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January 22, 2018
Mark’s Gospel for this Sunday tells of Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and observing fishermen at their work. He calls out to several of them, invites them to follow him, and they go with him. The pair of brothers, Simon and Andrew, and a second pair of brothers, James and John, don’t pause to discuss the relative benefits of following Jesus versus continuing the work that is their source of livelihood. They don’t say that they will give it serious consideration and get back to him tomorrow with their decision; they don’t ask anyone’s permission to leave. They simply put down their nets and go with him. He had called and they were willing to be among the first to join his band. They were clueless about what they were getting into, but that did not seem to bother them.
Why would they do such a thing? It is entirely possible that Jesus was no stranger to them. They may have heard him at some point prior to the day he invited them; the gospel does not necessarily tell the whole backstory to this incident, but it does make clear that Jesus invited these men personally. It was not a “y’all come” invitation given to a crowd. No, these men experienced a special, personal call from Jesus. Simon and Andrew, James and John were simple folk, laborers, who were not members of the financially secure or influential upper class, but they had ample experience with fishing; they knew the best way to handle nets, how to work on challenging seas and how to respond to varying weather conditions. In their comfort sphere they were capable, hard-working laborers who served their community and who lived ordinary lives. They may have already heard something about this man, and now he was inviting them to get to know him better, so they went. It was as uncomplicated as that.
Simple, hardworking, ordinary people like us are still being personally invited every day to deepen our relationship with Jesus. And the invitation is often so subtle that we may not even recognize it as such. However we hear that voice, feel that nudge toward something that might take us out of our comfort zone to introduce us to a new endeavor, are we willing to respond? Have we ever greeted someone who is different from the people we are most comfortable with, and extended a gesture of friendship? Have we ever joined a group for some sort of service outing that takes us to new territory previously unfamiliar to us? Have we ever initiated a conversation with someone whose position on a controversial issue differs from our own in an effort to understand better the other person’s opinion? Simple overtures of kindness that stretch our boundaries can grant us a new experience, introduce us to a new person, create a new insight, and just possibly open us to a deeper relationship with the incarnate God who walked earth as a friend of simple laborers and who told them and us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)