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Follow the red rooster

by davesandel on January 24th, 2021

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, January 24, 2021              (today’s lectionary)

Sunday of the Word of God

Follow the red rooster

Now Nineveh was an enormously large city, it took three days to get through it. Jonah began his journey through the city and walked only a single day announcing, “Forty more days and Nineveh shall be destroyed!”

Austin is twenty times larger than Champaign-Urbana, so I think it qualifies as an enormously large city. I remember my now passed-on friend John Auten, who walked through Champaign and its outskirts praying aloud for the people of the neighborhood. He took a bus sometimes, got rides, carried his own lunch and water, and spent day after day praying for the people. John knew God loved them, whether he did or not. I imagine him walking in Austin.

John had spent some of his days homeless, and other of his days working as a community college vice president, attorney, and accountant for Motel 6. He was a pastor in Maui, Santa Barbara and Champaign. He organized tennis tournaments for older folks, several weekend conferences for men and hosted a weekly radio show on WEFT. One week he interviewed a Lutheran counselor from Decatur who worked for Carle and me about being Christian counselors in secular and Christian environments.

Brothers and sisters, time is running out. The world in its present form is passing away. The kingdom of God is at hand!

We met John at a Vineyard small group in 1991. About that same time a sandwich board preacher walked and hollered behind the U of I student union on the Quad. He was not allowed a megaphone, but his voice carried. I worked with students as a campus minister, and I was embarrassed. His message was angry, carelessly simple, and punitive. Watching him I thought of Hazel Motes, Flannery O’Connor’s crazy preacher creation in her novel Wise Blood. The sandwich man didn’t listen to anyone, he just walked around and hollered. I think he thought he was praying, like my friend John, except I always felt God’s presence around John.

Course I could have been wrong. Reading Flannery O’Connor, I know how wacky anyone can become when they take to listening to the voices inside themselves. God’s voice can sound all right to me, but crazy to you. Over the years I think my own words have mellowed. I don’t feel as much like challenging people as I once did.

Teach me your ways, guide me in your paths, show me your truth, for you are God my savior. In your kindness, remember me, O Lord.

Yesterday morning on NPR, Scott Simon’s opinion piece on our new president, Joe Biden, included “the hope that the Americans who elected him may have a new appreciation for experience, and the way personal loss can stretch and strengthen a human heart.”

Jonah’s anger at the Ninevites surprised me. He wanted God to smite them, wipe them off the face of the earth, but God “had compassion on them.” Still, I have spent enough time in downtown Austin to realize I might not be so far off thinking like Jonah after all.

One April day before Jasper was born, we took Miles for a train trip and visited Austin Fire Station #1, then ate snacks on a park bench. A man who said he’d been up all night came and sat with us. A red rooster perched on his shoulder, and they talked to each other. We didn’t get a word in edgewise. I thought maybe God would wipe him away, even though I had no business thinking like that.

Jesus saw Simon and his brother Andrew. “Come after me,” he said. Then he saw James and his brother John. And he called them also. “I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus said. And they abandoned their nets and followed him.

In Austin many men and women have settled in tents under highway overpasses. Sometimes they have a dog, and maybe a recliner, although they must have trouble finding water. When Jesus walks through Austin, I am sure he sometimes talks to them. “Follow me,” he might say. “Come with me through this enormously large city and speak the words I give you.” Some of them will listen in the morning, but by evening they probably have been arrested and put away for a time.

Jesus calls me to listen slowly, watch without judgment, be curious and awakened when I meet his other children. What are my experiences for, except to learn the art of loving them, in Nineveh, Champaign-Urbana, Austin, and even, God assures me, in Washington DC?

(Jonah 3, Psalm 25, 1 Corinthians 7, Mark 1)


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