"But Jesus said to Simon, ĎDo not be afraid; from now on it is people you will catch.í Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him."
This is the famous calling story of the very first disciples.† Calling in this special say to undertake a mission for God we call vocation.†
†God calls Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him and do the work of disciples. †The divine call takes the form of a question and the called person responds in the form of a self-offering. The disciplesí call comes in the workplace, they are called away from daily work to a special task. Nevertheless, their skills as fishermen would not be wasted; from then on they were to catch human beings not fish. We shall return to this story of the call of the first disciples, but first we need to examine the idea of vocation.
At certain times in Christian history the term "vocation" has been limited to the positions of priest and pastor, monk and nun.† That is to strictly church jobs.
The main point I want to make is that God calls every one of us to the work that God has for us to do in this world, at this time, in this place. Vocation is not just for church positions. Vocation is something every Christian must listen for, and listen to, and obey. Vocation is God calling us to do the thing that God created us to do.
God calls every one of us. †There is not one person here today that doesnít contribute in a real way to the work of God here at First Lutheran.† Godís calls every one without exception. Listen! God says, "Come, follow me," and when we say yes and get up and get going, we enter into the fullness of our life. This divine call is firstly to a relationship and then to a task, although the two are so integrally bound up that it is impossible to separate them. God calls us to be the person he created us to be in relationship with himself, and the lived reality of that relationship is fulfilling the task he has for us. Only in relationship with God can we fulfill the task he created us to fulfill, and only by fulfilling that task can we be in a right relationship with God. We must do what God commands if we are to be who God wants us to be.
The divine vocation to all of us, therefore, is to a relationship of cooperation through our own work with Godís saving work in the world. Our vocation can give us the highest honor and deepest self-fulfillment imaginable, and it can give us great self-esteem and satisfaction. There is much good in the concept of seeing all our work as vocation.
Let us return now to the story of Jesus calling the four first disciples, Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, the two sons of Zebedee. Jesus asks them to let him into their boat so that he can maintain some distance between himself and the crowds he was teaching. Peter welcomes him into his boat, and after the teaching session Jesus tells him to sail out again to a certain spot and drop his nets. Peter says that they have been fishing all night and caught nothing, so it is hardly likely they will catch anything during the day. †Nevertheless Peter does what Jesus tells him and hauls in a great catch. He calls others to share the bounty, and they all turn to Jesus in awe. Peter gives a characteristic human response, of fear and the feeling of unworthiness; he asks Jesus to go and leave him alone in his unworthiness. Jesus reassures him that his fishing skills will from henceforth be used by God for a special purpose, and the four fishermen leave their nets and boats and walk off following Jesus.
What might we learn from this story? Firstly, when Jesus asks to use our boat we had better let him. He asks to come into the place of our work and to use it for his own purpose of spreading his teaching to the world. If we refuse him access we lose the chance of finding the true vocation in our work. Second, when Jesus tells us to do something we had better do it,† If Peter had said no at any stage of this story we would never have heard of him; since he said yes, he is the Rock on which the whole church is founded, in the sense that the church is made up of those who say yes to Jesus as Peter did
This brings us to a very important conclusion. Not all disciples leave their work to follow Jesus; according to the Gospels only twelve did that. Most stayed where they were and followed him there. They found their old work transformed by Christís Spirit into the new work of God for the salvation of the world. It is not necessary and clearly not practicable for most of us to change our jobs in order to follow Jesus. There is a vocation in whatever we do and wherever we are, working, retired, family raising or being a student we engage in; a way of doing things that nurtures people and brings joy and peace. Let Jesus into your boat and he will make your life fruitful, just where you are.
God will make us fruitful where we are, or he will take us to something else. Whatever God wills for us is good. Every place of life, every stage of life, has it own blessings and its own opportunities. †Jesus calls us into a relationship with himself whatever our stage of life, and that relationship is always fruitful. We can always be "fishers of people," always witness to the nearness of God and Godís call to us to work with him to save the world. In the end our vocation is to a right relationship with God, and that means, to cooperate with God in the divine work in the world. That is our challenge, our joy and our imperishable dignity as Godís people
1. Did you ever feel that God called on you to do something special?
2. What happens to our whole life when we consider ourselves to be called disciples?
3. If we say yes as Peter, Andrew, James and John did can we change the world?