We Christians are a strange lot.
In my mail the other day, on top of the advertisements was one of an unhappy man and an unhappy woman sleeping in the same bed but turned away from one another. A friend of my husband’s, shown this flyer, thought it was probably advertising a linen sale. Closer inspection reveals that this carefully chosen image with the “My Pillow and Me” text was actually for a start up church.
Back to the pile of advertisements, just underneath the unhappy couple, was a rather different image…the cover for the first Victoria’s Secret Valentine’s Day catalog.
Maybe Victoria’s Secret has an alternative way to approach the couple’s challenges.
We Christians have a problem. It doesn’t look like fun to be a Christian. Even the church advertised on the sleek post card, which I’m sure uses fun contemporary music and preaching from a young, engaging family man, looks like its seeking unhappy people to fill its chairs. Come and bring your problems to us and we will make you into happy, wholesome people. The Bible tells us how.
While Jesus wasn’t advertising lingerie, I always picture him with eyes that, when they look at me, make my heart flutter. It is good to walk with Jesus.
Not because Jesus is going to make you into a good person. To be good is too small a goal, too determined by what those around us call good. Such a quest keeps our ears listening to the wrong set of voices.
In college I earned some of my keep by refereeing basketball and baseball games. We were cautioned against having “rabbit ears,” a term for hearing all the grumbling, shouting comments made about our calls. The good news for the basketball referee is that the 24 second clock starts five seconds after you hand the team the ball, automatically limiting the length of appeals. It is much harder in a game like baseball when the screaming fits of the one who thinks they’ve been wronged continue indefinitely. To be a good referee means your goal is not to please all the voices on the court or the field or the crowd. To be a good referee is to make the calls that allow the game to be well played.
When you are a player, if all is going right, you don’t even think about the referee. You have the opportunity to leap and run and tackle and block. I didn’t referee football, but it’s the playoffs, so bear with me. You have the ability to use all of your natural gifts, and all the gifts of those on the team, to create moments of pure bliss. A football spectacularly caught and run into the end zone; a no look pass that leads to a slam dunk; a tackle of the running back behind the line of scrimmage; a block high in the air of the superstar’s shot. Aren’t these the moments that make the game worth watching?
It is good to walk with Jesus because when he sends the ball your way, he believes you will catch it. When you do, when you have those moments when you know you’ve done something that is pleasing to God, is that not bliss?
For those worried if there’s a place for them on the team, you should know there doesn’t appear to be any kind of tryout. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus just says, “follow me.” And James and John put down the net they were focused on mending, get out of the boat where their father and servants remain, and follow. They don’t show any natural ability. Just get up and follow.
Now, I suspect there were some voices raised in spirited protest at that moment. But the gospel’s ears have tuned them out. The gospel is not interested in what the servants or the dad has to say. Instead it records only Jesus’ voice, and I quote from the King James Version because the words are so familiar…”Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
Spoken by just anyone, these cryptic words would not have moved anyone out of the boat. But some have served under a commander. You knew his voice. Is it not true that you would follow the voice of the one who is there to keep you alive?
A cacophony may surround you, there may be shouts and cries, there may be your own stubborn voice making it clear that you don’t like what you are being asked to do, or another’s voice who is telling you what you need to do. But there’s only one voice that leads us to life everlasting.
What keeps us alive, what keeps us in the game, is when we, upon hearing Jesus’ voice, get out of whatever boat we’ve been on for a bit too long. Christianity is not a settling down type of faith. It is rather a faith that calls us to go and fish people out of the small worlds they are swimming in to show them Jesus’ way: sometimes by example, other times by words and prayer, and yet other times by opening up and sharing your God story with one who is eager to hear.
I will make you to become fishers of men.
Call these words from Jesus a mission statement and notice how it is big enough to encompass wherever you are in your life. It is not dependent upon your job, or role, or age, or health.
And now notice that Jesus says “I will make you to become….” There is some training involved. Jesus plans to show us the way. These words come at the beginning of the gospel of Mark. There is much scripture yet to be told before we enter Jerusalem, see Jesus nailed to a cross, and look into the empty tomb. There are many disciples to be gathered, people to heal, demons to expel, doors to knock on, and bread to be served. There is much to learn.
We don’t learn how to be a master fisherman or fisherwoman in a day. Even when we do know some of the basics like how to put a lure on a line or a worm on a hook, how to cast out and reel in, how to share our story, how to pray, how to listen, and how to challenge, we still sometimes let the big one get away.
The great thing about a Jesus mission is that it continues on beyond our failings, beyond the world’s failings. When we accept Jesus’ mission we don’t suddenly become superstars, but we enter into a new arena where the rules beckon us to see beyond the challenges of this world.
So take the ball and run. With Jesus, there’s always an opening. With practice, each one of us has a chance to break out into those blissful moments when we know we have pleased God.