Called To What?

Sermon From January 22, 2006

The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news.

That sounds exciting!  Good News!  It sounded so exciting to Peter and Andrew and John that they were willing to immediately drop everything in order to follow Jesus.

Does that still sound like an exciting event?  After 2,000 years of same old same old, has anything really changed?  Did the Kingdom come or fizzle out, or what?

Some few of us still put faith in the coming kingdom of God, but it has largely been reduced from a public event to a private event.  Namely, what happens to a person when they die.  If you believe in Jesus you get into heaven.  But each personís death is a personal event and experience. 

I think that this personalized version of the Gospel is the most popular way of thinking about the Good News of Godís Kingdom.

But is this what Andrew and Peter, James and John  signed up for when they dropped their nets to become fishers for people?  What did they expect.  Did they think the kingdom of God would come to them if they believed in Jesus when they died?  Was that what they had in mind.  I donít think so.

Most Jews had a this-worldly, public hope that the Messiah would lead Godís people to victory over their oppressors.

That is more in line with the kind of event that would make fishermen drop their nets and follow Jesus.

A big problem was that this did not happen.  There was no obvious victory over Godís enemies.  In fact the cross looked like a defeat.  The cross and the resurrection were a rupture of history, when Godís love and forgiveness broke thorough into the world in Jesus the Christ.  We are all still trying to understand what this means.

When Jesus finished his ministry in and around Galilee and turned toward Jerusalem he asked his disciples what they expected.  Peter gets the expectation right when he said to Jesus: ďYou are the Messiah!Ē  But when Jesus taught that he had to go to the cross Peter took Jesus aside and basically said.  ďHey! I didnít sign up for that when I dropped my net in Galilee.Ē 

Jesus had to re-negotiate with his disciples what it means to be a disciple.  Saying ďif any of you want to be my follower you must deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me.Ē

Jesus made it very clear that he would look like a loser to the world, but that he would be raised, he would rupture history and the world would never be the same.  God has made it crystal clear that he means to win his victory with love and life, not with vengeance and death, even for Godís enemies.  Because we are all Godís enemies.  Only Jesus live, mirroring perfectly the love and forgiveness from God that even sacrifices itself to Godís enemies.

There is still a problem, why has the world changed so little 2,000 years after the call of the first disciples.  If the cross is the main event of history then what kind of victory is it?

Our world, our culture clings to the old way of peace.  Victory through superior firepower, victory by force.  Godís victory of love never uses force.  You canít make somebody love you.  God is love and love never forces itself.

I think this asks us to take a look at our calling and following.  Jesus did not set up a school like other master teachers of his day.  Rabbis called their students talmids.  Jesus used shaliah, which means to follow.  The word Jesus used is less like a student and more like an apprentice.  Jesus did this deliberately.  The talmid of a rabbinical school is primarily a student.  His chief business was to master the contents of the written law and oral tradition.  The finished product of a rabbinical school was a scripture scholar and competent lawyer.

Discipleship as Jesus taught it was not a theoretical discipline but a practical task to which people were called to give themselves and all their energy.  Their work was not study but practice.  Fishermen were to become fishers of men, peasants were to become laborers in Godís vineyard.  Jesus was their master.  Not so much as a teacher of right doctrine but rather as the master craftsman whom they were to follow and imitate.  Discipleship was not a school but an apprenticeship in the work of the Kingdom.

Those who follow Jesus also participate in his mission of mercy and experience the healing power of Jesusí father.  Our very gospels originated from those who lived and traveled with Jesus.

I really like the concept of following Jesus as an apprenticeship.  Doing, seeing, hearing, showing and loving.  All themes which the gospels shout out.

Our call today as Jesus apprentices is to build a community where following is taught and facilitated by example.  Where each personís doing and following is shared.  The image of Jesus needs to be reflected in our lives so that he can shine through us as we imitate our Jesus, share his values and see the world through his eyes.  It is a call to follow him as he heals the sick, comforts the broken hearted, casts out demons and speaks the truth.  Simply put we need to be a people and a place where all are efforts are turned to being like him.