Mark 1:16-20 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
What would cause you to leave home behind? What would drive you to leave your safe, familiar routines to journey into the unknown. What would cause you to journey into an uncertain future?
I love officiating wedding! I love the excitement and joy, that moment when the bride brings out the excel spreadsheet that hold the dreams and plans for the day, and most importantly, I love sitting down and talking to the couple. We talk about the ceremony, details, and I ask them how they met. Just this week I was talking to a couple, and when I asked about how they met, the bride laughed and told me I had to ask the groom first! She wanted to know what he would say!
A couple of years ago I officiated a wedding in our chapel. I was standing up front, the mothers were seated, the groom was standing by my side with his friends and family on the other side of him, the congregation was standing and the music for the bride’s entrance was playing, and the doors were NOT opening! Not opening, not opening… it was long, dramatic, tension high… Then, the doors opened to a beautiful bride, behind her the wedding plans, the excel spread sheet, a life, a home… and coming down the aisle, she was leaving it all behind, leaving home, walking into a new life.
Comfort of home, (narrative story – disciples)
As you know, sometimes leaving home isn’t so planned, sometimes leaving home doesn’t come with plans and spreadsheets, and preparation. It was a very normal morning for Simon. The alarm woke him up like every morning. Like the mornings for his father before him. And his grandfather before him. It was time to go to work. He dressed, went, and woke his brother, said his morning prayers, ate a normal breakfast, wondered about the weather, the news of the day… This day that changed everything, began so normal. When they left their home that morning, they had no idea that they were leaving home for a new life. They didn’t know they’d be leaving home.
Hear these words from the Gospel of Mark 1:16-20
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James, son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
At 15-years-old, William Jackson Palmer got a job at a railroad company. At 19-years-old he went to England for six-months to learn about coal and the railroad industry, an unknown combination at that time! Railroads used wood, not coal for fuel. Can you imagine leaving home for the first time… to England? Long before there were airplanes? Packing your bags for the trip, making sure they were within the weight limit, pacing around the house wondering what you forgot? Hugging family goodbye? Praying for a safe journey?
At 25-years-old, Palmer left his commitment to passivism that was born of his Quaker faith to join the Union Army. Come to find out, he was more against slavery than he was for peace. Eventually, he rose to the rank of General, weird fact, at almost 30 years old, he came within 20 miles of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army, and didn’t even know it.
After the Civil War, General Palmer left home for the west. The West was a completely different world. It was dangerous. Full of possibility. And so much pain.
On one such journey, he met Mary (Queen) Lincoln. They were engaged a month later, married the next spring, and settled here, founding the city of Colorado Springs and 150 years ago, this church.
This church has left “home” a lot in it’s 150 years of gathering. Sometimes, quite literally. I know this is obvious, but somethings are worth saying, this building is not 150 years old. This community of faith has moved out of multiple buildings. We met as a Sunday School in a home at Bijou and Cascade, then left home for a new church building the next year. A decade later moved into our third location, 20 years later our third, 50 years later we moved into our current sanctuary. Looking back at the history, it’s easy to just hear the dates. To hear about the moves. But for the people actually there… the people that were actually leaving home, it is much deeper, it included so much emotion, and memories. For the people there, they were leaving home. They were leaving the pew that they had sat in for years. Leaving behind the wall they remember painting. Memories of concerts and services, and laughter and tears. Yes, it includes joys and hope, leaving home behind. But it also includes grief and sadness.
And that’s when leaving home is planned and leaving is for bigger things. Leaving home is not always planned, it is not always to chase dreams. Sometimes home is comfort, familiarity, normalcy, predictability, safety…
This church has left those comforts behind so many times in the last 150 years. It has suffered the lost of a longtime much beloved pastor. It has gone to its knees in prayer and grief during world wars, plains flying into buildings, school shootings, movements, and protests… and pandemics that shook us to the very fabric of our being.
It is not often that an entire community comes together on a Sunday morning with similar thoughts, and fears, and prayers. But that has been so true for us for the last 18 months. As a culture, a world, we come together with grief buried deep in who we are. We grief the loss of “normal,” of predictability, of safety. We grieve the loss of handshakes and hugs that felt normal and not tinged with fear. We grieve the loss of children smiling and laughing and playing, without fear of invisible dangers that might be lurking on every hand. We grieve easy light holiday dinners, and weddings, and funerals, and worship services, and gatherings, that happened without fear of getting sick or getting others sick. We are grieving. We are mourning the loss of home.
Over the next few weeks we are going to travel through this journey of leaving home, the excitement that surprises us on the journey, the storms that shake us, and the unnerving feeling of loss when we return home, and find that it is not the same place we left, and that we aren’t the same either. We will find comfort and hope through the eyes of the disciples, whether it be the morning they were called away from home by Jesus or found themselves in awe on their journey.
It began as a normal day for me. I remember March 2020, walking through the Sanctuary, when Lorenzo, one of our facility staff said “see you in April.” Time stops in that moment. I remember where I was standing, I remember what I was feeling. My absolute and utter disbelieve. I didn’t believe him. I didn’t believe that everything was about to change. I didn’t believe that the comfort and safety of what would be so gone to us. I didn’t believe that we would be leaving home.