Sung Meditation: I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back. Amen.
A few years back, there was a management book on the best-seller list called, The Answer To ‘How’ is ‘Yes’. The premise of the book is that we get hung up on ‘how’ to do things- How can we attract more families to the church? How can we share the gospel of justice and transformation with those around us? How can I deepen my faith, improve my relationships with my family, my community…
We ask all these “how” questions as a way of avoiding the fact that we have never said ‘Yes’ in the first place. Our hearts aren’t convinced; our wills hesitate. We say ‘Yes, Yes’ with our mouths, dear, but it’s ‘No, No’ in our eyes. So instead of saying ‘Yes’ to God, and listening for our marching orders, we ask ‘How?’, and start listing all the reasons it won’t work.
“Well, how can we get people to google our website and facebook? Oh dear! Oh dear!” (Oh, I don’t know… start actively using it and inviting friends to check it out?) “How can we get new families into the church? Oh dear! Oh dear!” (Hm… Bring a new family to church some Sunday?) “How can we deepen our lives together to make a more alive community?” (Oh gosh, I just don’t know… show up and make a point of getting to know the people we don’t know well? ‘Yes’ is the heart that hears and responds. ‘How?’ is the heart that is deaf.
When we say, “Yes,” God takes us the next step of the way. When we say, “Let us think about it”, God leaves we where we are, thinking. Because God doesn’t care if we’re able; God just needs us avail-able: available for God’s purposes, which may not be our own.
Andrew and Peter are out in their boat fishing. That is their job; that’s how they make it in the world. They are fishermen. But Jesus doesn’t care that they’re fishermen. When Jesus calls them to follow, He isn’t calling them to help them catch more fish. He isn’t calling them to make them better, more productive netters. He is calling them to follow Him. God’s purposes, not theirs.
And if God is calling them to follow, the proper answer isn’t How, because we have no idea How. We don’t know what following will entail. The answer is either Yes or No.
If the answer is No, God says “Fine,” and leaves us there with our nets to perfect our skill at catching fish. If the answer is Yes, then God says “Wonderful. Put down your nets and come along.” Put away something we need, something we value…in order to seek something that we need and value more.
Getting married- means giving up our bachelor and bachelorette ways. We give up getting to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. We give up spending our money any way we wish. We give up not being accountable. Giving up bachelor and bachelorette-hood means giving up a lot.
If we do decide to take the plunge, we do it because we are seeking something we value more. Growing deep into an intimate relationship. Having someone to come home to every night. Having someone we can count on to love.
We give up one thing, because we value something else more. We don’t say, “Oh, how will I figure out how to be married!” We say, “Yes”, and then we live into what that means.
When Jesus calls us, He is calling us into an intimate, personal relationship with Him. That’s what Jesus was doing when He called the disciples: come, be a part of My life.
Now, we don’t marry strangers- at least not in this culture. We marry those we know deeply, and who know us deeply. This story of the calling of the disciples as we read it in Matthew, Mark and Luke doesn’t give any indication that Jesus even knew their names. There is no compelling reason why they should follow, except Jesus said so.
But this same story found in the Gospel of John gives a little different twist. In the Gospel of John, Andrew and a friend track Jesus down. They are curious about Him because their teacher, John the Baptist, has been talking about Him. So they go to Jesus, and then they go with Jesus, and by the end of the day, they’re convinced that Jesus is the Messiah.
So then Andrew brings Jesus to his brother Simon- and Jesus not only knows Simon’s name, but gives him a new name, his true name- Peter. Simon hadn’t known his real name until Jesus spoke it- but it resonated deep and true. This is who I am. I am Peter, the Rock. And Peter left his life and followed Jesus- just like that.
It makes all the world if the person who is calling us knows our name. It makes even more difference if they can help us hear our true name as if for the first time. And when we follow, we begin to live into our new name. When we follow, we become what we were meant to be.
When I was torturing myself about whether or not I should marry Dick, my friend Laurel broke the deadlock when she said, “Nansi, when you are with Dick, you are more truly yourself than I have ever seen you before.” It was like that when I said Yes to Jesus: I came to know myself more truly than I had ever known before. And then I started to become something that I had never even imagined. I became Me.
To ignore Jesus’ call is to become whatever it is the culture has molded us to be. To hear Jesus’ call is to become what God has always intended us to be: alive and our true selves. Who, hearing the call of life, would choose to turn away? Helen Keller, born blind, deaf and mute, recalled her defining moment of insight in her autobiography, The Story of My Life:
“My teacher brought me my hat,” she wrote, “and I knew I was going out into the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless sensation may be called a thought, made me hop and skip with pleasure. We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of honeysuckle. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over my hand, she spelled into (my other hand) the word Water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten- a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that in time could be swept away. I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me.”
She followed her teacher Anne Sullivan everywhere. Do you remember the movie “The Miracle Worker”? Following her teacher, searching out her teacher’s hand. What is this name? What is this name?
To hear Anne’s message through her fingers was how Helen Keller became alive. Who, hearing the call of life, would choose to turn away?
When we start to follow Jesus, it’s not because we ought to, or because our lives will be better, or because we’re off to change the world. When we start to follow Jesus, it’s because we somehow feel more truly ourselves than we have ever known ourselves before. And we don’t say How, but Yes.
Friends, what life would we be willing to leave, in order to come into this new life? If we turn a deaf ear to this call, then something inside us dies. But if we hear… hear and respond, hear and obey the calling on our lives, then something inside us comes to life.
And it’s not that we’re going to be better… fishermen, or carpenters, or fathers or mothers or workers, or whatever else we use to define ourselves.
It’s that we become alive… and when we’re alive, God can change the world. Dear friends, what would we be willing to leave behind in order to become alive? The world is filled with distractions and excuses which keep us from life. And sometimes a decision is required of us as to which life we plan to live. And by the way, not deciding is in fact to decide, because Maybe is just another word for No.
But when we say Yes, when we decide to follow Jesus, then we become alive in a way we never imagined before. Because the answer to How is Yes.
I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.
In the Name of the One who calls us today, and will never let us go; even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Resources: Helen Keller, The Story of My Life
Scripture for Jan. 21, 2018
…Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the message of God: “Now’s the time! God’s kingdom is here! Turn around and believe God’s good news!” Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular job. Jesus called out to them, “Come with me and I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions; they just dropped their nets and followed. A dozen yards or so down the beach, Jesus saw the brother James and John, old Zebedee’s sons. There were in their boat mending their fishnets. Right off, Jesus made them the same offer He gave to Andrew and Peter, and right off, they left their father Zebedee, their boat and the hired hands, and followed Jesus.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.