Saturday, January 21, 2012


Mark 1:14-20 is useful for any preacher who is looking for that picture of the ideal response of every person to the call of Jesus. When the voice of Jesus calls, we should drop everything and respond. Anyone involved in the work of the church, myself included, dreams of the situation where when you ask someone to participate in some ministry or work…or better yet, when individuals see opportunities for ministry or work within the church that needs to be done…they will immediately drop everything and respond with a selfless enthusiasm. How perfect. How ideal. How totally unrealistic.

Let’s think about some things. What happened to Simon’s family? We know he was married as we have opportunity to meet his mother-in-law. How did they survive after he left the boats? And Andrew…well it was probably a family business so the parents were also dependent on the work of their sons. Then there is poor old Zebedee who sees his sons James and John drop everything (nets included) to follow Jesus and leave Zebedee in the boat with the hired men. Now he has to manage the whole operation on his own. Their action, though noteworthy and noble, seems somewhat selfish and impractical.

Sadly it is true…it is just not practical to follow Jesus. Wasn’t back then…isn’t today. To follow Jesus adds pressure to our already pressured and stress-filled lives. Life is to complicated. Life is crowded. How can anyone be expected to follow Jesus like that? Leave everything? Surely you can follow Jesus and still keep your day job and the house and the shack at the beach and the cars and the movies, restaurants,…oh and don’t forget the wife, husband and children. Or can you? Or are you using these more practical concerns to cover over very real fears…of loss, failure, looking the fool, having to give up life-style or possessions, or simply moving out of a personal comfortable life? Now these are questions only you can answer.

Jesus has called each one of you to follow Him. To some the call means physical discomfort and sacrifice while working in foreign mission fields or among the homeless and the poor of Australia. To some the call will lead to sacrifices in the world of business and personal wealth and success as you live out the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus in your chosen career. To some the call leads to building a lifestyle…within a family group or as an individual…which expresses faith in Jesus in word, action and attitudes everyday. To some the call leads to attending Seminary or Bible College in preparation for entering full time ministry in the church. The variations are endless.

The call to be a disciple of Jesus is an individual one and even though the call itself is lived out in the community of the church ultimately you are personally answerable to God alone with regard to how you answered that call. So the question of whether your response seems practical or selfish from a human perspective is not of primary importance. Most certainly you need to discuss personal callings with other mature Christians. Keep in mind that if Jesus calls you to a specific ministry or work within His church, His expectation is that like the disciples you will drop everything and come…without hesitation and without any practical considerations. We have in the stories from the life of Jesus the account of several who desired to be disciples but were also practical people…bury the dead, say goodbye to the family, possessors of great wealth…but these practicalities became stumbling blocks which prevented them from serving as disciples and providing useful service in the kingdom of God and in some cases from entering the Kingdom of God themselves.

When Jesus called people to be his disciples…some were called to leave everything and everyone to follow. Others were simply directed to return to their homes and villages and there tell the good news of His coming. Others never received a personal invitation from Jesus, but attracted by His teaching responded with lives of faith and service for Him. In each case what Jesus sought was the positive response…the willingness to obey…to go or to follow as He called them.

And so I must confess that like many other preachers love this text for the very simple and straightforward teaching it gives.

When Jesus calls you, answer in the affirmative or miss out on the opportunity to follow him. For Jesus calls people not so much for what they are, as for what He is able to make them if they are prepared to obey and follow Him.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

All too easy...

A couple of thoughts on the encounter between Jesus, Philip and Nathanael recorded in John 1:43-51. It seems all too easy in some ways.

To Philip, Jesus simply says "Come with me!" A straight forward invitation. No interview. No CV. No theological examination. Just 'come'. Philip then goes to Nathanael and simply says "Come and see.". Another invitation. No six point presentation of the Gospel message. No words of comfort about grace accompanied by words of warning about hell. No high pressure salesmanship. Just 'come'. Too easy.

But then when I think about difficult is it to follow Jesus?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The gifts we bring...

There is an old joke about the visit of the Wisemen as recorded for us in Matthew 2:1-12. Wisemen bring gifts. Wise women would have brought casseroles.

Though some might see it as sexist, I think it also shines a light on an interesting topic. What do I bring to worship the Christ-child?

The Wisemen's gifts seem lavish, costly and rich. Anything I bring pales in comparison. As consequence, I am tempted to believe that I have nothing to offer or what I do have is of little value. This is where the wise women come in. The joke reminds us that for all the value of the Wisemen's gifts, the wise women bring that which is practical and necessary for survival in the home and family with a new born child. I need only think back to when our first child was born and all the upheaval that his arrival brought to our home and family. Though we valued the precious gifts of Christening mugs and silver crosses and baptismal plaques and toys, what was of most help and met our immediate needs were frozen dinners and pots of soup. Offers of housecleaning and garden maintenance as we struggled to make the necessary adjustments to our lives with a newborn.

The story of the Wisemen is about bringing your gifts to Christ, whatever those gifts may be. And though gold and frankincense and myrrh were valuable commodities and pointed in a prophetic way to what lay ahead for this child, I am sure that the practical family support that surrounded Jesus, Joseph and Mary at this time was of more practical value and just as precious. In the same way, our simple gifts of daily compassion, service and love are richly treasured by God and of great value in the service of his kingdom...even if no one else notices the gifts we bring.