Calling

Day 27

Calling

‘So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.’

Luke 5:11

Found in  Luke 5:1-11  Matthew 4:18-22 and Matthew 9:9-13

The thing is, underneath it all, so often we’re not sure. Not sure who we are, not sure that we’re valuable, not sure where to place our feet in all this whirling world. Who am I? What on earth and I here for? What does it all mean? Questions as comfortably discomforting as old slippers, familiar, well trodden. Questions that lurk in the corridors of our minds ambushing us just when we begin to feel we’ve got it all figured out. There must be more than this… Is there more than this?

From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Matthew 4:17

Jesus messes everything up. Let’s get that clear from the very beginning. When the real Jesus walks into our lives, the grit of Galilean dust fresh on the soles of His sandals and the light of eternal purpose in His eyes, well, He messes everything up. All our neat ideas of a rational, sensible life, a comfortable Sunday morning Christianity, a nice arms length separation between faith and life, religion and living, ideals and practice. Trashed. Totalled.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.” Matthew 4:18

Simon and Andrew were fishermen. James and John were fishermen. It’s what they did. It’s what their fathers did, and (in traditional communities) most probably what their father’s father’s did before them. Life was organised, straightforward, easy. Their identities were stitched to their trades with unbreakable threads of familiarity. They were living through a story script given them by years, years of tradition, family expectation and culture. They knew each line by heart, lived each line by breath, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Their script was them, they were their script. They were fishermen. End of story.

Fish, Kintyre, ScotlandFishing Nets, Campbelltown, ScotlandFishing Boat, Campbelltown, ScotlandIMGP2606

And then in walks this Jesus, with a new story alight in his eyes. A new story from before time was written down, the story of a human vocation in partnership with God, not just a job.

‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’” Matthew 4:19

“Follow me” He says, as if that were a normal thing to say. Two words. Innocent, unassuming. Life changing. Two explosive words with power to rewrite a person’s life, to somehow make you understand that the story you’ve been living has been all backward. It wasn’t a story at all, but a script.

With just two words, Jesus is calling them out of the safety of their self-constructed identities into their true selves; Out of their jobs into their true vocations as children of God. Because our true identity is never about a job we do or even a family we belong to; our true and enduring identity is that we are children of God, and our true vocation, is the love of God and partnership with Him in the bringing of our unique gifts into this world to make change, Kingdom change.

A life built on anything less… well, we know it…we know those lines by heart and the clanging emptiness within that they produce. We will always be silently longing for the ‘something more’ until we have the courage to actually live it. And the something more we long for… is more of God and more of the adventure He calls us into.

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And sometimes it feels like we are not good enough, not smart enough, not holy enough, not strong enough…just not enough. Like Simon Peter recorded in the book of Luke falling at Jesus’ feet (Luke 5:8) telling Jesus not to expect too much from him, a sinner who has never been good enough.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’” Luke 5:8

That’s the thing though isn’t it. It’s not the together and the holy and the experts Jesus is calling. It’s we who know enough to know we are nothing without Him. He is our enough. Repentance is essential in discovering our calling in God, because some of us, most of us, all of us, have at some point been on the wrong path. The only way to find the right path is to turn. Turn and trace our way back, following Jesus’ voice as He calls us. Home to Him. Home to ourselves. Home to the story we were born to live with Him.

“Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him”. Luke 5:10-11

At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:20

boat and flowers, Orford, Tasmaniaflowersboat and flowers, Orford

The first step in finding our true vocation is not to look around for the life we want to live, but to look for Jesus and to follow Him. Knowing our vocation doesn’t start with knowing where we are going and having all our spiritual and theological ‘ducks in a row’. It starts with Jesus’ voice calling, “follow me” and our footsteps placed inside of His.

We may well have no idea where He is taking us or what it will mean. But we can be sure that where ever He is leading He will be leading us home to our real self, our fully-filled, fully alive self. Human. Imago Dei.  We only discover who we truly are and what we are truly capable of when we get out of the boat, and follow Him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:21-22

And it can be a leaving and a wrenching, and a tearing apart of all we thought life would be. It can mean  leaving home, leaving family, leaving comfort, leaving the appearance of a sensible life, leaving the ideas in our head of what we thought the future was meant to look like.

