jesus steps up not because his cousin John's "arrested," but because John's "handed over." That's really the phrase used by the oldest translations of the Gospel to describe what happened and what calls Jesus to step forward. John's handed over to evil, greedy men; much like Jesus will be handed over by Judas Iscariot later on. In fact, the Gospel uses the same word in both places. This is important, because in the world of men and women we must be on guard against the worst behaviors and motives of our own people. Once our people get anxious and uncomfortable with something or someone, it's only a short distance from there to the likes Donald John Trump.
Jesus' calling stands in stark contrast to human history. He moves into public service with no delusions of grandeur. He represents the greater good. Like all movements for justice, Jesus steps forward when his forerunner is "disappeared." Jesus stands firm in spite of, or maybe because of, the threats of violence and intimidation by the opposition; both by those who follow him and those who do not. No matter how much the world hems him in and attempts to suffocate and co-opt his message, Jesus doesn't back down. Holy love's that powerful.
I woke up Saturday morning and for the first time since November, I felt despair. I was tempted to give up all hope. The propaganda from the worst of us can affect us that way. It's then I remember, Jesus' first act after taking up his mission isn't to campaign to be emperor. His first act is to organize. "Follow me," he says to the fisherman. "Leave your nets and mundane lives and I'll show you a new way. Let go of your toil and strain and come follow me into a higher burden - a holy burden. Be fishermen no more. Be the church!"
When faced with very steep odds, Jesus doesn't quit. He organizes. He calls trainees to the first seminary. He prepares them to lead a new movement for love, justice and inclusion. We're their decedents. While Donald John Trump angrily offers a bleak picture of the state of the union here and abroad, Jesus by contrast calmly strolls along a seashore and invites everyday people to inaugurate a new meaning to public witness and to do it together.
(point to Friday night slide) And those trainees in our time who've heard the call once more, came together on Friday evening to do the only thing a follower of this Jesus can do - organize. We came together to reach out, first to each other, and then to children and families in our neighborhood school. The joy and love was real. Good News was everywhere. Remember, to be a part of Jesus' Gospel we must consent. We must hear God and offer our unqualified "Yes" in response. The Donald John Trump's of this world want only our obedience; not our consent. They won't wait for us to consider our answer. They'll cajole, lie, and use force if needed, in order to get their way.
For the final word on our inaugural Gospel journey, I've got to give credit to Douglas R. A. Hare. Being fishers of people, he tells us, is a "summons to evangelism," which means speaking and acting as good news wherever we go. But "...for evangelism to be real it must be non-manipulative." Unlike the governance of the likes of Donald John Trump, "People of faith can't be coerced into the Kingdom (of God). Our task" as followers of the one called to organize in love "is to share a faith that's exciting enough to be contagious." (Point to the slide again) Like that!
It's a tale of two inaugurations. Which one will be ours?