WALK TO JERUSALEM: Called to this Work

Scripture Text:  John 1: 1-4, 29-42
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people…The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o”clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

The writer of John’s version of the Gospel According to Jesus Christ presents this as a sort of “prelude” to Jesus’ ministry.  This passage begins by celebrating Jesus’ origins, tying them back to the very beginning of Creation, tying them back to the Creator of us all.  Then we are given a witness by John the Baptist attesting to who Jesus is, reminding us that this Jesus Christ is the one whose coming was announced by the angel, the one who was born years before in that dark grotto in Bethlehem, the one who he himself had baptized and who God’s Spirit had entered.  This was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Now it was time to begin the work.  This was Jesus’ calling to ministry.  And what did he do first?  He called others, saying, “Come and see…come and see what you haven’t seen before.”
Now I know that often when we talk about “calls” from God, many of us squirm in our seats a little. Calls are something that a lot of people limit to clergy. But as early as the Hebrew Scriptures, we read of a qara, which means to call, call out, recite, read, cry out, proclaim, or name. The word was used both as a summons or a general call as well as a specific election, the calling of someone to do a specific task that needed to be done. And, here’s the point—the call is to everyone. It is that voice, sometimes silenced by our busyness and our preconceptions, that is buried deep within our being. It is that voice that calls us to be who God created us to be.  But you will notice that God doesn’t just throw a blanket over humanity to see who will pick it up. And nowhere in the Bible does God really ask and wait for volunteers. The call to each of us is very unique and specific. God calls us to our own part of God’s creation, our own part of the Kingdom of God that is ours to build.  God calls us to walk this road to Jerusalem.

Note here that two disciples follow Jesus as a direct result of John’s witness. John showed them the light. And then two others are called. One is named Andrew we are told, who then gathers his brother Simon Peter. Both become disciples. But the other one that is called is unidentified here. We are not clear who this is. This anonymity is reflective of the writer’s understanding of discipleship as a broader vision. (In essence, the “other disciple” is us!) Discipleship is meant for all of us. Yes, all of us! And when Jesus calls us to follow, the answer is always “come and see”. You have to come and see for yourself. God calls, God names, and God calls each of us by name. Just, come and see!

So how do we respond? What does it mean to respond to our call from God? What does that look like? That calling is to each of us to become the part of God’s Creation that we are called to be. It is at the very center of who we are as followers of Christ. And nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of calls from God like “Hey, if you’re not too busy, on your way home from work, could you feed some homeless people?”  or “Listen, I don’t want you to inconvenience yourself, but when you have time, could you speak out against injustices in this world?” or (my favorite!) “OK, once you’ve “made it”, once you have all of the money that you need to be secure and you are completely adept at what I’m calling you to do, then, very carefully, so as not to make yourself uncomfortable, could you follow me?”  God does not call perfect people.  God calls us. 

The “called” life is one of tensions and convergences and wonderful coincidences that God melds together into a wonderful journey of being.  It seems that God is continually calling us into places and times that we’ve never been, constantly empowering us to push the limits of our “comfort zones”, to embark on a larger and more all-encompassing journey toward a oneness with God.  It seems that God always calls us beyond where we are and beyond where we’ve been, not to the places that are planted and built and paved over with our preconceptions and biases but, rather, to places in the wilds of our lives with some vision of a faint pathway that we must pave and on which we must trudge ahead.  Thomas Merton says that “there is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.”[i]  It is the image of God in each one of us that must be reclaimed and nurtured so that we might take part in bringing about the fullness of Creation, in bringing the Reign of God into its fullness.  Perhaps, then, the meaning of calling is not one in which we launch out and pursue a new life but is instead one that brings us to the center of our own life, one that brings us home, back to the womb, back to God.  T.S. Eliot says that “the end of all our exploring… will be to arrive where we started…and know the place for the first time.”[ii] 

So, back to the story.  This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  This is the beginning of his own walk and his own work.  We don’t usually think of Jesus being “called”.  We’re more comfortable just imagining him already there, as if he dropped into our lives already formed.  But that’s not the way it works.  God did not just plunk down into our human existence without any connection; rather, God in Jesus inserted the Divine Calling into a long, successive line of called ones–some who were ready and some who were not, some who went willingly to do what they were asked to do, and others who fought the fight of their lives to keep it from happening and lived to tell the tale of encountering God–and it keeps going.  So Jesus had to be called.  It’s what it’s about.  Jesus was formed and then called and then called others who called others who called others…well, you get the drift!  And one way or another, they responded.  Jesus was not the lone ranger.  And those that he called went.  They were nothing special–just ordinary people like you and me.  They were ordinary people asked to take on the work of discipleship and they ended up with a life that they never could have foreseen or imagined.  It is in the ordinariness of our lives that God calls us and asks us to join in the work, to join with Jesus Christ in this work of ministry, to walk with Jesus on this walk to Jerusalem.  Come and see!  It will be magnificent!  And the work has begun…
So, in this Lenten season, listen for where God is calling you and then…come and see!  Because that is the way to Jerusalem…
Grace and Peace,

[i] Wayne Mueller, How Then Shall We Live?  Four Simple Questions that Reveal the Beauty and Meaning of our Lives, (New York, NY:  Bantam Books, 1996), 3
[ii] T.S. Eliot in Pilgrim Souls: An Anthology of Spiritual Autobiographies, ed. by Amy Mandelker and Elizabeth Powers (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), 146

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