Today’s theme that can be found in all four of our readings is the theme of being called.
The readings from Isaiah and from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians both begin with words about being called, about being set apart by God.
Isaiah says: The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
Paul says: called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.
This fits right in with today’s section of John’s gospel, in which we hear his account of what is usually called “The Call of the First Disciples.”
John the Baptist points to Jesus and says of him, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Two of John’s disciples hear this and decide to check out Jesus for themselves.
They end up abandoning John and going off with Jesus instead. It’s this call, the call of these first two disciples, that is the one we need to pay special attention to if we want to understand what it’s usually like to be called by God.
To follow Jesus is a major life decision. Discipleship requires dedication, work, and sacrifice.
For most of us, making a major life decision is a thoughtful process. We need time to do research, to consult experts, to ask the opinion of friends. We may read product reviews before buying a car, or even a toaster. When facing surgery, even minor surgery, surgeons are very careful to make sure you’re aware of any complications – or when prescribing medication you’re advised of the many side effects even if they are very rare. Sometimes you’re advised to get a 2nd opinion.
So we carefully sort out the options, search for information online or in books, and begin to compile a list of pros and cons. What are the benefits, and what is the cost? We have all done this at one time or another. We especially take care when deciding a major decision – To buy a house, or take a new job, or move across town or even overseas.
Making informed decisions is a worthy task as it helps us avoid making mistakes, making a bad situation worse, or facing massive consequences of a poor choice. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Christianity appears to be in decline. Maybe people are afraid of what the cost of discipleship might be because it’s not immediately evident.
If we choose to become a disciple of Jesus, then what will be expected of us?
Will we be expected to work harder than we ever imagined, to give more than we thought possible, and to surrender our need for control to serve God’s will.
That uncertainty frightens people.
And what do we get in return? If we are doing a “for and against” list – what are the benefits of being a Christian.
On the face of it we might appear to get nothing – at least nothing the world would consider as a benefit. Just more work, more need requiring us to give money, and more criticisms from our friends and family. That’s because the gift of God’s grace is free, and offered to everyone without condition. There’s nothing anyone can do to earn it, deserve it, or be excluded from it.
And in our world where we want to see reward for working hard, this just does not seem like the kind of situation to which we are rewarded physically for all the work and sacrifices we make.
In our world we are more familiar with -first I give this, and I then get that in exchange. This is how it is supposed to work.
But the gifts of God’s mercy, love, and grace are just not like that. They are ours, freely given, without condition. So, if we choose to become disciples of Jesus, and to give our time, talent, and treasure, what do we get for all our trouble?
Just as Jesus said to the disciples – Come and see.
The values that Jesus puts forth in his gospel do not really make any sense in the system in which the world assesses worth. You really have to immerse yourself in the mystery before you can even begin to understand.
The world cherishes wealth. The world esteems power. The world treasures control. But the gospel calls us to love the poor and serve the needy, without condition. And the gospel compels us to surrender our craving for power and give up our need for control. And what are the potential consequences of that?
Come and see.
The Saviour of the world, you see, is also the one that the bible reveals is a man of sorrows, someone acquainted with grief, despised and rejected by his fellow country people.
That really doesn’t sound like someone destined for success or greatness, does it?
The Christian life can be full of questions and confusion, those seeming contradictions that can reveal a deeper spiritual reality. Paradoxes such as: gaining our life by losing our life, enjoying true abundance by giving away our possessions, and becoming followers of the all-powerful one who emptied himself of power.
To really understand Jesus and the blessings he gives you, you really need to come and see for yourself in order to understand or even begin to understand.
Without truly understanding what is happening in worship can seem like it’s just an empty ritual. So come and see – come and experience being served by God. Come and be blessed by God. Without an understanding of God wanting to serve us it might seem that being a disciple of Jesus is nothing more than endless demands from God.
Jesus invitation to us is – Come and see. Jesus offers us a different way of life through personal sacrifice. If we simply want to follow what the world offers then our lives can become meaningless, focused more on the accumulation of material goods than on sharing the love that comes from God.
So come and see the Lamb of God, on whom the Spirit descended like a dove, the Son of God.
Come and see Jesus who leads us along the way of salvation.
Come and see Andrew and Simon Peter, who drop their nets and leave behind everything to follow Jesus.
The invitation was offered to those disciples so many years ago who did not know Jesus at all and did not know where Jesus invitation would lead them.
And it is offered to us again today. Come and see and be enriched in Christ in every possible way. Come and see and learn again that God is faithful, and that you are called into fellowship with God through God’s son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Come and see so that you too can declare with confidence, We have found the Messiah.
The peace of God that surpasses our understanding keep your hearts and mind forever in Christ Jesus. Amen.