'On the edge of the open sea' Tasmaniacallingfootprints

And this new story, it can feel so foreign at first, like leaving the boat, rocking the boat, launching out into the deep. 

Our old identity, our job description-describing-us, propping up our sense of self… it feels so real. So comfortable. Our true vocation may even feel at odds with our own worldly identity, not because it is a mismatch, but because we have been so misinformed and twisted by life that we simply do not know who we truly are.

He didn’t know who he truly was, this other one Jesus called. Not a fisherman, hardworking and respectable. But a Tax collector, contemptible. Sold out. Suspicious. His script was like a social cage, isolating him, lining his pockets but shrivelling his soul. But it was familiar. His script was him, he was his script. He was a Tax collector. End of story.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.” Matthew 9:9a

And then in walks this Jesus, with a new story alight in his eyes. A new story from before time was written down, the story of a human vocation in partnership with God, not just a job.

“‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9b

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“Follow me” He says, as if that were a normal thing to say. Two words. Innocent, unassuming. Life changing. And it feels like a resurrection, like a healing breath of air, a CPR to a soul that had suffocated in social isolation, sin and self doubt for years. Matthew gets up and follows, leaving his old script lying by the dusty village roadside. And a new story begins.

He writes this new story down, this one-time tax collector now for-all-time follower, and it becomes a book, a part of a book that would one day change the world.

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And, Matthew, when he writes his story down, he frames it, names it clearly as he felt it; he was not just called, he was healed. Matthew places the story of his own calling carefully in the midst of two chapters of miraculous healings. When Jesus called him into his vocation with those two small words “Follow Me” He called him into wholeness, into hope, into healing.

The word used for ‘got up’ in verse nine ‘and Matthew got up and followed him’ is commonly translated ‘resurrection’1. He didn’t just get up out of his seat, he got up out of a dead life, and became resurrected, fully alive again. Matthew’s calling was for him a resurrection story!

All the years of going through the motions, playing the part, faking it til you make it, they all crumble into dust at the feet of this Jewish Rabbi.  Jesus’ calling is not about work but about becoming fully alive, fully human once more.

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And of course the religious establishment wasn’t impressed. They criticise Jesus for hanging out with such riffraff, with the contemptible people who have worked too long and too hard for the emptiness of wealth at the expense of themselves.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” Matthew 9:10-11

Jesus, He says it as He sees it…

“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Luke 9:12-13

And aren’t we all the sick sometimes? Sick of a life possessed by possessions, sick of empty ambition and driving anxiety. We were not created for emptiness. It doesn’t sit right with us because it isn’t right for us. We were created, each one of us for a grand adventure in partnership with God, a unique vocation making Kingdom change, meaningful, healing change for others.  And God loves it. It is worship, our work with Him in His Kingdom.

So, where are you now?

What story are you living?

You are a ……………..? End of story?

And then in walks Jesus, His brown eyes are meeting yours, alight with purpose, alive with love. And it can feel like stepping out of a boat, an old fishing boat, and placing your foot firmly on water. It can feel like putting down your nets, pulling your boat onto the shore, leaving them all behind.

“Come,” He says, “Follow Me. Launch out into the deep…”

calledBoat and grassUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1a25

Journey Further

How has Jesus been saying ‘Follow Me’ to you lately?

What has your answer been?

What boats have you not yet stepped out of and left behind you on the shore?

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References, Notes and Credits

1Tom Wright, Notes on Matthew 9, ‘The For Everyone Series: Matthew’  SPCK Publishing 2002

All Biblical quotations are from the NIV Bible UK version (NIVUK) unless otherwise stated. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

All photos taken by Liz Campbell in Orford, Tasmania  and Campbelltown, Scotland and Old Fort Bay, Jamaica.

boat and sunset

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