I FIND IT HARD to imagine doing as these four did. Andrew, Peter, James and John.
What about you?
Try to imagine leaving everything to follow Jesus. Most of us, truth be told, would find it very hard to leave work and family and friends and all the rest to venture into such an uncertain future.
Lots of motives influence people to exchange their old lives for new ones. The pink slip. Coronavirus shutdowns. Rising costs of housing in Foley. Low profit in farming. Harsh new economic realities are forcing people to retrain, restructure and reorganize.
Then there are personal reasons to exchange old lives for new. Physical decline. Distance from relatives who can care for you. Death of a spouse. Countless people are leaving their old lives — or finding their former lives slipping away.
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THE CLOSEST that I ever came was when I quit my job, cashed out my $500 savings, loaded up the family in a U-Haul, and moved from Alabama to seminary in Kentucky. Some of you know that story.
Perhaps my experience is similar to these four, but it’s certainly not like the immediacy of Andrew and Peter dropping their nets they have already cast out; of James and John dropping their mending needles and torn nets.
I followed a feeling I had for many years. I followed a plan that developed over many months through deep conversation with family and worn out knees from prayer.
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SO THE QUESTION that must be asked is this: Does our hesitancy, our unwillingness to act with such reckless abandon, mean we’re more or less failures as Christians?
I suspect we are to find this story of disciples willing to follow Jesus inspiring. But Mark obviously knew that it’s no longer possible for people to follow the historical Jesus as did these four.
So perhaps Mark’s message to those reading back in the first century — as well as to those of us following along in the 21st — there is more to following Jesus than leaving everything to proclaim the coming kingdom of God.
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“FOLLOW ME and you will fish for people.”
“Follow” suggests going someplace. “Fishing for people” implies that the interactions they’ll have will involve more than a small group of students. Travel, people, and excitement.
They found all these things while following Jesus, but probably not in the way they expected. Sometimes they had to glean fields or depend on strangers for food. They’d get kicked out of places; they’d find themselves in increasing danger.
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EVEN THE TEACHING wasn’t what they’d expected.
Instead of just reflecting on faith ideas, they would experience their traditional beliefs and practices challenged. They’d find themselves at a banquet seated next to rich people, or serving the poor on a hillside.
Jesus told them that the types of people they’d been taught not to like were often the types God seems to favor.
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WHY MIGHT IT BE especially important for people like you and me to come up against stories like this?
I am tempted to say, “That was another time. People today can’t just drop everything like that and go.”
And that’s true. Not everyone is called to leave the boats and nets, to leave family and place.
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THE VAST MAJORITY of us are called to stay where we are as we serve God. What seems at the heart of the matter is that we can follow Jesus in different situations and circumstances precisely by trying to imitate him — by trying to live and treat others as Jesus did, embracing the values of love, forgiveness, and healing that he radiated in word and deed.
■ Perhaps we follow by becoming a teacher.
■ Perhaps we follow by volunteering at the literacy council.
■ Perhaps we follow by looking out for those at school who always seem on the outside and invite them in.
■ Perhaps we follow by doing a job we love as best we can to help others.
■ Perhaps we follow by doing a job we hate but one that contributes to supporting our family and helping others.
■ Perhaps we follow by being generous with our wealth and with our time.
■ Perhaps we follow by listening to those around us and responding with encouragement and care.
■ Perhaps we follow by caring for an aging parent, or special needs child, or someone else who needs our care.
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YOU GET THE IDEA. There are countless ways that we can follow Jesus — right here, right now.
It is possible, staying where we are, that we get altogether too comfortable, too unwilling to risk, too unable to step out in faith.
The calling of Jesus all through the gospels is to get out of our comfort zone.
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LOOKING AHEAD to the coming week, what are you called to leave behind as you follow Jesus?
What might you be called to move toward in your following?
I want you to anticipate times and places and occasions where you might try to follow Jesus by treating others as we see Jesus treating people.
What would that look like?