18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and went with him.
21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. (NLT)
We are nearing the end of a Lenten Series called, The Gentle Yoke: Spirituality for Stubborn Souls. In this series we have been looking at what it means for us to be yoked together with Christ as his disciples. And today we are going to consider another communal spiritual discipline: What I am calling the spiritual discipline of “suiting up”.
And what I mean by that is the spiritual discipline of readying yourself to become part of something bigger than yourself: of opening yourself to the possibility that Jesus will call you, you specifically, to a particular task, a particular opportunity, a particular experience that is part of his ongoing work to reconcile and heal the world. And frankly most of us just don’t expect that Jesus is going to do that.
When we think of the idea of calling, most of us believe that only “special” Christians are called. So, we think, Billy Graham, the Pope, and Rick Warren are called. Pastors are called—at least some of them. (At least we hope they are.) But that’s about it. The rest of us? Our job is just to support the called ones. It’s to cheer them on and encourage their calling.
I had a seminary professor that said that most of us view being a Christian the same way that I view rooting for the Angels during baseball season. If I am particular committed, I don’t just watch on TV occasionally, I go to the stadium as often as I can good seats, I pay my money, I wear my Angel jersey, I put on my cap, I bang my thundersticks, I jump up and down for the Rally Monkey and I cheer on the players. I feel as if I am part of them. I call them my team and I am loyal to them. Even when they change their name to the goofy Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I stand by them.
But there is absolutely one thing that I am certain: I am not getting on the field. I am not going to play. The coach will never call my name. And as much as I might fantasize about Manager Mike Scoscia needing me in the bottom of the ninth, the truth is, is that I don’t really want to play. I am afraid I will fail. I would really rather just stay in the stands wear my jersey and cheer on the really “called” players. I don’t think that I am able or worthy of being called. I am not a player, I am fan, a supporter.
In many ways, that was probably what Simon, Andrew, James and John thought of themselves as they prepared for another day of fishing along the Sea of Galilee. They never dreamt that any teacher would ever call them to be his disciple. You see, in first century Jewish culture, most every boy started out with the goal of becoming a Rabbi, a teacher. When they were of the right age, they would go “audition” with a Rabbi and if they were selected, they would become his disciple, learn from him and become a Rabbi himself someday. If he was not selected, if the Rabbi deemed him not smart enough, not devoted enough, not spiritual enough, then he was not invited to become a disciple. Instead he went home and took a trade—like being a fisherman.
In short, Simon, Andrew, James and John all assumed that when it came to doing something for God, they were in the cheering section. They had not been called, they were not “in the game” at all. They were not players, but fans, they were supporters.
But along comes Jesus and he walks into their lives and calls them to follow him, to become his disciple, to take part in his work. Jesus’ words here are so interesting. He calls out to them and says, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
The Bible says, they “immediately followed him.” Many people have conjectured about why these men were so eager to follow this stranger, but I think it is something very simple: They all wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves.
We want to be called. We want to be put in the game. We want Jesus to use us in some small, but significant way in one little corner of the Kingdom. But what does it mean to be called? I mean if God is the coach and needs a pinch hitter, does it mean that I just jump on the field and start swinging?
No. At least not necessarily. And let me be clear about this particular point by emphasizing this one phrase: The need is not the call.
You see so many of us think that to be called is nothing more than being willing to help out. To be a volunteer. To see a need and meet it. But, that’s not the point here. Jesus didn’t come to Peter, Andrew, James and John and say, “Hey I need some volunteers. There is a great need out there. People need my gospel.” Instead, he called them to follow him. Disciples are those who are called to Jesus and to join Jesus in Jesus’ work of meeting the great needs of the world.
That’s not to say that a call can’t come through a need. Many, many times in life we find ourselves seeing a need and in it, hearing a call. In many ways that is what has been happening in our church as we seek to start a new Hispanic ministry and a new ministry working with people whose lives have been devastated by AIDS in Africa. Through the needs, and ample prayerful discussion, our Session discerned a call for our church.
But, to be a disciple, to be yoked to Jesus is not necessarily about meeting the world’s needs; it is answering Jesus’ call. And if we believe this we will suit up, we will enter the game, our lives will become part of something bigger than ourselves: If we heed the call, we will meet the needs.
You see, Jesus is the one who hears the prayers of the suffering world. Jesus is the one who knows the needs of every broken heart. Jesus is the one who died for the sin of the world, and Jesus is one who came to reveal the love of God to the world. My friends, if we heed Jesus’ call, our lives will be part of something much, much bigger than ourselves, our lives will be part of God’s plan in Jesus to reconcile and heal the world.
So here is a second key idea, which is a corollary of the first: If you want to be part of something bigger than you, practice heeding Christ’s call, not meeting human needs. Focus on responding to Jesus as the very first priority of your life.
Tomorrow: What a call from Jesus looks like.