Walking Away From It All

Walking Away From It All

Sunday, May 1, 2022
| John 21:1-19

Can we leave everything behind when Jesus says, “follow me”?

Dustin Snyder had enough. He was tired of the long work weeks, low wages and grumpy customers. He was assistant general manager of a McDonald’s restaurant in Bradford, Pa., but in early September 2021, he drafted a petition to the regional office and invited his workers to sign it.

“We are all leaving,” his petition stated, “and hope you find employees that want to work for $9.25 an hour.” Nearly all of the 24 day-shift employees added their names. (They all knew that, just 20 miles away, employees at a McDonald’s across the border in New York did identical work, receiving that state’s $15-an-hour minimum wage.)

It wasn’t a strike. It wasn’t a protest. To Dustin and his low-wage employees, it was a simple statement of fact.

Dustin faxed the petition to the regional office in Buffalo. Moments later, his phone rang. It was the regional supervisor. “Why did you do it?” she wanted to know.

“I was trying to get better pay for my people.”

“There are better ways to go about this,” chided the supervisor. “No one gets a raise,” she told him. “If your workers don’t like it, they can quit.”

And so they did. Nearly all of them. On the spot. They took off their headsets and abandoned their stations at the drive-through and cash registers.

The line at the drive-through began to grow longer. Mystified customers watched the employees congregate in the parking lot. Then they watched Dustin lock the building and hang a sign on the door. On it he’d scribbled in blue highlighter — the only pen he could find — “Due to lack of pay we all quit.”

“Hey!” a man called out to Dustin from his car. “We just want a Quarter Pounder and fries.”

“Well, we just want to be paid more and treated better,” Dustin replied.

When Dustin told Stephanie Kelley, the store’s general manager, what they’d done, she wasn’t upset. She was sympathetic. More than that, she decided to join them. She texted her night shift employees, telling them what the day shift had just done, and that she, too, was quitting. Most of the night shift did the same. Dustin and Stephanie spent the next few days helping their workers find better jobs — in some cases driving them to other fast-food restaurants with vacancies.

As for the Bradford McDonald’s, it wasn’t long before the store was up and running again. The franchise owner also owned the store across the border in New York. He bussed in $15-an-hour workers from that location to re-open the drive-through, then hired a whole crew of new employees from Pennsylvania. But he had to do it for $10 an hour, giving his new workers the 75-cent raise his former employees had been asking for.1

 

The Great Resignation

The Bradford McDonald’s walkout wasn’t, strictly speaking, a labor action. It wasn’t an act of collective bargaining. It wasn’t planned out in advance — the handwritten blue-highlighter poster is ample evidence of that. It’s just one example of what economists have been calling The Great Resignation.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, workers across America — professionals as well as shift workers — have been rethinking the work they do. In some cases, they’ve decided to walk away from it, sometimes to new jobs, and other times to no jobs at all.

Today’s gospel lesson tells a story of someone who walks away from it. It’s the apostle Peter. The job he walks away from is commercial fishing. Remarkably, this incident from John 21 is the second time the gospels describe Peter walking away from that job.

The first time is in Luke 5:1-11. After a long day of unsuccessful fishing, Jesus invites Peter (then called Simon) to take him out in his boat for one last try. The net comes back bursting with fish, and Jesus says to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you’ll be catching people.” Simon, along with his fishing partners James and John, rows to shore. Immediately, they leave everything and follow him.

John’s gospel has a different take on Simon’s calling, but it, too, involves a resignation (John 1:35-42). In this version, Simon’s already a follower of John the Baptist. His brother Andrew tells him, “We’ve found the Messiah.” He recruits him to quit John’s band of followers and take up with Jesus instead. Jesus immediately changes Simon’s name to Cephas, which means Peter. Clearly, this resignation is about a lot more than just changing jobs. It’s more like swapping one life for another.

 

Back to the Nets — For a While

Today’s passage opens with the words, “After these things …” Sounds ordinary, but it’s anything but. The “things” John’s referring to are the death and resurrection of Jesus.

From the highs of the triumphal entry to the lows of Calvary, to the glad and unexpected news of Easter morn, Peter and his companions have seen it all. First, they were scared to death, then thrilled with life: the unexpected new life in Christ that has no end.

In light of these “things” Peter and his friends have just experienced, his remark sounds like the biggest non sequitur of all time: “I’m going fishing.”

