Friday 23 January 2015

Called to follow through to you

Jesus calls the disciples.  That's most often how we describe the first encounter between Jesus and those who will become his twelve key followers.

The gospel of John says that the first followers of Jesus were followers of John the Baptist.  He points Jesus out to them and they follow Jesus around a bit until Jesus invites them to come and see what he's doing.  They were called to follow.

Mark, Matthew and Luke tell the much more familiar story of Jesus meeting the first disciples by the Sea of Galilee.  They were fishermen and Jesus says to them "come and follow me and I will make you fish for people" (Mark 1:17).  Mark, whose story we're hearing this week, adds an air of urgency, even, by saying they came "immediately" and then he "immediately" called more.  They were called to follow.

Wait a minute.  "Immediately?"  Simon and Andrew didn't even pause and wonder just who this guy was?  And James and John just left their dad in the boat with the hired guys?  That doesn't seem like a well thought out career move.  Doesn't even seem like they took a moment to discern - a popular word when people think about entering ministry - what was happening and how it might impact the people around them.

Perhaps that's the miracle of call.  Just as Jesus seemed to know them, perhaps they somehow knew it was Jesus (and what that meant) in that moment.

So maybe we might consider that this is more than a call story.  It's an epiphany story.

Epiphany comes from a greek word meaning a sudden manifestation or appearance, particularly of the divine.  That certainly describes the season that begins with the magi following the star to reveal Jesus as the one who was promised.  And each of the stories we hear in the season of Epiphany (right up until Lent) tells of this aspect of epiphany, the revealing of Jesus.

So maybe those first disciples experienced a moment of epiphany in which they realized who this really was, dropped everything they had ever known and left with him to do, well, they didn't really know what.  Sure, the divinity of Jesus could be the epiphany moment, that would certainly explain their immediate departure and their willingness to step out into the unknown of what was ahead.

Perhaps, though, we might consider that the epiphany they experienced wasn't just about Jesus, it was about themselves.  Could they have felt that they needed to change their lives, to choose a different path, as much as Jesus needed them to follow him?

Other than the fishermen and Matthew, a tax collector, and perhaps Simon, who was described as a Zealot (a political movement advocating violent rebellion against the Romans), we don't really know anything about the background of the disciples.  To be fair, the gospel stories aren't about them, they're about Jesus and what Jesus teaches.

But I like to imagine that their epiphany moment wasn't just in seeing Jesus, but in the realization that their lives could be different.  And that epiphany moment wasn't just in that split second decision to follow Jesus, but in the days that followed as they lived with Jesus and began to learn what Jesus was about, what he taught and what he showed them: how it transformed their lives.

Jesus led them to a different way of living, but I think they followed, being true to who they are.  Those who fished learned to fish for something different.  The tax collector learned to share, not just take.  Perhaps one of the disciples was a carpenter and Jesus taught them to build good people rather than good carts or furniture.  Perhaps one was a physician who learned to heal people, not just their bodies.  Perhaps one was an artist who created works that spoke truth rather than just entertained. 

Perhaps living as Jesus teaches isn't just about following, it's about being.  Perhaps this is the kind of epiphany that bridges who we are, how we live and what we say.  Perhaps this is a way to understand that Jesus calls us to follow, not to be different than we are, but to be more of who we truly are.

There's a lot of "perhaps" there, but maybe I'm just fishing.