Nine years ago I had the greatest Jimmy John’s sandwich I have ever eaten. No other Jimmy John’s sandwich has compared to that one.
What made the sandwich so great had nothing to do with the sandwich itself. It was your typical delicious Jimmy John’s sandwich. What made the sandwich great was the conversation that took place during the meal. Nine years ago this month, I sat at a Jimmy John’s in Chapel Hill, N.C., with my sandwich and chips, to tell one of my pastors that I felt a call to ordained ministry.
It was a calling that had been on my mind for some time. After a lot of prayer and deliberation, I had finally felt comfortable with sharing my sense of call with someone else. That meal with my friend and pastor was one of the first times I told anyone I was thinking about leaving my writing pursuits to become a pastor. I went into that lunch meeting honestly believing he would tell me to keep my day job. Instead, he invited me on a year-long journey that would allow me to fully discover my calling and to consider what God was asking of me. Nine years later and here I am.
This is my story and, to be honest, when we think what it means to be call it is the typically the first thing we think about. We often think that only those called to be pastors or clergy are called by God. That idea doesn’t tell the full story of what it means to be called. The idea of calling, of being asked by God to do something that will share the message of Jesus Christ with others through words or actions, is not limited to a few. Everyone as a specific calling, or purpose, in sharing Jesus with others. Even though we may believe there is no way God would call us, God wants to use each of us to make disciples and to tell others about the Good News of Jesus.
All of this will serve as a base foundation for us, today, as we conclude our series looking at four words that will help us grow closer to God in 2015. We’ve seen how our life is to be seen as a gift, how we are beloved, and how we are to follow Christ. Today we want to look at is this idea of “call” or “calling.” This word is inspired through our reading of Mark 1:14-20, especially verses 16-20. It is not specifically found in this encounter between Jesus, Simon, and Andrew, but what takes place is an act of calling. Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to believe in him and into their own ministry. Framing our conversation around Mark 1:14-20 through the lens of calling will help us understand what this means for us and to allow us to think about how God is calling us today.
At first glance, though, this passage seems like a replay of the story we looked at last week from John 1. The two passages touch on similar themes, but look at the encounters of Jesus’ calling his disciples through different perspectives. Whereas last week we saw Jesus invite Philip and Nathaniel to follow him, this week we begin to see what Jesus expects of those who accept this invitation to follow him.
Mark begins by telling us that Jesus has started to preach the Good News across Galilee. The message that the long-expected Messiah has come and is with them in Jesus. This was sometime after his baptism and John’s arrest by King Herod. It was during this time that Jesus also began to assemble his group of 12 disciples. This group would give Jesus his core group of followers who would receive an intimate relationship with Jesus, detailed teaching, and his direct leadership during his three-year ministry.
Part of that assembly process took Jesus to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There he met a group of fishermen who were applying their trade. Fishing along the Sea of Galilee was big business and was caught was usually sent throughout the region. Among the fishermen Jesus met were brothers Simon, who would later be known as Peter, and Andrew.
Jesus meets these brothers in the midst of their lives and invites them to follow him. Remember we said, last week, that following Jesus means to have your life completely devoted to Jesus and to take on his life as our own. Jesus invites them on a journey where they would see what it means to be truly devoted to Christ. As well, Jesus uses their profession as an entry point to tell them about what this life will ask of them. Jesus tells them that if they come with him they will no longer fish in the ways familiar to them. They will now fish for other people. They will make disciples of Jesus.
This is an intriguing statement Jesus makes to Simon and Andrew. Imagine yourself with Simon and Andrew and you hear this man whom you just met not only inviting you into a journey of discipleship, but also telling you will bring others to faith. It is an exciting proposition. Like Philip and Nathaniel, Simon and Andrew realize immediately that Jesus is the One, the long-expected Messiah, and they go on this new journey, and all it entails, with him. They leave everything behind to go with Jesus. They go to begin bringing others to Jesus.
