Thought for the week - 7 November
Why not me!? (or) Please, – not me!
In our Gospel reading for today we see Mark’s account of the calling of the first disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Jesus calls them and they follow. All four of them were fishermen, and they all, immediately, left their boats, left their livelihoods, left their fellow workers – James & John left their Father - and followed Jesus. Great; well done them. But do you know, there is something in that story that really bothered me as a child. Perhaps it was to do with me being useless at sport, always one of those left ‘til the end when teams were picked. I always felt sorry for those not chosen. Did they feel left out? Did they wonder why they weren’t chosen? Did they think ‘Well that’s nice! What’s wrong with me!? Someone once suggested to me that perhaps they were relieved, glad they were left alone. Perhaps Zebedee was cross – do you think he might have thought – or even said, - ‘Where are you two off to? We’ve got work to do!’
We have no idea what made Jesus choose the men he did, we are not told. Likewise, we are never told why some weren’t chosen, but rather left to get on with their normal jobs.
What we do know, is that God still chooses individuals to fulfil certain roles. Through the Church, God still calls out individuals to serve as Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Religious. Not all are chosen for those roles. Still, we do not know why some are chosen and some are not. People like me still have no idea why they are chosen – I have absolutely no idea, and still quite often think God must have made a mistake or got the names muddled up!
Another thing we do know however, is that Jesus’ calling of a very few and for very narrowly defined roles was for that specific time – it was not to be so for ever. Later on, following the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit all who were willing were free to become disciples of Jesus. In the Acts of the Disciples (Acts 2 vv 41-47) we are told that all were called, and many responded – three thousand on just one day. We are also told that those who responded changed their lives, repenting of the past, and that they became worshippers and carried out service to the community – giving away their wealth, feeding the poor.
Repentance, belief, and Baptism were the way of entering into that new life.
We see also that the idea of vocation, of being called broadened out into wider spheres that what we might now call ‘ordained ministry’ – though that continued as we have said. In his letter to the Romans (Rom 12) St Paul says this:
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.]
We can see that the call of the Baptised is to live a new kind of life, and all the Baptised have a role to fulfil.
Returning to our original passage alongside the above, we should be reminded of some important truths:
Jesus still calls individuals to particular roles – including ordination. Is he calling you? If so, will you respond – or just keep your head down in the boat!?
Just because we are not called to an ordained role does not mean that we have no ministry to fulfil. As in the story from Acts amplified in Romans, all the Baptised are called to live a distinctive life of service, worship, and conformation to Christ.
So: Don’t get too comfy in that boat – Here comes Jesus!