Matthew 4:12-23 & Psalm 27:1, 4-9

If any of you have ever driven through the Danseys Pass you’ll know the kind of feelings and reactions this spectacular part of the country demands from you. We had a few days in Central Otago and did the return journey over the Danseys Pass – wow, what a sight! What an amazing sight it is to be at the top of the pass and look down on the tops of other hills which seem very far beneath you! It was great. We had a good holiday – no alarm clocks, I got the garden shed built finally, a few other jobs happened and we had a nice few days catching up with friends while hanging out in beautiful Central Otago. Holidays are good things to do. Memories are made. Rest and refreshment happens. Perspective is often gained. But, holidays aren’t normal life, which I think is what makes them so essential. It is necessary to step out of normality in order to have the break and be refuelled. If holidays were normal, I think we’d all find them rather unfulfilling. Like the Lotto winners who quit their jobs and vow to never work a day in their life again, we know how those stories normally end, permanent holidays aren’t holidays at all!

At some point we have to come back to normality… this is the overture for this time of year. Just about everyone I know is summoning the energy to return to normality. It’s back to work, it’s starting to get things ready for school, and it’s various activities and programmes starting back up again. It’s a bit of an in-between time of year. Christmas, New Year’s, and holidays have been and gone with ordinary life now on the table before us. In the Christian year we are located in the time of Epiphany, that time when we focus on who God is as seen in the life and work of Jesus. And today we have another version of Jesus’ calling of his first students, his first followers, his first disciples. Who is God here? God is the one who calls people to follow in a different way of living, God is the one who goes to where people are and offers different imagination for their work, and God is the one who teaches and demonstrates what the life with God is truly about.

In my reading last week I discovered that this section of the calendar that we are in is also known in other parts of the Church as one part of what is called ‘Ordinary Time’ – coincidence? Maybe not. There is no big event on our radar. No Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, or Advent to focus on. We are simply just here, going about our normal rhythms. And it is into this, into our ordinary time, as we work to locate ourselves back into our ordinary places and ordinary activities for the year, it is into this that the call of Jesus to follow him lands before us.

It seems to me that ordinary time spent in ordinary places is a big part of the story. Jesus’ call to Andrew, Simon, James, and John came to them in the middle of their ordinary time too. Going about their normal daily rhythms of work, Jesus came and asked them to follow him. One of the differences between John the Baptist and Jesus is around their location. Matthew seems to make a big deal about where Jesus was located. With John, he was to be found in the wilderness, separate and apart from the rest of society whereas Jesus was to be found making his home right in the middle of it. With John, people are to travel to him, but with Jesus it seems as if he spent most of his time going to where the people were. Jesus having made a home in the middle of the action, goes to those first disciples where they were located in their place. It seems as if Jesus’ call comes as one that is very much located in place, in ordinary places, in the middle of cities and on lakes used for fishing. And we live here, in this city, now, today even. This invitation of Jesus comes to us and we should not be surprised to see that it lands in the midst of ordinary time and ordinary place.

Underneath this all sits a very important thread. We recalled once again at Christmas that it is God who came and lived among us. So, it is God who chooses us as followers. It is God who does the inviting. While on the surface it may appear that it is us who choose to follow Jesus – we come here week by week, we listen to and endeavour to put into practice the Gospel of Jesus in many different ways – underneath this all, is that deep down at the core of our beings we know, if only perhaps in hindsight, that it is God who pursues us. It is God who chooses us to love first before we choose to do any sort of following. And it is a movement of God’s that we can see throughout the whole story. We as humans carry the image of God, we bear an imprint of God within us at our deepest place. And just as a Mother will not forget the child who grew within her, God does not forget us. No matter how long it takes, we will find God. God knows us, and we know God whether we are aware of it or not. The call to follow comes as a call to wake up to the reality that God is present to us, always, whether we know it or not. Jesus invitation comes to us in the midst of our ordinary time and place giving words and actions, giving flesh and blood to this reality deep within all of us. We are all chosen, equally, before any of us can do anything about it. The call of Jesus comes as an invitation to participate then, wherever and whenever we are, in the life of God already available to all.

