They didn’t ask questions. Feb-1. 2015
Mark 1: 14-20
John the Baptist has just been executed and Jesus steps up to take his place as the new leader to spread God’s message of the New Kingdom. His first task is to recruit disciples to help him. Our scripture story relates where and how Jesus searches out his first followers.
This story of how Jesus goes about calling his first disciples always puzzles me. Jesus shows up by the shores of Sea of Galilee, calls out to Simon Peter and Andrew, tells them he’s going to upend their lives and give them a new vocation, he commands them to follow him without a backward glance or thought about their family or fishing business. Mark records no questions asked by either fisherman. In the space of one sentence, Jesus issues the same call to James and John with the same results. In a flash they are out of the boats and following Jesus-no questions asked!
Maybe we are all puzzled! “They didn’t ask questions.” Maybe we are all thinking the same, how we would respond?
“I’m sure I’d blurt out, “who are you and where are you going?” and “what your plan and where do I fit in to it?” “What happens to my family business and all the people it supports? “Why are you calling me and once we catch these people, what are we to do with them?”
I imagine we would all ask the same questions.
Put ourselves in the fishermen’s shoes, how would we respond to such a call when there’s-
-- no business plan,
--no evangelism outreach strategy,
-- no job description,
-- no job interview
-- no time to consider the pros and cons about the offer
Just an itinerant preacher who appears on the shore, shouts an invitation and walks on.
I’m sure we would be curious, wondering just who this person thought he was or maybe we would have laughed thinking it was some kind of a joke. I’m sure we to would have stayed in the boat or “hummed and hawed” for so long, Jesus would have been long gone before we made our move.
When reading biblical text in today’s environment, we need to pay attention to questions like, “when-why-what” questions that will help us understand what the author was expressing with this story. Like all stories of the Bible, they take place in a particular time and place. Here we are talking about a time approx. year 30 of the first century and within an agrarian society.
The Bible story, this morning reveals an encounter with God—gives us a glimpse of Jesus, to hear his proclamation of the kingdom and his call. These stories confront us with the reality that God has the HABIT OF SHOWING UP UNEXPECTEDLY in the ODDEST PLACES and invite us to turn around from where we are and follow him—NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
In the story Jesus has come to Galilee announcing God’s good News. He is asking people to join him. It has a “take it or leave it” atitude. Jesus is inviting them to be part of his life and mission, and they must decide what their response will be. Follow him or keep fishing.
Have things really changed? What does it take for those of us in the ORDINARY BOATS OF LIFE to respond immediately to Jesus invitation—TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT AND FOLLOW HIM, NO QUESTIONS ASKED? What keeps our feet stuck to the bottom of our particular boat?
A list of rather obvious barriers, quickly come to mind. We have responsibilities to families, our employers and members of our communities. They expect us to be in the boat every day fulfilling our duties. Wouldn’t it be irresponsible, even crazy, to walk away with some street preacher?
If we can somehow get past these barriers, there are also some other items we must take into consideration. We’re supposed to carefully analyze situations, set goals and make a plan. The idea of pushing that carefully crafted plan overboard at the call of Jesus leaves many of us shaking our heads.
But perhaps the stickiest glue holding us in the boat is the desire to be in control. We go to elaborate lengths to gain and assert control over our lives, families, work and finances.
Much of this control is an allusion we conjure up to keep from seeing and admitting the truth that even with all of our diligence--
-financial market may crash,(oil-corrupt stock market)
-disease(Ebola-Cancer-Alzeimers) may enter our lives,
-people get caught up in natural disasters
-and relationships change.
It’s hard to live with these uncertainties, so we hide and pretend we’ve got it all under control.
This can make it difficult to respond to Jesus call, because in order to say YES, we HAVE TO FOLLOW A LEADER WHO STANDS THE WORLD ON ITS HEAD.
Listen to what Jesus expects from us--
-- First will be last,
-- Turn the other cheek,
--Blessed are the poor,
--Love your enemy
Jesus brings us face to face with our humanness and challenges us to stake our lives on his promises instead of our plans.
Following Jesus is life-giving and transforming—but we don’t get to draw the map or have questions answered before we start walking. We have to listen to Jesus’ call and take the first step.
But we must be trusting in the prompting of God’s spirit:
Call to lay ministry UTC--
Talking about unexpected-oddist time- I remember an occasion when Sharon and I had made plans to visit our son in Australia, we had decided when, the length of our vacation, all we had to do was contact a travel agent.
Out of the blue I got an unexpected call, it must have been God directing me to go to lay school. It was the oddest time-no questions- last chance-- no other classes for two years-and it was in the Eastern Townships Classes would be starting the same time as our trip. We postponed our trip-just missed the last weekend classes-I must admit I struggled with some questions-but it was take it or leave. I was glad I took it-it proved to me God is active in our lives.
During my life I have discovered God’s call comes--Unexpectedly --in the Oddest place –we are left with no questions but simply follow.
I’m sure we all noticed that over the course of Jesus’ ministry it was the struggle to keep the disciples humble and ordinary-looking. And it’s the same struggle Jesus has with us. Every time we start angling for power or arguing amongst ourselves as to who was the greatest, Jesus slapped us back down to the street level of service just like he had to do with his disciples!
Jesus needs all of us to be common, ordinary, and above all humble if we are going to do Jesus any good and so change the world.
It can be downright uncomfortable. Jesus stands on the shore giving an invitation that makes real promises with real demands. The one thing that makes it possible to follow is that we know he will walk the entire way with us, leading the way into the God’s New Kingdom.
Credit: Associate pastor Cynthia Anderson United Methodist church for ideas used in the service.