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Coming Undone

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time January 22, 2021

Dr. Susan Fleming McGurgan

What are you looking for?

That seemingly innocuous question;

that invitation to, “Come and you will see”

was actually a call so compelling

that two fishermen dropped their nets

and walked away from everything they had known.

Simon and Andrew,

and later John and James and Matthew and Phillip and Thomas and Judas…

were ordinary men

whose lives had unfolded




Yet, suddenly, and without warning,

these ordinary men began to live


Andrew, for instance, followed a stranger home

and stayed with him until late in the day.

Later, brought his brother Simon, and together,

they left their business,

their boats,

their families, friends, and neighbors.

They set aside the safety of routine

and stepped out in faith

risking everything to follow a stranger’s call.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

It makes me wonder

just what kind of explosive, risky, compelling, life-changing, extraordinary


might be waiting around the corner for me.

It makes me wonder if I always play it just a little too safe.

What are you looking for?

It is tempting to read the Gospel stories

as something that only happened long ago and far away--

an event in time for very special people

under very special circumstances.

That call was dramatic and compelling, yes--

something to honor and revere, yes--

but from a safe distance

and with a disclaimer or two.

(Not valid in certain states. Consult your doctor before taking any new medication. Information is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind.)

But here’s the thing about the Gospel…

it just won’t remain anchored in the past.

It can't be safely contained.

The words won’t stay tamely on the page.

The Gospel isn’t just a book we take off the shelf

or simply a nice story we proclaim in Church.

No, the Good News is an up-close and personal, completely transformative, often unexpected event that despite our attempts to domesticate and subdue it, continues to unfold wildly, unpredictably, improbably, and sometimes, even explosively in our midst.

The question, “What are you looking for?”

comes to us with the same urgency and insistence

that Simon and Andrew experienced.

If we struggle to hear it,

It may be because it’s so tempting to ignore it--

to stick our fingers in our ears,

talk a little louder,

turn the music up higher,

and hope that the sound of our own noise

can fill the void.

If we struggle to respond,

It may be because it’s so tempting to turn that question

into a litany of wants, and needs, and critical issues

that God should really address for us.

What are we looking for? Well…. a lot of things!

Let me grab my list.

What are you looking for?

We fill our prayers with so many words,

our lives with so much noise,

our calendars with so much busy-ness

that we sometimes forget to leave some fallow space.

Space for silence.

Space for reflection.

Space to hear the invitation.

Sometimes I think we do all the talking

because we are afraid God won’t.

Or conversely,

that God will.

Either way,

staying preoccupied with our own words

seems a safer bet

than opening ourselves up

either to God’s silence

or God’s speech,

both of which have the power to undo us.” *

What are you looking for?

Come and see.

Simon and Andrew listened intently to that question.

They opened themselves to God's speech

and encountered the Living God.

In that encounter, their lives became undone.

The carefully woven threads of two ordinary lives

became unraveled,

messy, unanchored--

the raw material necessary to create something new.


In that undoing,

they found new purpose and mission.

In that undoing,

they came to see

that the journey toward hope and salvation

was also a journey through the cross.

What are you looking for?

Come and see.

That invitation echoes in our lives today--

In every experience, in every moment, in every season.

We are invited into God’s silence;

into God’s speech;

into God’s work;

into the world's suffering and challenge and hope and triumph.

We are invited on a journey

to Come and See what God has in store for us.

It’s alright to admit that it’s scary.

It’s alright to admit that we don’t have the answers,

or even most of the questions.

Hearing and responding to our invitation means that we, too,

will begin to live as one undone--

and that changes everything.

Barbara Brown Taylor, When God is Silent, p.51. Cowley Publications, Cambridge, MA, 1998.

© Susan Fleming McGurgan


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