I wonder if Peter, Andrew, James and John felt the same way in Jesus’ presence. What compelled them to drop everything - nets, lives, families and follow him. Was it his eyes, his presence, or the way he gently said “follow me” It spoke to something deeper, that made them want to jump up on that counter next to him, and see their reflection next to his.
Maybe it was the way he gently extended his hand to people used to being slapped. How he touched when others recoiled, embraced when others pushed away. The way he never missed a chance to forgive. His behavior was so unusual, so life altering, that they could not believe he was calling them.
An author wrote these men were haunted and hounded day-in and day-out by His beauty, a beauty ever-ancient, ever-new. They fell in love with his love, they were touched by a love that transcends time. And they said yes. Come follow me? Imagine that question directed at you, with all its implications.
I have been deeply thinking of the call of Jesus and I asked “what does it mean to be a Christian?” Do we walk like him, act like him, and talk like him? Do we follow him?
We watched in horror at the tragedy in Tucson. The depths of sadness for lives lost and those irrevocably changed. Yet, despite the pain, there is an underlying prodding encouraging more hatred. The press reminds us of gun targets over the face of the congresswomen, the tension rises.
Political operatives on both sides point the accusatory finger at one another. This is your fault! Politicians invoke the Lord’s name within the context of a political speech, yet nothing seems to change. I think of the face of that young child, her innocence, dreams, now a family’s pain, and the realization the one who pulled the trigger, was at one time a child with dreams that somehow lost all hope.
Saturday night, the television a broadcast of Saving Private Ryan. Images of Omaha Beach - despair, blood and death. A dying 18 years old cries for his mother. The realization that German and American alike was once someone’s child and now they sit on a cold cliff, afraid, wishing they were somewhere else. Praying to the same God, asking for the same hope, safety, the same peace. What at one time seemed entertainment or history begins to affect me physically. I became tense and angry, I cannot watch.
And then Monday, the life of a young man who spoke of God, justice, love and peace. Black and white images of people working together to bring about the Promised Land. I have a dream followed by the image of young preacher sprawled on a hotel balcony, a bloody towel held to his forehead. TV silence and then a commercial of Kobe Bryant and a young girl holding guns, interactively shooting an unknown enemy, promoting a video game where the objective is the more kill as many people as possible.
Harmless games, politicians attacking one another, children and senior programs being cut to save political face, families torn apart because of an invisible border. You want to scream “where are you Jesus” The question is far too easy. The difficult question should be, “where are the Christians?” I know you are around, There are 30 channels are devoted to salvation and preachers. I can drive by Churches and see parking lots full. My inbox is loaded with messages testing my faith if only I will forward this message.
What is our call? Those simple, uneducated men dropped their nets and followed Jesus because they knew he was the light in a dark world. Maybe they could be different, that maybe they could make a difference in the world. Those smelly nets they held in their hands not only represented their profession, the nets represented their lives, doubts about God, insecurities, prejudices, hatred, a narrow view of the world. Yet, when Jesus said, follow me, they dropped them.
Andrew, Peter, John and James realized that in Jesus, the rotting old way was not good enough. They were now willing to break the rules, cross the lines, they found a truth that lives, moves and breathes, a truth that they could believe in. They were swept off their feet crazy in love with this man. The dropped their nets and answered him.
Jesus did not say “worship me” he said “follow me.” Because he knew that if they followed him they would understand that everyone was welcome and loved. Age made no difference; young and old were healed. The poor mattered equally as the rich. How he touched the Roman Centurion, and those who hated the Romans. No one was a stranger in his presence.
They watched in amazement at how he gently embraced those with mental illness and held the lonely and hurting. The tender way he pulled those who doubted him close to his heart. Imagine their reaction when he cupped the face of the Prostitute in his hands and stroked the rotting legs of the leper.
He was like no one else who ever walked the earth. They wanted to lean against him and see their face, their reflection next to his. They wanted to walk like him, act like him, talk like him, and they did. And guess what, they changed the world. I ask myself, what is my call? I live in this world, I call myself a Christian.
The words of Christ, his actions are so profound and transformative that we should fall in love with him daily. We should be caught up and called out. Like the words of the song Deeper and deeper, it was love that made me a believer. In more than a name, a faith, a creed, falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me.
As Jesus walks in our world today, calling out, "follow me” his message has not changed and it is just as relevant in our fractured world today. When we see our reflections next to his, and we act like him, those small actions in tiny spaces around us, heal a fractured world. We accept that he welcomes Republicans, Democrats and Independents. He loves Christian radicals and Muslim extremists, gang members, devout monks, drug addicts, and moralistic preachers. And maybe, we begin to do the same thing.
We stare in amazement at his love for the immigrant sneaking into the country in the dark of night, and the militia members who punctures their buckets of water. How we wraps his arms around the alcoholic, the physical abuser and those who cower in their presence. The way he loves you and me. As a philosopher wrote, “Once you know Him, you cannot be cured of Him." Knowing him, you understand the common love and bond that binds each of us together. A love that knows no divisions, only similar faces reflected in the mirror. And if we see each other, if we see Christ, we change the world.
In my 46 years, I have not stopped child abuse or hunger. I have not convinced some followers of Christ that no one is excluded from God’s love or table. I have a short temper and hold long grudges. There is still homelessness, poverty, or hateful rhetoric.
But I can easily drop the nets and try. Jesus tells us that each day is a new day.
Small little acts against hate, violence, division can change the world. Like an enormous spider web, if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling. When we drop those nets, our hands fill with outreach, compassion, forgiveness, and love. We smell not our old lives, but the fragrance of creativity, peace, and acceptance. We make this Sunday romance into a daily passionate love affair with Christ.
“Follow me." Simple fishermen responded to the call, they were smart enough to run to his side. Our hands are filled with the nets of life. Will I, will you hold them, or jump on that counter, lean against him, see your reflection next to his, and then begin walk like him, act like him and talk like him. Only you can make that choice.