Thursday 23 January 2014

If I asked you to tell me about your call, what would you say?

The manner in which Jesus acquires the twelve apostles is one of the most familiar stories to Christians.  And like most things familiar to Christians, there's more than one version of the story.  Since the story appears in all four gospels, there's at least four.  Three of those stories are remarkably similar - Jesus calls fishermen to "follow me" and become fishers for people - but they each have their own tweaks that reflect the character of the book in which we find them.  The fourth has John the Baptist kind of introducing two of his own disciples to Jesus.  They follow him around, Jesus invites them to come and see what he's doing and they're hooked - obvious fishing pun intended.

I said at least four because there's also the manner in which people might interpret those stories for their own context.  Like most things familiar to Christians, we try to relate the story to our own lives and see where our lives and the story intersect.  And, perhaps more importantly, where they should intersect.

And there's where things can just start to get interesting.

If you were to ask me, a "capital M" Minister, about my call, I would suspect that you were expecting a certain kind of answer.  I would think that you want to know about my call to ministry.  After all, I'm a minister.  And besides, Jesus called the disciples to ministry with him, right?

Did he?

Well, yes, I suppose.  But maybe the bigger question is "what do we mean by ministry?"  Do we mean: 1. the action of ministering, that is, serving someone; 2. the work or vocation of a minister of religion; 3. a government department; 4. a period of government;  or 5. a heavy metal rock band from the 1980's.  

Some people might choose 1 and 2 from that list, I guess - trust me, don't pick no.5 - but if you're like me, you'd now be looking for another word instead of ministry.  Suddenly it seems a little small.

How about "life?"  Jesus calls us, invites us, to life.

The call to simply "minister" seems too narrow and too specific for me.  I don't think that there's any way one could interpret the stories of Jesus's first disciples as calls to a specific purpose or style of ministry.  He doesn't say "come and see me Sunday at 11, then go home and come back next week."  He says "come and live with me, follow me, talk with me, experience life with me."  Jesus wants us to learn to live.

Jesus's call is simple, but it sure isn't small.  It's God's call to life, through the experience of Jesus's life in our lives.  Our "ministries" are the day to day relationships we share.  I believe God wants us to live those to the fullest.  I also believe that "call" for each of us can be revealed in a moment of blinding enlightenment as well as through years of thought, challenge and hard work.  And, I believe that God wants each of us to find our call as it finds us: in a way that best allows God to speak to us.

I think a good place to start is how we gather as a community, how we make "church."  Not the institution we've constructed that divides us into denominations and separates us by traditions and belief systems, but the "church" the earliest followers of Jesus made, the one that brings people together as Jesus did and says "come and see."

So: will you come and see?  Will you follow?