This is a wonderful place to rest. Knowing that God has said a big ‘YES’ to all of us. I find this a wonderful place to call our beginning. And I find the invitation of Jesus, to wake up to and to live in God’s way of operating, in this Kingdom of Heaven come… I find the invitation into this so exciting. We exist in God’s ‘YES’ and it is within our ordinary times and places that we get to live it out.

The richness of what the Psalms bring to us is that they too were birthed in everyday life. This is what is so beautiful about them, they are at times painfully raw and they are delicately poetic, and in this they are honest and real glimpses into where all of our humanity finds itself at one time or another. The invitation of Jesus comes to us today to follow him once again. It is familiar to us, sometimes we think about it, and sometimes we don’t. I think what we find in Psalm 27 is quite a wonderful description into what our normal endeavouring to live this out most probably looks like. It is confidence – “the Lord is my light and salvation, who shall I fear!” – But perhaps it is also an attempt to bolster one’s own resolve, perhaps they edited the ‘um’ out of it… ‘um, the Lord IS? my light and salvation? I DON’T need to fear anything. (repeat after me 3x – I DON’T need to fear anything). So it is confidence, but it is also the confession of a faltering step. I am bold, but I am also afraid. I know what to do, but I also have no clue about this whole thing!

If anything, what a great reminder this all is to us. The invitation to follow in the way of Jesus didn’t just go out to those first few disciples, no it has come to us, and it will continue to come to us too. It is a long, deep, and resounding invitation to join with God each day whatever normal things we find ourselves doing… and… however we find ourselves responding – in joyful confidence and in fearful hesitancy. And these calling stories of those first disciples serve as wonderful reminders to us too that as they were called in ordinary times and ordinary places, they were just ordinary people. And so once again the invitation from Jesus comes to us, all of us as ordinary people found in our ordinary times and ordinary places.

The ordinary can be a bit vauge. We can nod our heads and agree quite easily at times that yes Jesus invites us, and continually invites us but what our response is to be is, well that can get a bit hard to nail down. I have a small, perhaps unnoticed example of this that is with us today. I wonder if you have noticed that each week as we gather for worship we have notices, and we usually have a time of sharing random things and important things and of greeting our neighbours, our friends, and those who are friends we just haven’t met yet. And I wonder if you have noticed that it comes in the midst of our worship. Some churches choose to do the notices and sharing time before or after their service, and this is ok, but we choose to do it in the middle, and we do this on purpose. Because as we do this week in and week out we are in fact reminding ourselves that all the things we find ourselves doing, and in all the conversations we find ourselves having, we are caught up in living our lives as a response to the call of Jesus. These snippits of our lives that we share with one another here are framed in worship, because all we do here as followers of Jesus in this part of this city, is framed by our lives lived as those who are chosen and loved by God – in all of the ordinary, God is found. We are here and God is here, and we choose once again to follow.

A prayer from Loretta Girzaitis. [1]

 Lord God, you invite me to discipleship.

But, am I worthy? Capable?

You nudge me:

“to be a disciple means to learn from the master and has nothing to do with worth or capability.”

So your invitation only requires

A heart that is open and trusting,

A mind that seeks truth,

A spirit that is free from fetters.

But those are overwhelming requirements.

Questions tumble inside me:

If I learn from you, will knowledge make me uncomfortable with what I have made comfortable in my life?

If I seek truth, will I discover ugliness within me?

Or will I find your image within me?

If I accept this image, what demands will this make upon me to continue the creation of this world

If I trust, will doubt dissolve?

Will resistance turn to confidence?

Will my brokenness be made whole?

Will peace calm me?

I acknowledge that I myself will need to find those answers, for no one else can provide them.

No one else can say that yes for me.

I realise that my presence is piece-meal, acknowledging you only when it suits my purposes.

Inspire me to be insightful enough to recognise your purpose for me as I set my purposes aside.

Assure me of your love.

Help me to believe it is without limits, that there is nothing that I can do that could stop you loving me.

Energise me so that your love can flow through me to touch others with your power.

Prayer melts the resistance to your invitation.

I see how foolish I would be to make success, or power or wealth, or failure or poverty, or insecurity a barrier.

Take me as you have created me.

I come to you as I am.

Make me a disciple.

[1] From, Alive Now, March/April 1985.