Friday, January 22, 2016

The Call

When did you experience your call to ministry? That's the basic question pastors are asked. No call, no ministry. What if you heard no discernible voice? What if it seemed like you more or less stumbled into it? Better to create a more compelling narrative than to be clueless about the call.

A pastor has to have a call. Now a teacher might, or a house husband, or a mechanic, have a discernible call but the call is not necessarily a part of the application process. If it is for a pastor (or missionary) why not for a teacher or a stay at home mom or dad?

I have been reading Luke 5 - a story about the call of the fishermen to be disciples of Jesus. Many people are called in the Bible. Moses, at the burning bush, for example. That was a discernible call and it freaked Moses out. He tried to get out of it. More often we are invited to consider the call of the disciples in the gospels as our prototype.

Take Simon for example. In Luke's account, Simon had been up all night fishing and was worn out. He was cleaning up getting ready for the next night. Fishermen fished the Galilee at night. Jesus showed up just then and started teaching from the shore. As the crowd pressed in he looked for a boat to push out a ways in the water and still give him a platform to speak. He asked Simon for his boat and his help holding it steady as he talked. When he was finished he told Simon to head out to deeper water and put down his net. Again. This was after fishing all night. He knew nothing would come of it but he did it anyway. He wound up catching a boatload of fish.  This was so unusual, so unexpected it meant something else was going on. Simon was scared. He was not sure what that something else was. So he shut it down. Jesus, he said, go away, for whatever is going on is way out of my comfort zone.  Jesus said, don't be afraid. Then, he invited Simon to follow him and he told him he would catch people. Simon, and the others who fished with him, left everything and followed Jesus.

Simon and the rest of them were called and followed. So, that's the story anyway.

It has always seemed too easy and formulaic to me. Would these hard working fishermen with families depending on them just up and leave everything to follow Jesus when they were called? Not likely.

Why was Simon afraid after he had the most successful catch of fish he had ever had ( why was he afraid of Jesus' call at first)?  Why was his initial response to Jesus a confession of his sinfulness? If Jesus had done what Simon wanted him to do, Simon would never have become a disciple.

When Simon was asked later in life to describe his call, what did he say? Of course, this may have been what he said right here in Luke. If so, it was more like he stumbled into it than intentionally pursued it. He was expecting nothing. He did not see himself as a religious person. And he had responsibilities trying him down. He was not looking for anything else.

Parker Palmer writes, "its the things we can't do anything about that have the most opportunity to actually do something with us."

Simon had been up all night. He was not looking forward to anything but a good sound sleep. Jesus shows up and interrupts his routine.  In the midst of having a bad day (or night)  he heard a call that he was not prepared to respond to (is anyone?). Jesus overruled his response. And Simon left everything on the shore that moment because he wanted to learn more about Jesus. I assume he shared that call with people over and over, beginning with his family.

When I look back at my life I see parts of what happened in Simon's call story. I hear Jesus speaking in the midst of nothing much in my own life. When I get a hint of the changes Jesus might mean for me, I recoil. Get away from me! I am not ready for what you promise. I hear his invitations. It takes awhile but I leave my plans to see what his involve for me. It's feels like a pilgrimage I am still on.

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