Really, Peter? Fishing? That same life you’ve already walked away from once?

Peter’s already been part of one great resignation. Now he’s drifted back to the fishing nets he once, in his zeal, abandoned.

What happens next in John’s story is reminiscent of the first calling of Peter, in Luke chapter 5. (It may be, in fact, that John’s telling a version of the very same story, but has transported it here, late in his account of Jesus’ life, for dramatic effect.)

Jesus doesn’t sit down in Peter’s fishing boat this time. He’s standing along the shore, as Peter and his mates row back, discouraged. All they have to show for their long night on the sea are sore backs and heavy hearts.

“Children, you have no fish, have you?”

It’s a question, but also a statement. Does Jesus observe how high the empty boat’s riding in the water? Or does he just know, from the drooping of the men’s shoulders as they row, that this is a failed fishing expedition?

The late Peter Gomes of Harvard calls it, in one of his sermons, a lawyer’s question. “A very good lawyer,” he remarks, “never asks a question to which he doesn’t already know the answer” — and this is what Jesus is doing.2 He knows they’ve had a miserable, heart-rending night. He just wants to hear them say it.

They admit it; then Jesus gives them a fishing tip. He tells them to cast their net on the right side of the boat — a crazy piece of advice. (Why one side, rather than the other?) For some reason, these seasoned mariners take the beachcomber’s advice. Once they do, the net comes back so full, they fear it will split wide open.

Then it dawns on the disciples who this man is. After that comes that touching scene when Peter dives into the sea, so as to reach his Lord that much faster. They all gather on the beach for breakfast: fish grilled over charcoal, and bread.

Their impromptu gathering is the exact opposite of another meal they’ve recently shared together, the Last Supper. You could call this meal “the First Breakfast” — for it takes place at daybreak rather than night, in joy rather than solemnity, in hope rather than fear.

After breakfast, Jesus turns to Simon and asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

It’s not at all clear what Jesus means by the word “these.” There are three possible explanations. Maybe Jesus is asking Peter whether he loves him more than these others love him; or he could be asking if Peter loves him more than Peter loves the others; or maybe Jesus is asking Peter whether he loves him more than he loves these fishnets.

We can’t say for sure what Jesus means by his question, but we do know how Peter responds. He leaves his boats and his nets behind — not for the first, but for the second time — and embarks on the life of an apostle. That task will occupy Peter all his years, until he finally dies his martyr’s death in Rome.

From that day forward, Peter begins to fulfill the challenge Jesus sets before him: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep.”

There are many who think these three questions are Jesus’ way of letting Peter atone for his sins. Remember, Peter denied Jesus — not once, but three times. Jesus allows him three opportunities to cancel out his denial with a promise of faithfulness.

 

Have You Any Fish?

“Children, have you any fish?” Jesus could just as well ask that question of us.

He could ask it any day. There we’d be, taking care of day-to-day business as usual — arms full of groceries, fingers on the keyboard, hands on the steering wheel, drumming out the rhythm of our lives.

“Have you any fish?” he wants to know.

“Fish! What do you mean, Lord, by ‘fish’?” But we know. We really do. We don’t need to be lectured.

Jesus doesn’t ask the sort of questions the world asks to define success. He doesn’t ask:

  • “Have you been pulling in a paycheck?”
  • “Have you achieved a level of professional competence, commensurate with your years of experience?”
  • “Are you able to finance the type of leisure activities you want?”
  • “Will you be able to take early retirement?”

No, Jesus looks at the big picture. And then he transfixes us — like a deer caught in the headlights — with a single question. The question is, “Have you any fish?”

One of the hardest experiences in this life of ours is futility — and lots of people, in these post-Covid days, are living futility. They resonate to the ancient tale of Sisyphus, King of Corinth in Greek mythology. Sisyphus offended Zeus, king of the gods, who condemned him to roll a great boulder up a hill in Hades for all eternity, only to watch it roll back down again.

To many people, the goal of life is to achieve a vague notion of success, but they’re not at all sure they’d know it if it dropped in their laps. Achievement can be like an endless staircase: each time they reach the next landing, they look up and see the next flight winding upwards, into the hazy and uncertain beyond.

Peter doesn’t have that problem. Jesus cups hands to mouth and shouts, “Have you any fish?” But Peter already knows the answer. No more illusions for him. No more losing himself in the frantic rat race, hoping it may yield some small prize or modest success. Peter knows his net is, and forever will remain, empty.

