Alaric Mark Lewis
On jumping sheep and apostles
Today I received a video of a sheep jumping on a trampoline. I'm quite sure if this had happened a few months ago I would have been asking myself "Why ever would one send me a video of a sheep jumping on a trampoline?" but now it seems perfectly normal. Is it a companion piece to the story involving Mavis the pigmy mule? Is it precursor to Sunday's Gospel talk of sheep? Could be. I don't really know. All I know is that I've enjoyed watching that video of a sheep jumping on a trampoline. I've watched it three times, and I can't say that I won't watch it again.
What a shock to discover that I have become a person who enjoys watching a video of a sheep jumping on a trampoline; I did not see that coming. Before I could have given you seemingly countless reasons as to why I was not that guy. But things change. It's as if the insistent bouncing bouncing bouncing of that sheep is conveying a deeper message to me: "Don't be so quick to dismiss how the most improbable of things can still find a way into your heart." Each bounce of that sheep chips away at another preconceived notion I hold of myself.
In this evening's second lesson I like the interplay between Saint Philip - one of the dynamic duo of saints we celebrate this day - and Nathanael. Nathanael certainly has a preconceived notion about this man Jesus whom Philip is wanting him to meet: "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Nathanael clearly was not going to be that guy - the guy who would follow a flash-in-the-pan prophet from Nazareth of all places. And if I were Philip, faced with such resistance, I might be tempted to get a little shirty and say, "Suit yourself! Don't come to me crying at the end times when you're a goat and I'm a sheep!" (Yes, I'm still using the sheep imagery; I clearly never metaphor I didn't like.)
But Saint Philip ignores Nathanael's preconception and bounces back (bounces: get it?) with "Come and see." Philip - confident of just how amazing an encounter with Jesus Christ can be - won't be cowed (cowed ... I'm enjoying writing this way too much) by Nathanael's negativity. Philip knows a good thing when he sees it; and Jesus is a good thing. Philip will keep at it, keep at making sure that others know that even if a life in Christ can be fraught with confusion and suffering, there still is no better place to turn than to Jesus, he of whom Moses and the prophets did write. That's what the apostles did, of course: the kept at it. They kept making sure that others knew of the wonders of life in Christ.
And who is to continue this apostolic activity now that those original apostles are no more? It could well be a shock to discover that we are all called to be people who keep at this apostolic activity. And maybe we could give seemingly countless reasons as to why we are not that guy. But things change. It's as if the insistent bouncing bouncing bouncing of God's Spirit is conveying a deeper message to us: "Don't be so quick to dismiss how the most improbable of things can still find a way into your heart and the hearts of the world."
There's more I could say, but I think you get the point. Have a restful and safe evening. I'm going to open a bottle of wine and relax a bit. (I was tempted to do something with "vine" and "ovine" there but I feel like maybe I'm flogging a dead horse in my eye-rolling over-the-top barn-yard-icity.) Maybe I'll watch that sheep video again, maybe I won't. But whatever I do, I'll hope to do it with an expanded heart so that the most improbable of manifestations of God's love may find their way there.
And I hope the same for ewe.
(Sorry - I couldn't resist.)