A Sermon for Covenant
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
January 22, 2012
Life is messier with a dog than without one. So the Renfro household has discovered. Especially when she is a stray dog who goes into heat a week after you adopt her. But alas, it was love at first sight, so I can’t really complain. Some decisions just make life more complicated, but you choose them anyway and live with the consequences.
Following Jesus is certainly one of those complications. If you drop your livelihood to follow him, then how on earth will you eat? No one really knows, but some people follow anyway. They say he can take two fish and make a thousand, but let’s be honest—the fishing nets are more consistent. They say he can multiply loaves of bread, but that’s not really reliable enough to count on when you’re preparing your budget. The issue isn’t so much whether miracles are possible, but whether they are probable when you need them. The problem is that the bread loaf explosion in Scripture only occurred once, maybe twice, but people go hungry every day. You can’t just walk away from a sensible, practical approach to life in order to gallivant with Jesus across the countryside. Of course not. It’s simply not sensible.
And yet, Mark tells us that some people did it anyway. Simply dropped their nets, in the blink of an eye, and followed him. I want to know why.
Or maybe . . . How? How did they just rise up and run after him like that . . . ?
Or maybe what I really want to know is . . . What kept them from coming back home? Why didn’t they run back after they realized how difficult it would be or after they realized they were all gonna die and Jesus would be first?
I suppose, in a strange way, it was love at first sight. Some decisions just make life more complicated, but you choose them anyway and live with the consequences . . . and there’s nothing quite like love to inspire insanity.
But I do not suspect it was the gushy, heart-warming kind of love. I mean, when Jesus showed up at the fishermen’s boats, he had a strange look about him, his delivery was abrupt, and no one knew which rumors about him were true. But I imagine there was this sort of Spirit-love that hovered around him and reeked of something genuine and life-altering, mysterious and compelling. It drew them in and demanded that they trust him, before they had time to weigh the pros and cons.
This story always fascinates me—the way they drop their nets and follow without hesitation. Perhaps because it is so hard to believe. I never could have been a disciple—not because I don’t love Jesus, not because I wouldn’t have wanted to learn from Jesus like a Rabbi’s apprentice. I never could have been a disciple because I just don’t have the guts to be that spontaneous—to leave my whole livelihood and my home in a split second to try something I know nothing about. I am far too responsible to be a disciple.
Their behavior in this story is just so downright shocking I want to believe this is out-of-character—that the disciples prior to meeting Jesus were not irresponsible men. Imagine Jesus, picking irresponsible, irrational, home-abandoning, job-quitting people for his team? Certainly not. Something must have happened to make the disciples suddenly choose what made no sense from the surface. I mean, do they even know who Jesus is? We know from the rest of the book of Mark that it will take Jesus’ entire ministry for the disciples to even start to get it, so what did they possibly understand at the very beginning to cause this sudden and drastic leap of faith?
To my chagrin, either nothing special happened, or the Bible doesn’t tell us. Jesus merely said, “Follow me,” and they followed. The story takes up all of five verses. 2 ½, really, seeing as the same scenario is repeated twice and without a satisfying explanation in either case.
This story fascinates me and disturbs me all at once. Is the point that Jesus just might up and call me to something without giving me a proper explanation, not even so much as a promise that things will turn out okay? Or is the point that when the call comes, something unexplainable will make my following possible?
Let me add that if we make this story about two options only—stay a fisherman or follow Jesus—then we’ve reduced its power. There are a thousand ways to follow Jesus, and all that’s needed is the creative capacity to detect unusual calls:
This blogger I read is becoming hugely popular insanely fast. Advertisers have started contacting her, offering to pay her for advertising space on her blog. But she refuses any money, writing: “One of the purposes of this blog is to prove that things exist that are not for sale. That money and efficiency and publicity and popularity might not be the answers. Our goal is to go deep here, not wide. We are collecting hearts, not exposure, and certainly not cash.”*
This guy I know just took a part-time job, instead of full-time one, because he realized there are some things in life more important than making money, and a full-time job would have prohibited him from some of the Really Important Things he wants to do—of course, he has to live in a small house, sell his T.V., and give up some other pleasures to make it possible, but from what I hear, it’s worth it.
There are dads I know who play with their kids more than they watch sports; there are spouses who choose faithfulness even when they are afraid the spark may be lost forever. There are kids at school who choose kindness over bullying and moms at home who choose service over self-indulgence.
There are a thousand ways that people abandon nets and follow after that crazy prophet from Nazareth—in this room alone, dozens of calls are represented, and I’d venture at least half of you are right on the cusp of hearing something new and your grip on that net is already loosening.
The way I see it, most days I go quietly about my business, responsibly tending to life in the ways I know how. But on some occasions, Jesus will spot me and think that I am right for the task. He’ll tell me so, and it will put fear in my stomach and courage in my heart. If I waver too long, I’ll chalk the whole thing up to passing indigestion and turn back to my boat, like a responsible adult who has outgrown her proclivity for imagination and adventure. But if I take just one step forward, at the first hint of his voice, I might surprise myself by dropping my nets of sensibility altogether and embarking on a journey of wonders.
The way will be tough and the dangers will abound, but heck, something got me to go this far, that is, to leave the boat and that was pretty far to travel for a security-addicted girl like me, so I suppose, I might as well keep going and follow this man to the end. Amen.