So, too, it’s only when our nets are truly empty that — paradoxically — we’re most receptive to the message Jesus has for us. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” asks Peter, on an earlier occasion when Jesus challenged his faithfulness. “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

This Christian faith of ours is an Easter faith. It grows best in the fertile soil of utter desperation. It thrives in those bleak moments when we have no place else to turn. The net has to be empty, the wine jug exhausted, the tomb entrance sealed up, before the likes of us are inclined to let the Lord take over. We have to acknowledge that our cup is empty, before God fills it to overflowing.

A wise teacher has said, “The Lord doesn’t ask about your ability, only your availability; and, if you prove your dependability, the Lord will increase your capability.”

Martin Luther puts it another way when he famously remarks: “I have held many things in my hands and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.”

 

Walking Away from a Full Net

When Peter realizes who it is who filled his net, he leaps from his fishing boat into the water. So eager is he to leave behind the futile striving of his old occupation that he doesn’t mind getting wet. He doesn’t even wait for the boat to ride up on the beach. He goes to Jesus immediately.

Afterwards, he walks away from it all: boat, sail, oars — and most of all, that net bursting with fish. The other gospels tell of the day, three years before, when Peter and the others “leave their nets and follow him.” But this incident is different. This time, the net Peter leaves behind is full. It has been filled by the sheer grace of God, present in Jesus Christ.

For the first time in his life, Peter truly knows this. And for the first time in his life, he’s received a call so compelling he’ll never return to his fishing boat again.

There’s an old Jewish story about a rabbi walking through a neighboring village late at night. He encounters another man walking alone, and together the two of them walk down the street in silence. Finally, the rabbi turns to his new companion and asks, “So, who do you work for?”

“I work for the village,” the man answers. “I’m the night watchman.”

They walk on some more, in silence. Then it’s the night watchman’s turn to ask this newcomer to his village a question. He asks the rabbi, “And who do you work for?”

The rabbi answers: “I’m not always sure. But this I will tell you. Name your present salary, and I’ll double it. All you have to do, to earn that extra money, is one thing. You have to walk with me from time to time and ask me, ‘Who do you work for?’”

We could all use someone to ask us, from time to time, “Who do you work for?” We could all use someone to meet us on the beach and challenge us to declare, truthfully, if our nets are empty or full. Then, having made that self-inventory, may we have the courage to leave it all behind, to walk away from it all, if that’s what it takes to obey the command of the one who says, simply, “Follow me.”

—Carl Wilton contributed to this material.

 

Notes

  1. Greg Jaffe, “‘It’s a walkout!’ Inside the fast-food workers’ season of rebellion,” The Washington Post, November 6, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/rebellion-mcdonalds-bradford-pa/. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  2. Peter Gomes, “Life on the Other Side,” in Sermons (New York: Morrow, 1998), 81.

 

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The Other Texts

Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Speaking with the Enemy. This text offers a study in two personalities or characters: Saul and Ananias. Let's look at Ananias. He's referred to simply as a "disciple in Damascus" (v. 10). Ananias' behavior in this story gives us a rubric for our own conduct when called to a challenging assignment. After all, God was asking him to get face-to-face with a known persecutor of a minority sect. Saul's reputation as an enforcer was well-known and well-deserved. He went from city to city and kidnapped "any who belonged to the Way" (v. 2), and took them "bound" to Jerusalem. This is the context. God wants Ananias, a simple disciple, to make a pastoral call on this terrorist. Here is Ananias' reaction. Step 1: He answered ("Here I am, Lord," v. 10). Step 2: He confirmed the assignment (see vv. 13-14). Step 3: He went (v. 17). Step 4: He ministered (v. 17, "He laid his hands on Saul."). Step 5: He affirmed his new colleague (he calls Saul, "Brother," v. 17).

What Does the Text Say?

