Between Christmas and New Years I was able to take some time off which afforded me the luxury of doing quite a bit of reading. My reading pattern is that I read part of one thing that makes me curious about another thing that makes me curious about another and along the way I accumulate numerous titles to go back to and finish. Vacation week was no exception. But, one topic in my reading adventures really stuck with me – the idea of equipping.
Christian worship can serve a number of functions. As I say when I open worship, I hope that our worship provides a way for people to experience God and helps them explore their relationship with the divine. I also hope that it’s a place where people find comfort and gather strength and inspiration. But I’m not sure I’ve given much thought to how worship my equip us to live Godly lives.
As I’ve considered this, I’ve realized I am hesitant to posit any one way to “equip” people to live lives that honor God. As someone who came of age as 24 hour news was making its debut and globalism was beginning to creep into every crevice of our being – I have a very hard time giving “definitive” answers to much of anything. Questions on the other hand – seem like they could be useful – so that’s where I am today.
This morning’s reading is often a familiar one for those who have spent time in the Christian church. Jesus begins his public ministry by calling the disciples. Digging into the passage, there is much to consider. Jesus has gone to live in Capernaum, which from all accounts of commentaries sounds a bit like the equivalent of going to live in the County except you have to travel there by donkey and the only method of staying in touch with anyone you can’t see in person is through hand carried letters.
I think what comes next is odd – Jesus walks up to fisherman, tells them that they should follow him and he will send them to fish for people and off they go. The text suggests they just walk away from everything and begin following Jesus around.
This raises so many questions for me – how well did they know Jesus? What else was going on in their lives? What was it about this invitation that was irresistible?
Unfortunately, we can only speculate about the answers to those questions and I’m not sure the answers will necessarily equip you to follow Jesus. But here’s what I do think is clear from this passage – Jesus emphasizes a focus on relationships. The disciples are saying yes to a life that will focus on interactions with other people.
There are a couple of places where I think this scripture sometimes trips us up. First, you might think you have to abandon what you currently do to follow Jesus in the way that the disciples did. And second, you may think that fishing for people requires you to impose your personal beliefs on others and hence you’re not interested.
Here’s my response. Not everyone who encounters Jesus in the Bible drops what they are doing and starts following him around. I do not believe that’s the point of this passage. And, for you good New England Christians who are squeamish about evangelism, I don’t believe that this passage is a commandment to invite people to accept Jesus into their hearts.
Instead, what if we thought about this passage as invitation to consider what our relationships should look like if they are informed by our understanding of God and Jesus. So here come the equipping questions:
What qualities do you think are important in your relationships with others?
Is there a particular area that you can identify that might need work – what might you do to help yourself improve?
I love the way scholar David Lose sums up this passage. He says,
Jesus called ordinary people right in the middle of their ordinary lives to be in relationship with the ordinary people all around them and through that did extraordinary things … and he still does.1
And Lose’s quick guide to the kinds of relationships Jesus represents:
bearing each other’s burdens, caring for each other and especially the vulnerable, holding onto each other through thick and thin, always with the hope and promise of God’s abundant grace.
So this morning, in addition to hoping that our time together this morning inspires you to live love, I also hope that our time together equips you to live love. That you know a little more about what living love looks like and that you take that knowledge with you and let it inform every relationship in your life.
May God bless us on this journey. Amen.