Blogging Towards Sunday, January 23, 2011
Madeleine L'Engle, writes, "We are all asked to do more than we can do. Every hero and heroine of the Bible does more than he would have thought it possible to do, from Gideon to Esther to Mary." Abraham is my favorite hero in the Bible. Together with his wife they hear a call - literally hearing God's voice - to strike out, to leave home, what's familiar, what's routine, to discover something new. They're not asked to volunteer. They're called - told - to "go" [Genesis 12].
Today's passage is a similar experience - the call of the first disciples. Jesus doesn't ask for volunteers. He calls out to them, disturbing their workday, interrupting their routine, changing up the familiar. What's interesting in the way that the story is told is that Simon, Andrew, James and John respond, leaving their familiar life (nets, boats, fish and all) immediately. Something is irresistible about the authority of Jesus. Something is unique about his voice, intoxicating in his call. I wonder how often they regretted or questioned their response as the years went by? How often was it unclear where they were going? Did they really "get" what it means to be(come) a fisher of men and women?
The story isn't just about them, it's a word addressed to us: our invitation to leave our nets and boats for something new, deeper waters, unchartered lands, bigger (or at least different) fish to catch. But what does it mean for us to be fisher-people? How do we do that in an urban context? When we're surrounded by need, hurt, dysfunction, hunger, injustice, complacency? How do we do that when those things are just around us - but maybe in - us? Augustine of Hippo wrote in the 4th Century about the paradox of being called, saying "our hearts are restless until we rest in thee [God]." Yet when we're called our hearts may rest in a vocation and life direction, but do they rest in the sense of no more anguish or anxiety? When you volunteer for something we all tend to stop when it no longer works for us, when we have a horrendous experience, or when we're mistreated. And yet Jesus doesn't ask those guys fishing if they want to volunteer for his movement. He calls them. Not conditional, but transformational.
A classic song utters "I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back. Though I may wonder, I still will follow." It sounds borderline delusional. Who can do so much? Who are we to think - or to dare to hope - that we each have a unique and essential call? Yet isn't such direction - not unshakeable certainty - but sincere direction - isn't that one of the things we're most hungry for in our incessantly changing 24 hour new cycle-based culture? Maybe it is all crazy and hard to believe - I mean who can catch a human being with a hook? - and yet just because a call is unusual doesn't mean that it's delusional.