|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Our Gospel readings this week and next relate to what has traditionally been termed ‘the call’ of Jesus. Like the often very institutional church calls to ‘mission’, about which I spoke a fortnight ago, this call can often be interpreted quite narrowly, even oppressively. Indeed, it has sometimes been treated as a demand. Yet, in reality, as we see in both this week and next week’s Gospel’s reading, the call of Jesus is not so much a demand as an invitation. It seeks, as I said a fortnight ago, to draw us not drive us: to draw us into divine love and new life, not drive us into anything else, however admirable. For note well Jesus’ specific words in today’s reading from John’s Gospel: ‘come and see’. Like the words ‘follow me’ in Matthew’s Gospel next week, whilst Jesus invites, there is no compulsion. Nor is particular direction or content provided, although the Gospel record provides us early Christian understandings. Rather the invitation is primarily to an adventure of faith and experience. There is no requirement of belief as such, though that might emerge to give expression to the experience of the journey. There is no clear timetable, shape or schedule, or obvious destination. Jesus simply calls on those who will to set out on a shared pathway, walking together in trust. Is that how we see faith today?...
We don't often think of Jesus as having a home do we? We usually emphasise that he was a wandering preacher, who had 'nowhere to lay his head'. Yet for the first thirty or so years of his life he probably lived quietly in Nazareth, probably in one house. And here we are told that he actively chose some obscurity following the execution of John the Baptist, and made his home at Capernaum.
I don't know about you but I find it comforting that Jesus knew what it is to move house, to leave behind the comfortable and familiar, and to begin again in a new place, just as Jo and I have done this week, and just as some of you are doing in moving to a new spiritual home here at St. Francis College. It is not easy to do this, but it is absolutely necessary to the advancement of the kingdom of God. The Spirit calls us onward, and we never know where we may end up. Had you told me thirty odd years ago as I began my ministry in London that one day I would be part of a theological college and parish community in Brisbane I think I would have been astonished!...
“Follow me” - that is the challenge of today’s gospel. We need to understand what it means for us to hear those words for ourselves. Jesus was of course a most astute judge of personality and in this passage he actually provides an example of each of the main ways in which human beings can be drawn away from the commitment to follow. Each of us has, at the level of our ego, a key defence mechanism, adopted in early childhood that keeps us safe. It is not a bad thing. It gets us through our day. But in terms of the invitation to follow, to go more deeply, to become more fully alive, that defence mechanism can stand in our way. We see it at work in the conversations Jesus has in our reading today with three would-be followers.