About twenty years ago—about a lifetime ago—I lived in an apartment in a yellow building on Simmons Street in Galesburg. And every day, I would get up… and get ready… and walk six blocks to a restaurant. I’d put on my jacket, and survey the walk-in, and start prepping for lunch.
Working in a kitchen is hard. It’s about speed and discipline and consistency. It’s about pressure and heat and knives. And even when I started that job—even when I was washing dishes and peeling potatoes and baking croutons—it was hard. And there were days, especially at the beginning, when I walked the six blocks home… or the half-a-block to the pub… broken.
And I was not, at the time, a particularly religious man. I had grown up in the church. I had taken some religion classes in college. I knew the stories and I knew some of the histories. But I had been hurt. So I had walked away.
But at some point, I started using those six blocks from that apartment to that kitchen to pray. I prayed for strength and wisdom and courage… to get through life or the day or lunch.
And then… one day… while I was walking those six blocks… after things had gotten easier… and I had found a rhythm… and the pressure and the heat and the knives didn’t scare me as much anymore… a thought entered my head: go to seminary.
And here’s the thing: that thought—that call—made no sense; and it was completely irresistible.
Jesus is in Galilee. He has left his hometown and he’s been going from town to town—from synagogue to synagogue—delivering the good news of the kingdom of God and exorcising spirits and healing people. And folks have noticed. Crowds are gathering around. People are pressing in.
And here he is one evening, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The crowds are pressing in. They are eager to hear about the kingdom of God. They are anxious to hear about good news for the poor and freedom for the oppressed and a time of God’s favor. And they are pushing him closer and closer to the water. He can feel the sea lapping against his heels.
And that’s when he spots some boats… and he sees some fishermen… and he recognizes Simon. Jesus knows Simon. He healed Simon’s mother-in-law. He stayed at Simon’s house.
So he calls to Simon, “Simon! This crowd is pressing in. Let me use one of your boats. We can go into the lake a little ways and I can teach from there.”
And that’s what they do. Jesus gets in a boat, and they go out into the lake a little ways, and Jesus teaches the crowds. And when he’s done, he turns to Simon and says, “We’re out here, anyway. Let’s go out a little further, and you can lower your nets for a catch.”
And Simon tells him that he and his crew have been out here all night trying to do just that… and they haven’t had any luck… but fine, they can go out a little further, and lower the nets, and waste a little time.
And when they lower the nets, they are flooded with fish. They are overwhelmed. The nets are breaking and the boat is tipping and Simon can feel the sea lapping against his heels. He has to signal his other boat to come and help. And even then, it’s too much.
But they get back to shore. And everyone is amazed at the catch. And Simon is freaking out. I mean, he didn’t bat an eye when Jesus healed his mother-in-law; but now there are fish involved. And that’s when Jesus turns to Simon and says, “You thought that was amazing? Come with me. You can fish for people.”
And here’s the thing: That call makes no sense; and it is completely irresistible.
The last few weeks have led… here.
About a month ago, we heard about the angel appearing to Mary. We heard Mary say, “Revolution? Really? Yeah. I’m in.” We heard Mary sing, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
On Christmas Eve, we heard about that same angel appearing to shepherds and telling them good news of great joy for all people.
And a few days after that, we saw Simeon meet the baby Jesus. We heard him exclaim, “Lord, I have seen your salvation. I have seen the salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.”
And a week after that—twelve years after that—we saw Jesus in the Temple, being amazing, asking his parents, who thought they had lost him, just where they thought he would be.
And a week after that—years after that—we met John in the wilderness preparing the way fo the Lord… filling in valleys and wearing mountains down… calling the people to repent.
And last week, Jesus was in the synagogue, telling the people, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And now… and now… this Jesus has come down to the lakeshore… and looked in Simon’s eyes. And this Jesus is calling him to fish other seas. And Simon does not get to encounter and experience the one who redeems and restores the world… and remain who he used to be.
And the stakes are high. He has a family. He has a business and business partners. He owns boats. And that call makes no sense; and it is completely irresistible. And he leaves everything behind and follows Christ; he leaves everything behind to become part of this mission to deliver good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a time of God’s favor.
He leaves everything behind to fill in valleys and wear down mountains and call people to repent.
He leaves everything behind to encounter the love that redeems and restores… to see salvation… to bring great joy to all people… to rejoice in God his savior… to be part of a revolution of love.
Ev… ry… thing. Because that call is irresistible.
Our whole lives have led… here.
When Christ called to me, I didn’t have to leave my family or my business or my business partners or my boats behind. I didn’t have to leave everything behind; I barely had to leave anything behind.
But that does not mean that I left nothing behind. Because none of us… none of us… none of us… gets to hear Christ’s call and remain who we used to be.
And when Christ called to you, you probably didn’t have to leave your family or your business or your business partners or your boats behind. You probably didn’t have toe leave everything behind; you probably barely had to leave anything behind.
But that does not mean that you left nothing behind. Because none of us… none of us… none of us… gets to hear Christ’s call and remain who we used to be.
And here’s the thing… here’s the real thing:
Becoming who Christ calls us to be can look like leaving everything behind; especially for those of us who enjoy ounces or pounds or tons of privilege. It can look so much like leaving everything behind that we cling to our small boats and insist on sailing our small seas.
But the truth is that becoming who Christ calls us to be means gaining… everything. It means leaving behind our small boats for bigger ones. It means leaving behind our small seas to set sail on oceans. It means leaving behind our small lives—our lives where we… where we, along with our neighbors… are oppressed by the burden of our privilege—for abundant life.
And that call, once we hear it, is irresistible. The question is not whether we will become who Christ calls us to be… but whether we will spend our lives fighting to hold onto the little things that we have, and miss out on time with what Christ offers us.
Whether we will miss out on even a single day of good news and release and sight… of freedom and favor… of redemption and restoration… of salvation and great joy! Whether we will miss out on even a single hour of love!
Because Christ is not asking us to give up everything. Christ is merely asking us to let go of what’s holding us back… and follow him… and help others do the same… and walk together into the kingdom of God.