Another “call” story for us this coming Sunday; this one written down for us by Mark (1.14-20). We also hear Jonah (3.1-5) answer his call to, “Get up and go to Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.” Jonah went bearing not so good news for the folks of Nineveh, but they responded to the message, better than the prophet probably thought they would, and their city was saved. And then there is Paul’s message to the Corinthians that they ought not rely too much on their relationships and the things of this world because, “The present form of this world will pass away.” Another way of saying, “All things will be made new.” Three short, yet stunning, stories for us to consider this Sunday, but Mark’s story about Jesus calling Andrew and Peter, and James and John is the story we are most familiar with and perhaps (I feel) although familiar in its “follow me” theme, this story is also a bit worrisome if we consider it is speaking to us today – the Spirit of the Word here has something to say to us, again.
Most people then, in the 1st century, like us today, were probably bound to (they were more able to) consider and follow Jesus in a general, by and large, here’s what I can do to help, manner. Twenty centuries later, ours is the same approach – we are more agreeable with following Jesus in general, than dropping everything to follow. We can’t. We won’t. Our lives are too general in their scope for us to consider one thing as “the” thing.
Here’s the good news, here’s the truth, here’s the thing: We don’t follow Jesus “in general” at all. Setting aside any out of reach biblical bench mark understanding of Mark’s story, and discerning the actual and well-defined ways one can follow, it becomes quite clear that we can and do say, “Yes,” we follow Jesus, and we do it “immediately.” We do work that helps. We work in healthcare. We become teachers. We go to school. We volunteer at the hospital, the Veterans Home, the library, Habitat for Humanity. We work for government agencies. For peace and justice. We “serve and protect.” We pick up trash along the highway; pick up someone who has fallen down. We look out for and listen to each other in times of need. We know when to step back into estranged relationships (without condition) helping, caring, when hope of forgiveness and reconciliation seemed lost. We are as generous as we can be with our money and time; even if it is spread thin, sometimes hardly enough. We encourage others when it is ourselves that need encouraging.
These “following Jesus in general” approaches are what is at the heart of being a Christian. “Being,” a Christian, not “becoming,” a Christian. It is about “trying” to imitate him,“trying” to obey the Way of Christ – try to embrace, forgiveness, love, compassion, inclusiveness – at least try to accept the call to grow one’s faith. That’s a good thing.