Launching into Discipleship by Pastor Leah Rosso

1 Corinthians 13: 4-10; Mark 1: 14-20

Jesus calls, and James, John, Simon, and Andrew follow. This is one of those moments when I wish the Gospel writer had been a bit more descriptive. What would that conversation sound like? Had Jesus been praying for years about who his disciples would be, had talked to them all about it so that they would be prepped for this day? Was it more of a "Hey guys, today's the day. I'm starting my ministry. Come along!" Or did they know much about Jesus at all? Presumably the area they live in is small enough that they would've known of each other, but how big of a leap is it for these young men to follow Jesus? And how did they know they wanted to follow him? We're in the first chapter of Mark. So far all Jesus has done is get baptized and live in the wilderness fasting for 40 days. Doesn't seem super compelling, does it? You'd think they would at least want to see what he can do.

Unless they're ready for a change. I don't mean really ready. How many of us are ever really ready? But something about this spoke to them. They're looking at the world around them and they want to see it change. They're looking at the politics that seem overbearing and depressing; at the people in power in their own town who were mostly corrupt religious leaders; maybe even at the divisiveness of the people trying to decide how to make it day by day, and they are longing for something else. So when Jesus calls, they decide to say yes.

In our culture today there are so many ways to be observers of what's happening, that I often wonder if it keeps us from doing what we know we are called to do. We watch things on TV; we learn about history by reading about it or going to museums-- observing it from afar rather than feeling like we are living it; we read what people think and feel on Facebook and Twitter and see photos on Snapchat and instagram and we don't have to respond to any of it, or if we do, it feels like we're taking a stand just to share an article or two. But that kind of behavior, watching instead of doing, does not make us into the kind of people we want to be.

Richard Rohr, a Catholic theologian, wrote recently, "We don't think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking!"

The disciples didn't invite Jesus aboard their boats so that they could share a fish sandwich and talk about his philosophy and theology of the world. Jesus invited them to come and be fishers of people and they put down their nets and followed.

Through the centuries there have been so many different ideas of what it means to follow Jesus, and people have claimed to do all kinds of things in Jesus' name that are everything from awe-inspiring to shameful to us today. But when we look at those early followers of Jesus, specifically the ones that chose to continue to follow him even after his death and resurrection, what we find is that they were known for a few significant quirks. One quirk in particular is that the early followers stuck out because they were often hanging around jails. It was a frequent occurrence for an early Christian or disciple to be put behind bars because they were following Jesus, and in that day prisoners often went without food or water. So the others in their community would visit them. While they were visiting their friends, they would also bring food and needed health items to the rest of the prisoners, so they began to be known as the people who hung out at prisons.

By the mid 300's, several generations later, disciples of Jesus were still known for one of the main things Jesus had been known for-- feeding people. Emporer Julian, later referred to as Apostate Julian by the church because he didn't follow Jesus, was very anti-Christian and did everything in his power to restore the Roman religion to keep Christianity from taking hold in the Roman world. But one of the things he wrote about Christians, disciples of Jesus, is that these "godless Galileans" (as he called them because they didn't worship the Roman gods), feed our poor as well as their own. The disciples of Jesus were changing the world around them by feeding hungry people-- whether they belonged to their community or not.

So whether you are looking at Andrew and James on that first day when they dropped their nets and followed Jesus; or whether you are looking at those early Christians who were hanging out at prisons caring for their own and everyone else who was behind bars; or whether you are looking at those who were still following Jesus generations later, hundreds of years later, known by the Roman Empire as godless Galileans feeding the poor, the result is the same. Jesus' disciples live their lives differently because they are disciples; because they have been trained in a way of life that causes them to serve other people. They didn't think differently and then go about building a movement; they followed Jesus with their feet, and by doing so, it caused them to think differently about the world.

This doesn't, of course, mean we all need to learn how to fish. It does mean, that if you are interested in being part of changing the world, then what we do here on Sunday morning is the time we set aside to rest and reflect on how we're living as disciples rather than a box that is checked off of our list of things to do. In other words, you are not a disciple because you come to worship on Sunday mornings. That doesn't make you a disciple. You are a disciple because you are seeking to follow Jesus in every thing that you do. And when you follow Jesus, you quickly learn that we need a community to support, encourage, and challenge us in how to do that. We are disciples first, and that informs everything else about our lives.

Let's take for example, Bill. Bill is a robotics engineer. He used to make robots to impress people. But somewhere along the way, God got a hold of his heart, and impressing people didn't seem so important anymore. Now he makes robots that dismantle land mines, a job usually done by children in countries like Afghanistan and Mxxxxx. His robots make it possible for people to live, work, and play on their land again without being afraid of losing their lives.

Or Sheila. Sheila is a massage therapist. But instead of putting herself in a hip part of town to make the most money, Sheila has placed herself in a community that is ministering to women who have been trafficked. Sheila offers them positive, healthy, healing touch to their bodies that have been abused. It's not very glamorous, but Sheila wanted to see the world changed, so she offers what she has to bring healing and wholeness to broken bodies and spirits.

There's a group of jewelers who began to feel very convicted in their faith about not knowing how the jewels they were selling and making into jewelry was causing pain in other parts of the world. So they began to travel to Bolivia, Columbia, and across Africa, finding the people who work in the diamond industry. They began to build relationships and influence the way business was done so that the people they were doing business with were treated with dignity and treated their employees with dignity and respect. They began to influence and change an industry known for blood shed. (These three examples came from Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, pages 242-243.)

Whatever it is you do every day, you are called to be a disciple first. You are not lawyer, you are a disciple of Christ located in a courtroom-- and boy do we need disciples of Christ in our courtrooms. You are not a teacher, you are a disciple of Christ located in a classroom; and wow do we need disciples of Christ in our classrooms. You are not a doctor, you are a disciple of Christ located strategically in a hospital; and what better place for a disciple of Christ than in a place where healing can happen? You are not a cleaning lady, you are a disciple of Christ located in peoples' homes. What an opportunity! You are not a computer programmer, you are a disciple of Christ imbedded in a company to share the good news. You are not a stay at home parent; you are a disciple of Christ living out your call to parent your children in ways that will shape them to be faithful disciples. You are not a retired person. You are a disciple of Christ living in a retirement home where there are people in desperate need of hearing healing words and experiencing Christ's love in their lives.

Jesus goes out that day to find disciples. Why? It tells us in the verse right before he calls them. Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is near." Well guess what? I don't think that's changed. The Kingdom of God is still near. Jesus was calling people to be his disciples; to learn how to see that the Kingdom of God is near; to live into that Kingdom so that everyone can experience God's love. We are still being called.

The Kingdom of God is near when you are here at church; the Kingdom of God is near when you are at home; the Kingdom of God is near when you choose to tutor a child or visit a prison or pray with a friend or sing with all your heart or even go to that day job that you aren't sure you want to go to anymore, except that now you know-- that is your place of discipleship. There is no place you can go where God's love doesn't go with you. And there is no place where we should go where we are not God's disciples.

I think Paul said it best. Paul, the one who knew firsthand what it was to live with hatred and fear eating away his life; was transformed by his interaction with Christ and penned the words, "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing; it rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, hopes all things." Even though Paul never met Jesus before his death and resurrection, he knew Jesus. God is love; Jesus is love; the Holy Spirit is love. So when we say yes to being a disciple of Christ, we too begin learning how to be love-- not by reading about it or thinking about it, but by practicing it. We practice being patient; being kind; rejoicing in the truth even when it is not in our favor; not rejoicing in wrongdoing even when it benefits us. Enduring all things for Christ's sake; and hoping all things; because we trust the One who created us, the one who still calls us to life. The Kingdom of God is near. Today.