Some thoughts about following Jesus
(On the occasion of the last Sunday in our nave before a year-long renovation begins.) The readings are here.
Sometimes I can overthink things. Something rises through my heart into my head (hey! I think I should move to Richmond!) and I get all excited about it (yeah, Richmond! I really like that church!) and I imagine all kinds of ways to live out that new idea (new challenges and growth! new opportunities and friends! the River! cool restaurants! thank you Jesus!).
And then — I start thinking. Wait, I don’t really know a lot of people there. Besides, I’m comfortable where I am. What if I move and then don’t like it? Am I rushing into something? What if it doesn’t work out? What will I do then?
And then I start backing away. Maybe I should just wait a while on this. Maybe God isn’t actually calling me to move to Richmond. Maybe I should ask some people - probably about thirty - what they think, give me the pros and cons. Especially the cons - I should really listen to that because sometimes I get carried away with the pros.
And then my enthusiasm gives way to fear. Fear of failure and more than that, fear of the unknown. I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Maybe I shouldn’t take a risk…….
I wonder what was really going on in James and John and Simon and Andrew’s hearts and heads when Jesus came by and said to them, as if an alarm clock had gone off: OK! It’s time! Follow me!
Something made them get right up and follow Jesus. They clearly didn’t overthink it. They didn’t seem to need to weigh the pros and cons, make contingency plans, form a committee, wonder if it is going to be safe, discuss the possibility of taking a more cautious approach.
They didn’t know what was going to happen when they left their old way of life behind. They hadn’t even seen any of the miracles yet. And yet they followed immediately, because Jesus says it’s time! Follow me!
So they do. That must have taken a lot of courage.
We don’t ever know exactly how God’s call to us is going to play out. Jonah was disappointed after following God’s call. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh in the first place. And when he finally did go, he didn’t like it that the people repented.
So he just sat there, mad that things worked out for the Ninevites and their animals and for God - a win-win-win!
Yes, he followed, reluctantly, but he didn’t thrive despite the success of his work.
The fishermen had no idea how their call was going to play out, either, when they got up and left their nets and their dad in the boat to follow Jesus.
But we do know.
We know that the story of the fishermen is going to include mistakes, failures, and incomprehension.
And we know that the story is also going to include mountaintop experiences. We know that the lame are going to walk, the hungry are going to be fed, the blind are going to see. We know that Jesus is going to bring new life in surprising ways and in the unlikeliest of places.
We know that the beautiful and amazing will arise not just on the mountain but in the wilderness; not just in the Temple but in a roadside ditch; not just among friends but among strangers and even enemies.
The story is going to end with God keeping God’s promises. I promise you, God said to Abraham. Do not be afraid for I am with you, God said to Isaac. I will be with you and will never leave you, God said to Moses. I am with you until the end of the age, Jesus said to those who followed him then and those who follow him now. Fear not, for I will be with you. Have courage. I’m sending you out to do things you might not think you can do, you might not want to do, but I will be with you, whether you go to another country or just across the breezeway.
And you will work wonders and see marvels there. You will be made strong for service and glad in praise because I have chosen you.
This is our story, too. It is a story that begins with risk-taking and ends with salvation. And the part in the middle? God is with us all the way, always ready to do a new thing in a new place.
So let us get up and leave this boat and follow, because it is time.