Friday, June 18, 2004

The Dollar in the Locker

I went to the gym to day to swim. (No big deal.) But today, something different happened. When I opened up the locker, there was a dollar bill at the bottom.

I looked at it for a minute, and the wheels began turning. Should I take it to the front desk, and turn it in? But who would come back to claim a lost dollar? And someone working at the desk would probably just take it. Should I just keep it? I put my shoes on it without having touched it, and proceeded to get ready to swim. Plenty of time to consider the possibilities while doing laps in the pool.

After the workout, when I came back to the locker, it was time to make a decision. Keep it? Turn it in? I realized that I was struggling between honesty and greed – over a dollar bill! It wasn’t that I was concerned that the folks at the front desk would think I was weird if I turned it in. Maybe I should just keep it, and add it to the envelope I carry (with the other one dollar bills I receive) to have something to give to the panhandlers on the street corners. As I finished dressing, and picked up my shoes, revealing the dollar bill once more, I remember thinking, “It’s not worth my soul to take the dollar.” I would turn it in for the “Lost and Found” people to deal with.

On my way out of the locker room, I happened to look closely at the bill for the first time. It had something stamped on it in red ink. I couldn’t make out all that it said; and turned the bill over, face up. The same message was stamped there, clearly enough to be read: “See where I’ve been; Track where I go;”

So, it hadn’t been lost: it had been left! I came home, went to the web site, reported the find; and now the bill is in the envelope I carry to have something to give to someone who asks for some help. It will be interesting to follow the journey of the bill. It was also a relief to find that I could resolve the “dilemma” that shouldn’t have been a dilemma at all; and that greed can be defeated, if we are willing to honestly be who we are called to be – children of God.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Fishers of Men

“Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, one of my favorite episodes in the Bible. I’m not exactly sure why this is so. It probably has as much to do with a song I learned in Sunday school as it has to do with any deep understanding of its meaning. Sermon topics can arrive in strange and mysterious ways!

I think we are all meant to be “fishers of men.” I think there should be a quality to us, a quality to our lives that attracts people to seek what we have found. Christians should be different from those in the world, from those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. So we have to ask ourselves this question: Am I different from those who live in the world? To be honest, I would have to answer, “No.” My life is not noticeably different from those who do not follow our Lord Jesus Christ; and if there is no difference in my life, can I truly say that I am following Him?

Look at the response the fishermen make when they are called to follow. Their response shows faith; and it shows obedience. These are two hallmarks of the Christian life. When He calls them, they know Him – they’ve met before. But they haven’t seen any sign; they don’t know the end of the story as we know it – and yet they believe the promise. How do we know they believe? By their obedience. They don’t hesitate or delay; they don’t say, “Hmmm. Interesting idea. Let me think about it, and I’ll let you know.” They leave what they are doing, and follow Him. And they leave everything: country, friends, even their family, to follow Him.

Following Christ is the most important thing we can do; and the call is an urgent one, for we do not know how much time remains. Yet we do not follow; our lives are not different from those in the world. We have the same cares, the same fears; and all too often, we respond to these situations and circumstances in the same ways as do the pagans. When called, the disciples believed, and followed. They believed; and so we must ask ourselves, “What keeps me from believing?” The disciples left everything; we are called to leave only our evil habits. If we were to do so; if we were to truly leave our evil habits, our slavery to the passions – if we were to leave pride and anger and hatred and jealousy and lust and laziness and envy and gluttony, and follow our Lord Jesus Christ, wouldn’t we be different? We’d each be transformed, a different person – a difference that others could see; and they’d wonder, how did we do it? What secret do we know that makes it possible for us to smile in the midst of adversity, to be strong when others are weak, to endure what others cannot bear, to be at peace in times of turmoil? And some would ask, and we could tell them of our Lord; and others would follow us, even here, to the Church, and find the same blessing, the same treasure, that we have been blessed to receive – and they will be caught in the net of the Gospel, and we will indeed become “fishers of men.”

So, how do we follow? You already know the answer: by prayer, and fasting; by giving alms; by struggling to uproot your passions, planting in their place the opposite virtues. We follow by embracing and living the way of life of our Orthodox faith.

Brothers and sisters: our Lord Jesus calls to each one of us. “Come, follow me; and I will make you fishers of men.”