Summary: Jesus calls us to follow him, just like he called Peter, Andrew, James and John. What their call means about our call.
I have always had strong images of the calling by Jesus of Peter and Andrew, James and John. Perhaps it is through having been brought up in a town with a strong fishing history. Even though the heyday of the fish industry in St Ives was already well past when I was a child, there were many people around who could remember it and nets were hung out around the harbour to dry and to be repaired on a regular basis. I heard many stories of the fishing boats and it was always easy for me to picture Jesus coming along and calling fisherman to follow him. I have often imagined this incident taking place in a St Ives setting.
This week I have looked at this story again, and four points have come out at me about the call of Jesus in our lives today.
1. Jesus calls us in the midst of our daily lives
2. He wants a response
3. He calls us to move and become
4. He doesn’t tell us where we are going
We will look at these four points this morning.
Jesus calls us in the midst of our daily lives
Pilgrimages are back in fashion after several centuries. In medieval times, before the reformation people would travel all over Europe, from church to church, visiting relics of saints, or would go to monasteries or to the Holy land, to places where God had worked in power, hoping to hear something from him, to become close to him, maybe to be healed. This ceased somewhat after the reformation, but now many people are travelling, looking for encounters with God. They go to many different places, such as Iona, Lourdes or Lindesfarne that are regarded in some way as being especially holy, more so than ordinary places, hoping that when they get there, God will speak to them in some way.
In contrast, Peter and Andrew, John and James, were simply going about their daily routines. The daily round of hard, and probably quite monotonous, work. They were fisherman, a trade that did not have a high status. It was smelly and they were probably not very clean. But it was in the very midst of that that Christ spoke to them and called them to be his special friends. Their minds were probably solely on finishing the task in hand, they had not specially prepared themselves for a religious or mystical experience of some kind. But it was in the ordinariness of the every day that Christ called them.
When I was a child in Sunday school we used to sing chorus that went:- ‘we don’t need intoxication, transcendental meditation, we don’t need to cross the sea or even cross the street.’ This chorus seems to have been written in the 1960’s or 70’s when various celebrities and singers were espousing practices such as transcendental meditation or were travelling to other continents to listen to teachers and gurus, desperate for some form of mystical, spiritual experience. It emphasises that we do not have to travel to find Christ, that we do not have to abandon the ordinariness of our daily lives, or perform special rituals, but that Christ will come to us and speak to us, if we will only allow him to and listen.
Just as Peter, Andrew, James and John were called in their daily work, so can we be, whether we work in a shop, a nursery, a factory, a hospital, whether we are retired or unemployed or busy bringing up our children, Christ is the lord of the ordinary as much as he is lord of the extraordinary. We can listen to him while we are doing the housework, while we are doing the shopping, in the Post Office or at work.
He wants a response
Many of you will know that I am totally hopeless when it comes to making decisions. If I have to decide what to do when faced with options, I will normally look at Rhonda, wanting her to make the decision, or I will say “It’s up to you” or “what do you want to do?” I take ages to decide, not knowing what to do for the best, or even what I want to do. I weigh the different options up and come to one conclusion, then weigh them up again and come to a different conclusion. All the time precious time is ticking away.
When Jesus came and called the fisherman, he expected an immediate response, and he got one. They did not look at each other for the decision, instead they each decided individually, and quickly, to come with him. They grabbed the fleeting opportunity that they hand to come around with this special preacher and prophet. They did not even have the luxury that we do now of knowing exactly who Christ is, they just knew that he was a special man of God, it had not been revealed to them at that time exactly how special he really was. It could have seemed really quite unreasonable of Jesus to ask them to give up everything at the drop of hat and to come along with him on the spur of the moment. The easiest option for them was to stay where they were, in the life that they knew and in which they felt safe. They could have carried on listening to him preaching, but then return to their Fathers’ boats in the evenings. They could have asked for more time to decide, or say that they would be his supporters, but that it would be impossible for them to leave the family businesses.