Leaving Everything to Follow Jesus
When they had brought their nets to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Beloved in Christ,
Today the church commemorates Florence Li-Tim Oi, who, in 1944, became the first woman to be ordained a priest in the Anglican Communion, more than thirty years before the ordination of women was more widely regularized in our tradition. She ministered first in the dangerous days of the Japanese occupation of China during World War II, and later when churches were officially closed and the Jesus movement was forced underground during the cultural revolution. During that time, she was made to work in a farm and a factory and sent for political re-education because of what was perceived as anti-government activity.
Her life and ministry required a depth of faith and courage that most of us can only imagine. Like the first disciples in the gospel appointed for her feast (Luke 5:1-11), she was willing to leave everything, and to risk everything, to follow Jesus, wherever that call took her.
Both the first disciples and Florence Li-Tim Oi knew that to follow Jesus is to pledge allegiance to a new world order—marked by wanton love, deeply rooted justice, and perfect peace—even in the midst of a world order marked by violence and oppression. Both she and the first disciples left everything and risked everything because Jesus showed them that things can be different than they appear. The world can be different than it currently is, and God is even now actively supplanting the present darkness with the God’s perfect kingdom of love. Both Li-Tim Oi and the first disciples were willing to live in God’s new story even as the powers and principalities held tightly to their own.
We may not be at risk of being sent to camps for political re-education, but everywhere we turn the current world order works to co-opt us into its story that tells us the point of life is gaining more, the point of relationships is winning, that worthiness is earned, and that difference is to be feared and resisted. To follow Jesus means choosing a different story: we are filled by giving; love is always acting for the good of the other; difference is a gift; the love, dignity, and worthiness of every human being is endless: it cannot be earned and cannot be lost. Li-Tim Oi means simply “beloved daughter.” The story we are called to live in is one where every single person, and indeed the whole creation, is beloved daughter.
They left everything and followed him. Following Jesus is an all or nothing proposition. The call for us today is the same as it was for the first disciples in their fishing boats, for Florence Li-Tim Oi and those who ministered with her: can we bring the nets of our anxious striving to the shore? Can we—as individuals, as families, as congregations, as a whole diocese—leave everything and follow him?
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya