Called to be a disciple....

In the Gospel narrative today, Luke tells us the fishermen had returned from night fishing and were tending their nets and boats. Jesus took Simon Peter's boat, pushed our from shore, taught the assembled people, and then asked Simon and his crew to go back out and fish. When they netted a large catch of fish, they called for help, which was probably provided by James and John, sons of Zebedee. Afterwards, Peter and James and John "left everything and followed him" (Lk 5:11).

This "call" scene in Luke is quite different from what Mark tells us in that Gospel. In five short verses, Mark says Jesus passed by, saw them, said "follow me" and they left everything and followed. Luke stresses the reasonableness of the disciples in following Jesus as a major emphasis in the Gospel as well as demonstrating that Jesus was not an outlaw but a victim of wrongful actions by some Jews and the Romans. Remember Luke is addressing Gentiles (non-Jews) who are aware of Greek and Roman philosophy or cultural thinking. Some Gentiles would be wondering how could anyone follow a leader who was executed by the authorities as a renegade?

Jesus' call to follow Him is a call to us as well. It is first of all to live, by which I mean, to accept responsibility for one's life. We need to see that most of what happens to us is the result of our actions or the way in which we react to those things that happen over which we have no control. We can control how we will react. Once we have "chosen" to live, the next question is "how shall I live?" The Lucan Gospel answer: live as a faithful disciple of Jesus, the Christ. Enter into that personal relationship with the risen Lord present to us now through his Holy Spirit, and live our lives according to His teaching.

One dimension of living faithful as a disciples involves this second dimension of the call we hear about this weekend: become fishers of people. Bring others to come to know Christ and live according to His teachings. Why? This should be self evident, but let's make it clear: we need more and more people to help bring about Christ's kingdom, which means the ruling presence of the Lord over our lives. That means learning to love, to forgive, to care for the needs of others, to pray, to worship, to live in peace (without violence) and truth (without lies), to seek healing, and to give thanks for all that we have and are (not being possessed by our possessions). Wouldn't the world be a different place if most humans lived accordingly?

Who are "fishers of people"? You are! New people come to a church first and foremost because they have been invited to come by someone they know. That means, the research shows, that few come because of advertising, church programs, the clergy, and the denomination (although some still do follow the denominations of their youth). Some also come simply because of location.

When you invite someone to join you, it helps if they have heard of the church, and in that sense advertising and church programs help them to be receptive. The reputation of the church for helping others or some other reputation also may help. Once at the church for worship, then visitors assess the facilities, the clergy, the choir, what is available for them and their family (if they have one), and other such considerations.

We are, as we know, considerably limited by our facilities. We have fine clergy [:-)>] and choir, and some good programs, but there is much more to do. We need volunteers with certain gifts and talents to develop programs which meet the needs of people searching for a deeper relationship with Christ in their lives. Does following the good Lord mean for you that you are called to take part in a specific aspect of Christ's mission and ministry? For now remember that God, who is always present in our lives whether we recognize that presence or not, calls you to live, to be a disciple of Jesus, and to be fully human, well and happy as a beloved son or daughter, and to invite others into that transforming relationship as well.