Acts 9 recounts one of the church's all-time favorite stories: how Saul of Tarsus, perhaps the most vehement persecutor of Jesus' followers, was transformed into Paul the apostle, the Lord's own voice to the Gentiles. The famous Damascus Road theophany has been held up to all generations of the church as one of the most stirring and miraculous transformations ever recorded. Yet, it is to Ananias, not Saul, that the purpose and plan for the new apostle's life is first revealed, i.e., his role as the apostle to the Gentiles. While Ananias may still harbor doubts about the wisdom of this plan, he nonetheless carries out his instructions. Note that in verse 17, Ananias even addresses this fearful enemy of his people as "Brother Saul" -- demonstrating with his words his trust in the Lord's transformative abilities. Saul is no longer an outsider persecuting the church; he is now a true brother in Christ. And while his vision's words did not make the source of Ananias' healing ability clear, Ananias himself knows better than to take credit for such a miracle. The Holy Spirit, Jesus' presence here on earth, is the source of this healing, and thus will fill Saul at the moment of Ananias' touch. After being nurtured by this remarkable Damascus community for only a few days, Saul is ready to take his place in the saga of faith. Verse 20 closes this week's text with Saul, the former persecutor, now standing in the midst of the synagogue proclaiming Jesus to be "the Son of God."

Psalm 30

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Seeking Professional Help. When do you know if it’s time to seek professional help? Most websites on parenting or health care say that it’s very important to recognize the “warning signs,” or to know when we’re in over our heads. If the bathroom is flooded, we may want to call a plumber. If the roof is leaking, we may need a carpenter. Clearly, the psalmist recognized some warning signs, and, in his view, it wasn’t good. He thought he was dying. So, he turned to professional help. “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help” (v. 2). In verse 10, the cry is explicit: “O Lord, be my helper!” When turning to God for help, he made an intriguing argument (v. 9), and, for him, the outcome was fabulous. God “turned [his] mourning into dancing” (v. 11). When times of distress hit us, we should seek professional help. And, fortunately, we have a divine Helper who is about to “restore” us “to life” (v. 3).

What Does the Text Say?

Psalm 30 is a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from a deadly experience. The psalmist states immediately the reason he will extol the Lord: Yahweh has drawn the psalmist up (v. 2) from Sheol/the Pit (v. 3). The verb translated “draw up” (dalah) isn’t common, and it usually refers to the act of drawing water from a well or cistern (e.g., Exodus 2:16, 19). Used metaphorically, it can describe drawing counsel from the heart (Proverbs 20:5). Only here does the verb refer to God’s drawing a person up from Sheol. The psalmist has two enemies: death, represented by Sheol/the Pit, and the foes who were thwarted by Yahweh before they were able to rejoice over the psalmist’s permanent death. The language suggests that there were people hoping to get the psalmist out of the way for good, and they almost got their wish. But not quite. Before the life had been completely extinguished from the psalmist, Yahweh came to his rescue. The psalm concludes, as many psalms of thanksgiving do, with a votive to give thanks to the Lord forever.

Revelation 5:11-14

What Is One Possible Approach to the Text?

Surrealism and the Christian. This sermon is not nearly as philosophical and artsy as the title would suggest. Begin with a definition of surrealism. One source says that it’s “a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example, by the irrational juxtaposition of images.” Another source adds, “By stripping ordinary objects of their normal function, surrealist artists aimed to expose psychological truth, and, as a result, created abstract images in order to evoke empathy from the viewer.” You might show some examples of surrealism art on the screen, if you can find a few that aren’t offensive. Here’s the deal: This short text from Revelation reads like a blurb from a brochure advertising a surrealism exhibit. Imagine a porcupine singing praise to God, or a jellyfish shouting “Hallelujah!” Imagine a lamb receiving power, wealth and wisdom! Yet, this is what our text proclaims, if interpreted literally as a surrealist painting. John is struggling with imagery here. What does this “irrational juxtaposition of images” mean to us? How has John, “by stripping ordinary objects of their normal function … expose[d] psychological truth”? Explain the imagery of the Lamb and why John said that he saw all creatures singing praise to the Lamb.

What Does the Text Say?

The depiction of the heavenly realm in these verses immediately draws its hearers and readers (1:3) into the world of the divine. Vivid imagery fills the pericope describing the sights, the sounds and the power of what takes place before the throne of God. John invites the audience to see the angelic host, to hear the hymn of praise, and to perceive the power of the Lamb. Using language reminiscent of the OT, the author paints a dramatic picture. Through his vivid imagery and language, he has taken his audience into an atmosphere of worship, inviting it to see and hear along with him. As such, the audience, too, is invited to partake in this worship event, and to join its voice with all created beings in the praise of the one true God and the Lamb who has made them to be “a kingdom and priests” (v. 10) who will reign forever upon earth (v. 10).

