Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why we Should Listen to and Follow Jesus' Call

Matthew 4:18-22 (NRSV): Being Called
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
When I was 19 and in the service, I was stationed in South Korea for a while. In the loneliness of living in an isolated, foreign environment, I felt an indescribable yearning for God and began attending a weekly non-denominational Protestant service. Each Sunday I went to chapel, and upon returning to my barracks, I would reflect on how the emptiness I once felt was gone. As each Sunday approached, I could almost hear a calling in my heart to return to the worship service. And each week, through grace, I answered that call. Once I got back to the states, however, the noise and confusion of life would stifle that call for many years, but I vividly remember the feeling of fulfillment that each Sunday brought. As I reflect 25 years later, that call was coming from Christ. He was personally inviting me to discipleship. And in the fourth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Christ calls each of us to that same relationship.
This scene from the beginning of Matthew’s gospel depicts Jesus calling forth the first disciples --  James, John, Andrew, and Peter.  But in order to understand the unorthodoxy of this, we should consider the text’s historicity. Dr. Marielle Frigge, a professor at Marymount College in South Dakota, argues that Jesus’ actions in this chapter oppose first-century Jewish tradition. The practice of the times, she states, was for the student to seek the rabbi, not the other way around. Jesus, as Dr. Frigge argues, reinterprets Jewish teaching practice and tradition. And that Matthew’s gospel was intended for a Jewish audience, a statement regarding traditional change was significant and would have a marked effect on the hearers. First-century Jews would have been shocked into listening to and considering their own call to Jesus.
The effect does not change for us today. Jesus says to Andrew and Peter, “‘Follow me . . .’”(19), and he calls out to James and John, too (21). Our Master, Teacher, and Lord calls out to each one of us as well. This is the same call I heard 25 years ago in that distant barracks room. Will we, too, answer as the first disciples did by dropping all things and following Christ? Will we, as Matthew reports, “[i]mmediately [leave our] nets . . .” (20)?
As we mend the nets of our daily lives, let us listen carefully and heed Jesus’ call, for it can be too easily drowned out in the busyness, stress, and noise of the world. And as we make the right choice to drop everything and follow Christ, keep in mind that this does not mean abandoning who we are in the world -- moms, dads, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, companions, and neighbors. It means we embrace those roles in Christ, baiting our lives with the sweet fragrance of love and self-giving to those we encounter and serve.
I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ enliven our hearts and open our ears so that we can hear and respond to his call in love, allowing us to drop our nets and follow him in all we do in this world. Amen.