I have always been intrigued by Jesus’ relationship with his disciples.
Even as a child, when my grandmother would read me Bible stories from those big Bible story books she kept at the house at the lake (there was also one big book at the in-town house for nights I spent there), I remember being interested in Jesus and his interactions with the disciples.
For example, Jesus’ relationship with Peter: Jesus expected Peter to be the grown-up, the eldest, the one to whom the other disciples looked for guidance. “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
However, Peter did not always prove to be the needed strong leader. We remember that rooster that crowed three times, which caused Peter to break down into tears. We also remember, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Poor Peter, bless his heart.
With the calling of Peter and Andrew, while fishing on the Sea of Galilee, I always wondered if the scene was really that easy. Brothers were going about their daily work, Jesus walks up, and simply says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”
Was the conversation that easy? Was Jesus really that matter-of-fact? (I think so.)
And then there were James and John, cousins of Jesus. James was the first martyred apostle, and John the Beloved, “the one whom Jesus loved,” was the youngest of the twelve.
I wondered what it was like to be the youngest of twelve grown men who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry, observing his miracles, watching him touch the unclean and sit down and eat with so-called sinners.
Therefore, when this Sunday’s Gospel reading cropped up, I was not surprised. This band of merry men, whom Jesus addresses as “children,” are asking the same old questions:
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“How hard will it be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God?”
“Then who can be saved?”
The disciples are all wondering who’s in and who’s out.
“Will we really live with you forever? If the body dies, how then can you say that we will have eternal life? We are mortals; how is it that we can eternally live with God?”
I wonder if Jesus smiled when he said, “With God, all things are possible.”
The Parish Choir’s anthem this Sunday morning, with its text from James 1:12, speaks of this eternal life. The words of this movement from Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio St. Paul reassure us of dwelling with God forever.
After pages and pages of beautiful choral imitation, soaring melodies for strings and solo wind instruments (which will be duplicated on the organ), and the rise and fall of musical dynamic changes, Mendelssohn musically “pulls the plug” at the end of this movement, perhaps to make sure we are paying attention to these words.
The accompaniment comes to a halt, and the choir sings in simple, unaccompanied hymn-like chords:
For though the body dies, the soul shall live forever.
…after which the gorgeous accompaniment again picks up and graciously finishes the piece.
Wow. Full stop.
Perhaps Jesus just got our attention with eight measures of a cappella music. Listen for these eight measures at the end of the 10:30 service Offertory anthem.
I am a believer, and I hope that you are also.