Worship Resources
Prayers General

God of Abraham, of Moses and of Jesus, we give thanks that you have chosen us to be your people. You have called out to us so irresistibly that we have had to answer. Help us to remember each day that we have promised to serve you, and help us to put away all other things that compete for our loyalty to you. For you are our God, and we have chosen you. Amen.

Benedictions General


The Spirit moves, not just to renew and transform us, but to call us to service in the name of Christ. Go now, strengthened for that service, mending what is broken, healing what is sick, and joining what has been separated. May the love of God be with you in all that you say and do, now and forever. Amen.

Calls to Worship General

One: In Christ, we are made new
All: And filled with hope.
One: In God, we belong to a new community,
All: Discovering we are friends, sisters and brothers in Christ.
One: In Christ, the old ways have lost their glitter and appeal,
All: For we have turned toward the new light.
One: In God, we receive a new name and a new call;
All: We are God's beloved, and we carry on the ministry of reconciliation.
One: In Christ, we are a new creation.
All: The old is passed away, and we live as signs of reconciliation and love.

Music Resources

Hymns
Jesus Call Us
Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
A Charge to Keep I Have

Worship and Praise*
Who Am I (Casting Crowns)
Called Me Higher (All Sons & Daughters)
Open My Eyes (Hillsong)

*For licensing and permission to reprint or display these songs on screen, go to ccli.com. The worship and praise songs suggested by Homiletics can be found in most cases on Google by using the title as the search term.

COMMENTARY

on John 21:1-19

Fairly early in the course of their respective narratives, the synoptic gospels portray Jesus seeking out fishers to be his first disciples (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11). But the gospel of John draws no connection between fishing and discipleship — nor refers to any disciples fishing for a livelihood — until the closing chapter. Consequently, whereas Matthew, Mark (factoring in its add-on endings) and Luke conclude with apostolic commissions that direct the disciples to reach out to the nations, the circumstances surrounding the commission in John present imagery reminiscent of the initial stages of discipleship found in the synoptics. Verses 3-8 particularly echo Luke 5:4-7 with respect to the call of Peter, James and John corresponding to the extraordinary haul of fish that follows Jesus telling them where to cast the net.

True enough, on a symbolic level, there are suggestions of a more apostolic, go-to-the-nations thrust in the last chapter of John. For instance, referring to the Sea of Galilee as the Sea of Tiberias (v. 1) points to a readership larger than a Jewish Christian audience. No matter how one interprets the exact count of 153 (v. 11), the vast volume of fish netted implies an expansive mission. Then again, given Jesus’ earlier mention of having “other sheep that do not belong to this fold” (10:16), his reference to lambs and sheep in verses 15-17 may well assume shepherding that ranges far afield.

Nevertheless, the explicit emphasis of today’s text has more to do with learning to follow Jesus than it does being sent forth by him. This is reinforced in verses 15-19, where the dialogue between Jesus and Peter highlights the cost of discipleship in a way that recalls synoptic accounts of Jesus cautioning the all-too-often obtuse disciples that greatness has to do with being servants who fully comprehend the gist of Jesus’ predictions about the price of his own passion (see especially Mark 8:31-37; 9:30-37; 10:32-45). Every time Peter says he loves Jesus in verses 15-17, Jesus responds by placing a servant’s task before Peter. All this is underscored as Jesus predicts Peter’s martyrdom, concluding with the firm summons, “Follow me” (v. 19). It’s as if Jesus is giving Peter a remedial course in discipleship formation.

It may well be that distinguishing between discipleship and apostleship in this passage is splitting hairs. But perhaps imagery so obviously associated with being introduced to, and getting a handle on, discipleship is there for a reason, namely, that the crux of the text is the restoration and renewal of Peter’s discipleship that unfolds in verses 15-19.

With the exception of Jesus ordering Peter to put away his sword when Jesus is arrested (18:11), the questions and answers in verses 15-19 comprise the first direct exchange between Jesus and Peter since Peter swore to lay down his life for Jesus (13:37). And we all know how well that turned out for Peter.

In light of Peter’s denial and abandonment of Jesus leading up to the crucifixion, the simple fact that Jesus now engages Peter in an earnest conversation already indicates that the disciple is receiving a second chance. As the two talk, Jesus is depicted as speaking in terms of divine love (agaph) the first two times he asks if Peter loves him (vv. 15-16). Meanwhile, Peter can speak only in terms of human love (jilia); all three times he answers that he loves Jesus (vv. 15-17). Jesus eventually speaks in terms of human love when he asks the third time if Peter loves him.

