Friday, February 6, 2015

Phone's Ringin' Dude

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

The ringing phone in the movie The Big Lebowski drives me nuts. It rings and rings and The Dude and his friends ignore it. Usually when a phone rings, we stop everything to answer it--or at least see who it is calling. Phones have this mysterious power to get our attention and compel us to action. We've all seen someone frantically searching through their bag to retrieve a ringing phone. If you're old enough, you probably remember everyone in the house stopping what they were doing or hollering "I'll get it" and running to the ringing phone on the wall. I'm sure there's some Pavlovian stimulus-reward thing that happens in our brain to make us want to interrupt what we are doing to answer the phone.

In the story, the disciples don't ignore the call. In fact, they drop everything to follow Jesus. When we read this passage, this is what we focus upon, the disciples answering the call. We usually frame it as obedience. We tend to skip over the first part of the passage. 

After all, we've heard Jesus opening sermon a bunch of times. We know Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 

But I wonder, is this call story intended to be an illustration of that gospel message? Could it be that the disciples are showing us that repentance is part of being called?  To answer Jesus' call we have to turn away from what we are doing? Is it possible that Simon (Peter) and Andrew, and James and John are acting out Jesus sermon? After all Jesus "comes near" and the four men change everything about their lives. They repent or turn from what they were doing and follow Christ.

When most of us hear that we need to repent, we think that we need to feel sad and sorry for the things we have done. And sometimes we should. But repentance can also mean having a change of mind or a change of heart. It can mean turning away from something good and toward something better. We can repent without having to beat ourselves up.

At a recent presbytery meeting, we were sitting at a table talking about what formed our faith. There was a 85-year-old-man named Ed who sat across from me. Ed has been the clerk of session at his church for 45 years.

I thought that maybe I hadn’t heard him right and so I asked, “Did you say 4 or 5 or did you say forty-five?”

And he indeed said 45.

But, he said, the real thing that formed his faith happened when he had trouble catching his breath about 20 years ago. Before he knew it, he was in the hospital, on life support as a 65-year-old man. He needed a heart transplant. He spent day after day being kept alive by machines. His wife rented a hotel room to be close to him as his time wound down.  Then it happened. They found a donor. At that point the doctors weren’t sure the surgery and the new heart would be enough to save him.  But it was.

Ed had a change of heart. He had the heart of an 18-year-old put in his chest and with it a new appreciation of God.

God came near him, he felt, and literally changed his heart. It drew him closer to God and gave his service to the church new meaning.

In light of our gospel story today, we can see this is a kind of repentance. It’s a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of outlook. It’s turning toward God, discovering the kingdom of God that has come near and seeking to live into it.

This doesn’t mean we don’t sin. We do. But, it does mean that we spend our time looking forward in hope instead of to the past with regret.  We don’t let our past mistakes define us, but rather the new world of the gospel into which Jesus calls us. 

Jesus said repent and believe the good news. That’s exactly what the disciples did. They turned away from the life that they knew and turned toward Jesus. They turned away from the things that they understood to things they did not know. They turn from the things that separate them from Jesus and turn toward Jesus.

What are the things that were keeping them from Christ? Horrible sins? Shame? Dark secrets?

Maybe. But the Bible doesn’t tell us that. The Bible simply tells us they turn away from their jobs and families to follow Jesus.

Is this because jobs and families are bad?  No.  But Jesus wants to show the disciples there is more to life and love than they might be experiencing where they were. As the disciples walk with Jesus they learn what that good news is about.

In her devotional book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young gives Jesus’ call a modern voice:

Come to me with a teachable spirit eager to be changed,” Jesus is saying in the opening of the book. “A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness. Do not cling to old ways as you step into this New Year. Instead seek My Face with an open mind…As you focus your thoughts on Me, be aware that I am fully attentive to you. I see you with a steady eye because My attention span is infinite. My thoughts embrace you in everlasting love.”

The phone’s ringin’. Jesus is calling you. 

I suspect it might be Good News.

No comments:

Post a Comment