Today is Ash Wednesday and we begin our journey of Lent by remembering that we are dust and to dust we shall return, because without God we are nothing more than dust. The season of Lent calls us to reflect on our life and repent (New Testament Greek: Metanoia – means to change physical direction or change state of mind or thinking) from the way we want to live life and turn toward God to live as we are created to live. Honest prayer-filled reflection can lead to repentance that changes our heart, mind or direction.
This week I began to reflect on the call story of Simon Peter and Andrew because I see in their call story their willingness and trust they embody when they drop their nets and follow Jesus, no questions asked. As I reflected, I began to wonder the doubt and fear that may have crept into their hearts and minds as they drew closer to the final days with their Rabbi and Lord and I began to wonder did they ever think, “What have we gotten ourselves into!”
Their call story is in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 1:14-20). Simon Peter along with his brother Andrew had no idea what was about to unfold in their life. They were fishermen focused on fishing and providing for their family. Then one day their life trajectory changed; how they saw the world, their God and each other would change forever. Jesus called out to these fishermen by saying, “Come, follow me,” and they left their nets and followed. How easy was it for these two men to drop everything for a stranger? They literally dropped their nets, their livelihood, and the safety of their harbor to follow this new Rabbi. Scholars for many years have unpacked the statement “Come, follow me,” as “Come with me, you are the best of the best of the best, you have what it takes to be like me, to be better than me, come imitate my life”. A Jewish boy, traditionally, would attend the local Temple for many years and learn the Hebrew Scriptures. As the teachers, or fathers of the faith, (New Testament Greek: pedagogue), would teach them, they would pick the best of the class to send them further into more training and formation. By the time a Rabbi would utter the words, “Come, follow me,” the young boy would have spent years in the temple learning, memorizing, and understanding the Hebrew scripture and Hebrew traditions. So by the time one would hear a Rabbi’s call, “Come, follow me,” they would have known they were the best of the best of the best of the young boys in their town or district. This call came with pride, honor, and privilege, so when first century Hebrews accepted this call their heads were held high and they proudly followed their Rabbi. They would leave their family, friends, everything to follow their Rabbi, to learn everything that he did because when a Rabbi called out to you, the Rabbi was saying, “You have what it takes to be like me, to be better than me. Come and learn how to live life like me.” So the boys would follow and learn and begin to imitate everything their Rabbi did from going to Temple, cooking food, to bathing one’s body. Everything their Rabbi did they imitated.
Simon Peter, Andrew, and the other disciples all attended the temple and learned the scriptures, but they were sent home to learn their father’s trade because they were not the best of the best. So by the time Jesus gets to them they had the self-awareness that they did not make the cut and that they did not have what it took to be a follower, a disciple, because a Rabbi did not call on them to come and follow. This is why when Jesus calls out and says, “Come, follow me,” they do, no questions asked. They drop their nets and walk away from what they know into the unknown. All of the disciples did this. Jesus calls out to them and says, “Come, follow me,” and they do, no questions asked. This is an exciting time for the new disciples, they have been called. They have been told by Jesus, a Rabbi, that they have what it takes to do the things that Jesus does. So they follow Jesus through the highs and lows of ministry from healing the sick, preaching on the plain, even walking on water, watching and imitating their Lord.
This past Sunday (2/19/2012) we were standing on the mountain top experiencing the transfiguration of Jesus and even heard the voice of God again claiming Jesus as His own Son whom He loves. Peter, James, and John want to desperately stay on the mountain top with a dazzling bright Jesus. This is why Peter has the bright idea, pun intended, to build dwellings for them on top of the mountain. This is the high point of the ministry; of course you want to keep it at the top. Life cannot get any better we are on the mountain top with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. However, God’s plan was different than the one Peter was purposing, God’s will and vision for the life and ministry of his only son was much greater than him remaining a mountain top guru. Our Lord, our Rabbi, whose life was completely in line with his Father’s will, is constantly challenging and consistently pushing us into the future even though we may not like what we see on the horizon, pain, suffering, and even death. This means we must leave the mountain top experience behind us, trusting our exuberating exhilarating experience has given us enough grace and energy to traverse the valley before us.
This must have been a tough pill for Peter to swallow because now Jesus’ ministry is taking a turn. They will be going down the mountain and soon down into the grave. It seems that as humans, even the disciples who walked with Jesus, wanted to take the easy road. It seems to me this is still true today. We want to stay on the mountains because on the mountain life is easy and simple. And when life is easy and the Lord calls us by name and says, “Come, follow me,” we are more apt to drop our nets and go running down the beach to our Rabbi, our Lord and King. When the going is easy we proudly say, “HERE I AM LORD! Is it I Lord?”
However, we all know and have experienced that life is not always easy, life can be full and overwhelming, life is hard and during the tough times of life it is really hard to drop what is stable, even if what we hold on to harms us we cling ever tighter so that our life remains “stable”. It is during these times that we cling so tightly to the world that our hands are too full or clenching too tight to receive the blessings and gifts from God. We know this, we know the valleys of life are hard so who would want to go willingly into them. The Gospel is we are not alone. Jesus willingly goes into the valley of the shadow of death with us to be our lamp, to hold our hand, to carry us through the darkest places in life, therefore we are able to let go by opening our hands, minds and hearts to begin to see where God is leading us, caring for us and blessing us.
The reason why this call story grabs me as we head down the mountain because it seems to me when life or ministry gets hard we grab and cling to the nets of our life, we smother ourselves in the nets that surround and entangle us because they appear to be safe. The grim reality of the world is death is inevitable. Those same nets that we cling to for safety are the same nets that make us drown in our own sin. The good news in the new reality found in Christ Jesus is that God makes us new creations. We are made one with God through our baptisms into Christ Jesus. Through the out-poured-living water and spoken Word of God we are blessed to let go of the nets that separate us from God and cling instead to our LORD, our Creator, and Redeemer. We know the rest of the story; we know what is on the other side of that dark, dank tomb… Easter morning dawns, the tomb is empty, and the Lord is risen from the DEAD! The bondage that sin had over creation is destroyed and we are no longer bound to drown in a world of brokenness and death, rather by the grace of God we are raised up out of the hellacious waters of the world, washed clean and given new life in Christ Jesus so that we might LIVE. We are blessed and loved by God not for ourselves, we are blessed and loved so that through our life God might bless and redeem the rest of creation.
This Lenten season, stand tall, be proud of your faith, cling to the things around you that bring life. Acknowledge the nets that weigh you down… acknowledge the brokenness of your life… not to justify it or keep it from God… but once you are able to acknowledge your weakness then you are able let go and allow God to lift those nets from you.
May you know that Jesus has calls out to you and says come, follow me, you have what it takes to do the things that I do, lay down your nets and walk along side me my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Questions for reflection and devotion during this Lenten Season:
- Could God be calling you out of your safe harbor this Lenten Season?
- What nets do you easily drop for God and in what nets do you become entangled?
- After answering those, what might you be lifting to God or asking from God in prayer?
May the Lords name be praised in my meditations, words and deeds.
In the name of the Father, the Son + and the Holy Spirit, Amen!