Much is made of Peter not responding to Jesus with agape. But in the long run, Jesus doesn’t tell Peter to “forget it” but to “follow me.” And, although his questioning is pointed, Jesus is clearly giving Peter a shot at redemption. Forgiveness emerges from Jesus’ willingness to assign Peter the task of shepherding, despite Peter’s earlier betrayal and present failure to love as profoundly as Jesus can love. The good news for Peter and us is that Jesus summons disciples and works with them, even in their imperfection.

Given that verses 1-19 record a post-resurrection appearance that serves as the gospel lesson for the Third Sunday of Easter, the preacher may want to consider the restoration and renewal of Peter’s discipleship — and ours — in relation to the resurrection itself. Discipleship is a venture of following Jesus wherein we’re called to higher purposes while being empowered from on high. In the process, we’re equipped to continue the ministry and mission of Jesus by way of being redeemed from sinfulness; it’s reinforced when service includes suffering (vv. 18-19a).

It’s worth noting that with each question in verses 15-17, Jesus calls Peter “Simon, son of John,” which is often interpreted as Jesus expressing coolness toward Peter that casts doubt on their friendship. But this may more positively reflect a certain solemnity that’s comparable in character to the way we formally address people when they take an oath. Good news flows from Jesus’ rehabilitation of Peter’s discipleship, but this good news starts with a serious encounter in which the dialogue between Jesus and Peter has the tone of a swearing-in ceremony.

Similarly positive is the consideration that, by calling Peter “Simon, son of John,” Jesus speaks as one who knows Peter and Peter’s people — where Peter comes from. Jesus knows Peter fully in context, fully enough to still entrust Peter to feed and tend the flock in Jesus’ absence. We, too, are fully known by Jesus — the One whose risen presence continually rehabilitates our discipleship, so we can be entrusted to feed and tend his flock, the One whose divine love nurtures our capacity to grow in love and service, and the One whose steadfast resurrection power gives us the nerve to follow by casting our nets into the most unlikely waters.

AT A GLANCE

Before the “Great Resignation” of the Covid era, there was the holy resignation of apostles like Peter, who walked away from the life they knew to follow Jesus. A call to discipleship usually means walking away from something.

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ANIMATING ILLUSTRATIONS

The argument that the Great Resignation has been driven by sloth or a lack of incentivization due to government payments or unemployment top-ups during the pandemic does not answer the root of the phenomenon, according to [Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of The Worker Institute at Cornell University]. “Many people say that social benefits are keeping people out of the labor market, but pandemic-linked unemployment benefits expired in September and people are still not going back. And they are not going back because wages are not going up and there are no guarantees of flexibility.” …

The pandemic, therefore, can be said to have been the catalyst for a new type of worker, who is looking for a better work-life balance and for whom flexibility — and not only that which is theoretically inherent in working from home — is a key factor. “Although I do not use the concept of the Great Exhaustion, it reflects my view of what is happening. I think I will use it in the future, or perhaps the Great Re-evaluation,” says sociologist Mishal Khan of the University of Chicago via email. “I think that burnout is a very good reason, but there are others. I see this phenomenon as a collective referendum over the crisis and problems associated with work. People are fed up and are looking for alternatives to being exploited, degraded and making money for companies who don’t give enough back in return.”

—María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo, “The Great Resignation: Why four million US workers a month are leaving their jobs,” El País, November 23, 2021.


Quitting is a concept typically associated with losers and loafers. But this level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, We can do better. You may have heard the story that in the golden age of American labor, 20th-century workers stayed in one job for 40 years and retired with a gold watch. But that’s a total myth. The truth is people in the 1960s and ’70s quit their jobs more often than they have in the past 20 years, and the economy was better off for it. Since the 1980s, Americans have quit less, and many have clung to crappy jobs for fear that the safety net wouldn’t support them while they looked for a new one. But Americans seem to be done with sticking it out. And they’re being rewarded for their lack of patience: Wages for low-income workers are rising at their fastest rate since the Great Recession. The Great Resignation is, literally, great.