Jesus approached Simon and Andrew and used what was available to him, in this case Simon and Andrew’s career, to express what will be asked of them, and us, if they decide to follow him. Following Jesus is not just about aligning our lives with the desires of Christ, but Jesus also shows that following him means that we have a responsibility to invite others to experience what Christ has for them in their life. In response to our faith in Christ, we are sent out into our communities to share the story of Jesus through our words, actions, and deeds. We do this so that others may be lead to follow Christ in their own life.
This is what Jesus shares with Simon and Peter. Jesus invites them onto a journey where they will make disciples. Jesus doesn’t describe in this moment how that will happen. He does not give them a three-step guide on how to make a new disciple. He doesn’t tell them what to do or how to do it. Jesus simply looks at Peter and John and says, “Follow me.” It is in the following that Jesus expresses what it means to invite others to follow him.
As we go on this journey with Jesus we are given the tools of how to make disciples. It through following Jesus and by living like Jesus that we are able to express the hope of Christ with others. Truly then, Jesus’ very own ministry is our road map for discipleship into our communities. Jesus did not stay inside the walls of the comfortable places or the synagogues. He went into the community to be with the people. He went into the places that were considered undesirable or unreachable. He taught with truth and love. He exhibited grace. He wasn’t afraid to break down the cultural walls and barriers. He offered healing. He shared a new way of life through his life.
Those who follow in Christ’s footsteps have the responsibility to make disciples. We do so by taking on the very practices and way of life that Jesus expresses. The basic model for our engagement into our communities is to invite others into a fellowship, a journey, in the very same ways that Christ does – inviting someone to belong into a community as they seek to understand and believe what Jesus is all about. As followers of Christ, we are called to invite people to Jesus by being a witness of Jesus through our words, actions, and deeds.
This should be a very freeing way of ministry and community engagement for us, especially when we consider that we often do not where to begin when it comes to inviting others to meet Jesus. The statistics pan this out. One of my favorite statistic is that the average United Methodist will only invite someone to church once every 33 years. It is a statistic that not only tells about our denomination’s decline over the last 20 to 30 years, but also expresses how we do not know where to begin in reaching others for Jesus. We struggle with inviting people to experience Jesus, because we think we have to know everything, be perfect, or even have an exciting engagement model.
None of that is true. You do know have to know everything about Jesus to invite someone to experience Jesus. You have to be perfect or have your life completely in order. You do not even need to have the most exciting and engaging model of ministry. All you need is to be an authentic presence of Jesus in someone’s life and to find ways to encourage others – through words, actions, and deeds – to experience Jesus for themselves. Being an authentic presence of Jesus’ love to others will open the opportunities to invite someone to experience a relationship that is beyond all understanding.
All of us have an opportunity to be Jesus in someone’s life. This isn’t the role for a few. It is not just clergy who have this call. All of us, clergy and lay alike, are tasked with this important work of joining our hearts and arms together to go out into our community and to share Jesus with others. Those who seek to follow Christ are called to make disciples and to invite others into a community, the church, where they can experience the love of Christ.
We can do this. I believe you and I can do this together. I believe our church can do this. We do not have to fear that we cannot do this. If it was up to us and only us then maybe we could fear. However, we do not go out into our communities to share the love of Christ alone. We go with God who goes before us and prepares the way for us to share Jesus with others.
God calls all of us to be people who invite others. No other work for the church is more important than the community finding ways to share Jesus with others, especially those who are unchurched, through our words, actions, and deeds. It is a work for all of us. God calls all who would love him to share that love with others.
So, let’s be about this work. There are 47 weeks left in 2015. What if we committed ourselves to continually invite people to church over these 47 weeks? What if we committed ourselves to inviting someone to church, a Bible study, or a special event? What if we trusted God, and ourselves, enough to believe that we are capable of sharing Jesus through our love with others?
I wonder what will happen to people’s lives. I wonder what will happen to our own lives. I wonder what will happen at Claylick if a group of loving, caring, and committed people joined together to invite people to experience Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to see what God will do in us if we commit ourselves to this work this year. So, my friends, let us get to work.