Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflection on Matthew 4:21

Training is going great. We've discussed important topics ranging from diversity and seeking mutuality in service to discussing where our stipends will come from and how our health benefits will work. Its been a busy time from morning to night, but a productive time and one that I am grateful to be going through with my fellow Mission Interns and US-2s. They have proven to provide great company and companionship, and know that lifelong friendships are sure to bloom out of the budding relationships begun here.

Sunday we had the honor of spending the afternoon to study Missiology together. Rather than a traditional lecture, we were each given a verse (or chapter) of Scripture to study independently for about an hour and then came back to share what we learned. It was a great way to study, learn, and spend a day of Sabbath.

The verse I was assigned was Matthew 4:21. This story is a familiar one, the story in which Jesus first calls upon the men who will become his disciples to follow him. It is a story that I have seen, heard and even taught as one that offers to us a vivid example of the immediacy and lack of hesitance we should have when called upon to follow Jesus. When Jesus comes across James and John, they are doing every day tasks, and in verse 22 they "Immediately" follow his call. I was not assigned verse 22 to pray about, though, I was assigned 21. In the NRSV translation, this reads,
As they went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zeb'e-dee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zeb'e-dee, mending their nets, and he called them.

For some reason this time, a few small words jumped out at me for the first time: "and he called them." I kept repeating it, trying to figure out what it meant and why I kept repeating this phrase over and over again until I finally realized the incredible significance of those four small words I had previously thought of as unassuming. As one who has struggled with my call to ministry and mission, its hard to believe and perhaps even embarrassing to admit how many times I have passed over this, but today nothing in the whole of that chapter seemed more important. "...and he called them." I kept repeating this phrase. My meditation on this verse has stuck with me, and so I have decided to share the reflections I wrote here...

James and John were busy and had important work to do. Its not like they were sitting around, looking for something to do. Quite the opposite, really. They were hard at work, focusing on the task of mending nets, preparing for the next time they would go out looking for fish.

"...and he called them"

If James and John were working so hard with their father alongside them, it sure seems like an inconvenient time for Jesus to walk by and pull them away. Yet that didn't stop Jesus from calling upon them and interrupting their lives or from pulling them away from their father who was sitting with them, but who was not called to follow with them. Jesus knew the timing was right, and James and John, though unexpecting, were ready. They trusted that Jesus had a plan greater than any they could understand, so they followed (immediately!). I couldn't help but squirm in my chair as I read it again,

"... he called them."

God doesn't always call us at a convenient time, but God's time is the right time.

"...and he called them."

But who will take care of our families? James and John were with their father, working toward perfecting his profession so they may take over and someday care for him. Yet Jesus called them away from their family and on to something more. Our stories are often the same - I know mine is. What if when I first heard God calling, I refused the call answering in honesty, "I cannot go now, for if I do, I may well give my poor mother a heart attack! I wouldn't want to put her through the stress and anxieties of so many unknowns that I call 'adventure'!"

"...and he called them."
"...and he called me."

The reality is, if we listen, we will hear that God is calling all of us to serve in some way. As we prepare to do so, we must remember that our active acceptance and obedience to follow Christ in response to our call is not something we have completed because we have accepted that call to serve. Especially for those of us preparing to work full time in our mission sites, it will be far too easy to go forth and become comfortable in our new homes. Soon, we will again have a routine we are following, we will be going on with our daily lives in these new places. It is then that we must remember again the words spoken to us here,

"...and he called them."
"...and he called me."

We will be called upon again and again, and as we seek to more fully live out that call, we shall seek to let go of the urgency of "fixing our nets" and to leave behind us our daily work to allow ourselves to be called, to be re-directed and re-shaped and re-formed into the kinds of servants that Christ is calling us to be in the here and the now.

"...and he called them."
"...and he called me."
"...and he called YOU."

What is Christ calling you to today? What is the net that you are focusing on while Jesus is calling us to move on, to follow him? There will always be a "net" that is easy to get caught up in. Are we willing to let God untangle us from it, that we might move beyond that which is comfortable and into a realm of the unknown service yet familiar (albeit intimidating) covenant of Christ?

1 comment:

Candie said...

amazing!! I really like what you said about it not being at a convenient time and the things that must be left behind. God called you, me, and all of us.