For workers, that is. For the far smaller number of employers and bosses — who in pre-pandemic times were much more comfortable — this economy must feel like leaping from the frying pan of economic chaos, only to land in the fires of Manager Hell. Job openings are sky-high. Many positions are going unfilled for months. Meanwhile, supply chains are breaking down because of a hydra of bottlenecks. …

Meanwhile, the basic terms of employment are undergoing a Great Reset. The pandemic thrust many families into a homebound lifestyle reminiscent of the 19th-century agrarian economy — but this time with screens galore and online delivery. More families today work at home, cook at home, care for kids at home, entertain themselves at home, and even school their kids at home. … By eliminating the office as a physical presence in many (but not all!) families’ lives, the pandemic may have downgraded work as the centerpiece of their identity. In fact, the share of Americans who say they plan to work beyond the age of 62 has fallen to its lowest number since the Federal Reserve Bank of New York started asking the question, in 2014.

—Derek Thompson, “The Great Resignation Is Accelerating,” The Atlantic, October 15, 2021.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/10/great-resignation-accelerating/620382/.

Retrieved November 24, 2021.


The whole of the New Testament advocates a perspective where belief is not an end (teleos) in and of itself — we tend to overread passages such as Romans 3.22, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe,” in a simplistic, tradition-supporting way — but stands as the necessary precondition to what Jesus is really after: having us follow him.

Jesus told Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4.19). In other words, he told them to gather more followers! He told a second set of recruited siblings the same thing. He told an unnamed disciple (rather shockingly), “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Luke 9.59-60). He told Matthew to abandon his tax collector booth and “Follow me.” (Matthew 9.9). He told the folks at Caesarea Philippi, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16.24). He told the Rich Young Ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” And in the very next verse, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19.28).

All of these verses have precisely nothing to do with entering a celestial, ethereal, disembodied heaven upon bodily death, let alone the idea that the mere professed, intellectual assent to a particularized set of orthodox beliefs gains the confessor entry.

Yes, Jesus was big on belief, but he was even bigger on exhorting people to get in line and follow him. If you take all four gospels together, either Jesus says, “follow me” or the author says, “they followed him,” nearly a hundred times.

—Roland Wrinkle, “The Doctrine of Followship: We Need to Do More Than Believe Jesus … We Need to Follow Him,” Patheos.com, August 11, 2021.

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/evangelicalpulpit/2021/08/the-doctrine-of-followship-we-need-to-do-more-than-believe-jesus-we-need-to-follow-him/.

Retrieved November 25, 2021.


How to find your purpose. The wrong thing to do is to ask, “What do I want from life?” The right question, as Viktor Frankl put it, is “What does life ask of me?” What problem is out there that I’m equipped to tackle? The answer to your life’s deepest questions are not inside; they are outside.

—David Brooks, message to the Boston College Class of 2021, May 25, 2021.

https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2021/05/25/david-brooks-boston-college-graduation-commencement-covid-19-240745.


Having Christ dwell in our hearts is akin to having a new person move into your household. If they’re just visiting, it is all rather easy; you simply offer hospitality and try to practice good manners. But if someone moves in to stay, everything changes. At first you try to hold on to your familiar patterns and routines, and the new member may work hard to accommodate you and stay out of your way. But eventually they make their mark. Conversations change. Relationships realign. Household tasks increase and responsibilities shift. So it is when Christ moves into the hearts of Christians. This isn’t merely tweaking old patterns; everything changes.

—Karen Chakoian in Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 3, edited by David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Westminster John Knox, 2009), 280.


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CHILDREN'S SERMON

"What are some things you like to do so much that you lose all track of time?" This would be a good question to begin your time with the children today. Possible answers might be watching television, reading, playing outside with friends, drawing or playing video games. Next, ask the children what they say when their mom or dad asks them to stop what they are doing, and take out the trash. Probable answers might be, "Just a minute," or "When I am done with this page." We can all understand how difficult it is to stop something we enjoy doing, especially when we're asked to do something we might not enjoy doing, or find hard to do. When our parents call us to help, what should we say? Our parents aren't the only ones who ask us to help. Jesus, too, asks us to help by being his disciples. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? (Give of our time and money to help others, be kind to our neighbors and take time to pray are all possible answers here.) Summarize by telling the children that there are certainly times when we would rather play than pray, and use our money to buy candy instead of giving our money at church. But the fact is, Jesus calls us to be his disciples at all times and in all places. Close with a prayer: "Jesus, help me to be a good disciple. Help me to say 'Yes, Lord' in answer to your call. Amen."


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