Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It's a Warning

Mark 1: 14-20
January 21, 2018

The Call
Jorge Orlando Cocco Santangelo
So on one hand,
this story seems so exciting.
Jesus walks up to the disciples and tells
and in the middle of their work day and
they just drop everything and
go and follow him.
Very exciting.

On the other hand,
I also find it kind of stressful
because it sets kind
of an unrealistic expectation.
Like the only way to be a good disciple
is to leave everything
you know at a moment’s notice
and follow an itinerant
preacher around the country.
I mean, it sometimes takes me 15 minutes to order
food at a restaurant, and I always have regrets.
This “immediately” stuff doesn’t work for me.

I’ve heard people reason this situation by saying
that the life of the fishermen
was so terrible that they had nothing to lose.
But that doesn’t sound right because
people stay in terrible situations all the time
because it’s what they know.
People don’t usually just up and leave everything
without a lot of consideration and thought.

I’ve also heard that Jesus message was so compelling
that they couldn’t help but go.
But to this point, Jesus hadn’t articulated anything
about his message or plan to the future disciples
and once they were with Jesus,
the  disciples would spend their whole time getting
his message wrong, so how could it be that compelling?

Or maybe this was the first of Jesus miracles:
to make grown men leave their work and families
and follow him. But that seems kind of manipulative.

So usually, it’s put on us.
The disciples left everything immediately,
you should be able to as well.
You are too attached to our life, your families,
friendships, work, and you need to
be ready to drop our proverbial nets,
cast aside our whole lives and follow.

And the preacher with the house
and the family and the comfortable life similar to yours says,
“What are you willing to give up for Jesus?”
And if you’re not willing to immediately let it all go,
then you’re not good disciple material.
And I just don’t think that’s the point of the story.

So what do we make of this story that Mark tells us
and that we hear from each gospel writer around this time every year?
Here’s what I’ve been thinking,
and maybe I’ll think something different next year,
but this year here’s what I think now:

I think it’s an exaggeration,
a hyperbole, a fast-forward story for effect.
Maybe it didn’t happen exactly as quick as it said,
but it’s an important metaphor about our life with Jesus.
(Follow me even if you don’t like the sound of where this is going.)

I don’t think it’s proscriptive, like
“Give up everything immediately and then you can follow Jesus.”

I think it’s descriptive,
“When you follow Jesus, here’s what happens.”
When you go on the journey with Jesus,
You end up dropping things you thought at one time were important.

I think this story is kind of a warning:
“Follow Jesus and your life will change.”

We are asked to follow The Way of Christ.
Not necessarily the road that Jesus took,
but the way that Jesus did things:
loving your enemies, being servants, caring for the least among us.
Whatever we do, we always try to do it in the way Jesus did.

And like those disciples did, if we follow Jesus way,
and going on that road with Jesus,
valuing those things that Jesus valued,
and rejecting those things that Jesus rejected,
we will end up dropping those nets.
Those things that we once thought were important,
things that we once thought we couldn’t live without.
Things that we once thought defined us. will eventually fall away
because they’re not serving you or the kingdom well.

Maybe it’s your love of money
Maybe it’s your addiction to something or someone.
Maybe it’s your security, your isolation, your lack of commitments.

Maybe it will be our prejudices, our privileges,
our preconceived notions about other people,
about who is worthy and who is not.

Maybe we’ll give up our anger, our self-centeredness,
our stubbornness, our bitterness,
our clinging to the past and the old ways.

Or maybe it will be our job, or our career,
or maybe it will be the comfort of our home,
and maybe our relationships will change.

The story of the disciples leaving everything
all at once is a fast-motion warning to the gospel’s readers:
“Following Jesus will change you and your life.”
It may not be a dramatic, all at once transformation, but
Jesus will not leave you the same as you were when he found you.
And even if you’ve known Jesus for a long time,
he won’t leave you the same as you are now.
Jesus is always getting you to drop something you think you need,
there’s always more change to be done.

But here’s the deal, and it’s a good deal:
When the time comes to give those things up, and move on from the old,
it will be obvious that the net will need to go.
You’ll be like the disciples that day at their boats.
Those nets will not hold you back, you will be given the
ability to release what doesn’t serve you or the kingdom.

When we’re willing to go where Jesus takes us,
we won’t spend our time counting the cost.
We will have the power and the courage to do what needs to be done.

Like the people who started Gethsemane 70 years ago
They were motivated to start their own church for the people
on the north side of town.
It was exciting, they followed the call from God and they did great things
that we still appreciate today.

Now in the process, they traded in the comfort of their large,
established downtown church with its big sanctuary,
and organized programs
and they worshipped in a damp and dingy basement
in someone’s home for three years.
From the council minutes and notes, it was obvious that all of them
gave up a lot of their free time and independence and their money.
It certainly would have been easier not to have done it,
But they didn’t sit there counting their losses.
it was obvious what they needed to do, and they did it.

And when Gethsemane left the Missouri Synod,
the denomination we’d been a part of since our  founding,
and since many of our member’s birth,
the people gave up their security, the only church body they knew,
and it was painful at the time to lose members and friends.
But it was obvious that, for us, the net needed to be dropped,
we needed to move on to serve our people and the kingdom.

And if we’ve been doing this for a while,
and we look back on our lives,
many of us have given up things for the sake of the gospel,
We are not the same as we were when we started.
Maybe if we were asked to do it all at once,
we would have said no, but when the time came,
we’ve changed careers, left our homes,
gone to different countries, changed paths,
we’ve given our time, our money, our hearts, to things and people
we never thought we would have.

But it’s not like we count those things as losses now
they are gains for the kingdom,
wonderful reminders of how far God has taken us.
We don’t wish we had our nets and our old lives back.
It’s just part of our journey with Jesus.
And our journey with Jesus is never over.
More nets will fall before the party is done.

I guess we could always be like Jonah and run away
when God calls us to go somewhere and do something.
We could be like him and insist on holding onto our prejudice
and end up sulking because God didn’t do it how we wanted to.
Plenty of Christians have followed that path.

Or we could heed the warning and the promise
of this story of the disciples, this metaphor:
“If you’re going with Jesus, get ready to drop some nets.”

If you are in this room right now,
God has chosen you to do something wonderful in this world.
Jesus has called you to go to places unknown,
by roads that you are unfamiliar with.

But don’t worry about dropping your nets right now.
Just follow where Jesus leads you
and know that you won’t be the same as

when he found you.

No comments:

Post a Comment