Thursday, December 18, 2014

Follow me

I'm preaching on January 11, 2015. Our pastor is off on an educational trip to the Holy Land. She will be gone for 15 days. The lectionary gospel texts for the new year are in Mark. I am preaching on Mark 1:12-20. Mark's gospel is for today - it goes so blazing fast. It was written for time challenged multitaskers. Mark may have had ADD.  He covers the temptation of Jesus in a couple sentences and then summarizes Jesus ministry message in a couple more. The calling of his first disciples, four verses. I feel like shouting, Whoa, Slow Down! What Mark is telling us surely did not happen so fast, did it? His story is compressed time. It is given to us in chunks to meditate on (a challenge for us today!).

Jesus, just passing by the fishermen working from the shore of the Sea of Galilee, says two words, Follow Me, and they drop everything and do it! Whoa! Mark! What does that mean? Are we to think that they just up and left their jobs and bills, and their kids birthday celebrations, and wedding anniversaries and the unfinished home remodeling projects. How did it happen? Mark is not very helpful or is he? Perhaps, he wants us to ponder a bit.

Now it could have happened that way. Commentators on Mark suggest ways: maybe they were already familiar with Jesus and had time to consider his call; perhaps the force of Jesus personality was such they could not help but drop everything and follow him; maybe they were ready for a big change in their lives. But, it could be both a picture of the way it happens to us that we can meditate on and a compressed process that unfolded over time. Given Mark's gospel writing purposes I think Mark speeds up what was a longer process. That longer process seems to be the way it happens to us.

 We want to know how the call of Jesus to his first disciples makes sense in our lives. We have jobs and families and car payments and can't just walk away from all of that to Follow Jesus and if we did what would that even look like. Yet, we want to Follow Jesus.

We don't know a lot about Jesus and his disciples. We know they spent a lot of time with him for a three year period. They shared their lives with him and each other and he shared his life with them. It was the start of something big although it looked like a failed cause before things got better, the crucifixion and then the resurrection.  Then, things got worse again when the church was persecuted. But, the resurrection had happened and that was the Big Deal which changed everything. So, I'm guessing the disciples could get home to celebrate a kid's birthday and remember their wedding anniversaries and repair the leaky roof. Following Jesus does not mean leaving real life and living some kind of spiritual, other worldly, life. There is Life and we follow Jesus living it.

Jesus came to the fishermen where they lived. He comes to us where we are at. He calls us in the midst of the stuff of our lives. You don't have to go to a church to find Jesus. He finds us. In the midst of. We have a funny idea about "Calling" that it is a change from what we were doing to a Churchy kind of job. Pastors are called. Missionaries are called. Youth ministers are called. But what about janitors and bus drivers, and child care workers and nurses aides. How do you follow Jesus in life as you know it. That's what we want to know. It doesn't help us to be told we need a career change to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus may mean a career change as it did for some of those first followers of Jesus, but it may not. What did Thaddeus do or James son of Alphaeus, or Simon known as the Caneanean after they were called? We are not told. Matthew may have quit his tax collecting job and most of the fishermen probably still wet a line but not for a living.

Before I became a pastor I had to answer the question, What was your call? How did you hear it? How did it happen for you. I had to write a paper on it. I had to read it. I had to answer questions from my peers. I had to persuade them I had a call to ministry. Not a bad thing to do. All of us might benefit from doing the same thing. How did you end up doing what you are doing? How did  your call happen? How did you discern God's leading in the process?

But I had a first call. We all do. The first call before it was to become a pastor was to Christ. Our first call is to hear the voice of Gods love in Christ. You are loved. Its the prodigal son story. You are cherished. You are treasured. As you are. No matter what else we do, that is always our first call.

Then we are called together. Christ calls us to Those Others Who He Has Called. We flesh out our calling here in the body of Christ.  Jesus called a first 12. You (PL), come Follow me. We don't follow Christ alone. We learn what Christ calls us to here. We practice living out our calling, and we need the practice, don't we? We are reminded of our calling to him first at the Lord's Table. Then to each other and together to the world around us as we get up to serve.

Those are the primary calls to every Follower of Christ. Then, there are other calls, to serve the body of Christ and the larger world. Follow me are words we hear often.

The gospels are all about how we follow Christ. The Sermon on the Mount, for instance, teaches us how we follow Christ in all kinds of life situations: serving, forgiving,practicing hospitality, sowing peace, and so on.

We don't have to join a convent to follow Christ or hide inside a church. We are called to follow Christ. Here, where we live. With who we live life with.  In our jobs, our families, our churches. This is our 12. Jesus says, Love.... Serve, Wash each other's feet. We don't have to go anywhere else to live out our sense of call.