“Runaway Bunnies” Sermon by the Rev. Paul J. Carling, Ph.D. | January 25, 2015

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—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.
Mark 1: 14 -20

The Rev. Dr. Paul J. CarlingLast Sunday, a parish family arrived at church completely frazzled with their two year old. It seems that just as they were headed out, their driveway filled with police cars. “Who called 911?” an officer shouted. The look on the little girl’s face said it all. As the parents apologized, the officer smiled, “It’s OK, even if we knew who called, we still would have come. That’s the way 911 works – you call, we come.”

When Jesus called the four fishermen in today’s gospel story, they responded the same way. They didn’t say, “Not right now, we’re busy,” they just followed him.

Don’t we all wonder if we would have answered the same way? We think of the first disciples as superheroes – when Jesus calls, they drop everything and follow. But in truth, these four guys were just ordinary fishermen. This story isn’t about superheroes – it’s about God’s amazing power to create miracles within very ordinary people. It’s about God inspiring us to be better than we think we are, to do better than we think we can.

Like our last two Presidential elections. Having an African-American man elected, just 60 years after it was illegal for his father to eat at the same lunch counter as his white neighbors, just 50 years after it was illegal for his white mother and his black father to be married – counts in my book as a miracle. In our next Presidential election, it’s likely at least one of the candidates will be a woman – unthinkable a few decades ago.

Just like those fishermen, it would be a real mistake to see these trailblazers as superheroes. I remember Obama’s inaugural address, listing the tremendous challenges we faced – a kind of 911 call. But he reminded us that solving these problems was less about him and more about us.

“For as much as government can do…” he said, “it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than to see a friend lose their job, which sees us through the darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, and a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.”

The miracles we’re invited to create every day, require us to say “Yes” to doing our part, to cooperating with God, the same way these simple fishermen did.

From the time each of them was a small child, God stayed close, encouraging them to listen for God’s call.

Going to school in the synagogue, learning prayers and bible verses – God was sowing seeds in their hearts, teaching them to see God in other people, and to respond to God in them. As they grew, they must have said “Yes” in hundreds of ways – whenever they were kind, or forgave someone, or shared some of what they had with those who needed it more than them. God grew generous hearts inside them, helping them learn the most important lesson in the world – that we’re happiest, that we’re the best we can be, when we’re helping other people be the best they can be.

So by the time Jesus came by that morning and said “Follow me, and I’ll make you fish for people,” maybe they were so hungry for the kind of happiness only God provides, they couldn’t resist.

It’s no different with us. Most of the time, we’re pretty clueless about the fact that God is so near. So clueless, we forget to keep taking in God’s love; we forget to listen for God’s call. But no matter how clueless we are, God stays very close, keeps loving us into being better people than we believe we can be, keeps helping us say “Yes” over and over again.

Kind of like the mother rabbit in Margaret Wise Brown’s book, The Runaway Bunny. Her little bunny was feeling so grown up, he thought he didn’t need his mother anymore. One day he said, “I’m running away.” She replied, “If you run away, I’ll run after you. For you are my little bunny.” The bunny laughed. “If you run after me, I’ll become a fish in a trout stream, and I’ll swim away from you.” “If you become a fish in a trout stream,” replied his mother, “I’ll become a fisherman and I’ll fish for you.”

Well, they go on like this for the whole book. At the end, the little bunny figures out the perfect escape. “I’ll join a circus,” he says, “and fly away on a flying trapeze.” “If you fly away on a flying trapeze,” mother rabbit replies, “I’ll be a tightrope walker, and I’ll walk across the air to you.” “Ahhh”, says the little bunny victoriously, “If you become a tightrope walker, and walk across the air, I’ll become a little boy and run into the house.” And mother rabbit smiles, “If you become a little boy and run into the house, I’ll become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.”

That’s what saying “Yes” to Jesus’ call is all about. In the midst of our cluelessness about the availability of God’s abundant love, even as we persist in acting like “runaway bunnies,” Jesus is always one step ahead of us.

“If you become a little boy and run into the house,” said the mother bunny, “I’ll become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.” “Shucks,” says the little bunny, “I might as well just stay where I am and be your little bunny.” And so he did. “Have a carrot,” said his mother.