Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Doing as Jesus Says

At various times in my life I have found myself searching for clarity, for certainty. Was I supposed to attend seminary? Should I leave one congregation and go to another? Were the things church leaders were talking about doing the things God wanted us to do? For those seeking to lead lives of faith the question, "What does God want me to do?" is a huge one, one that demands prayer and careful discernment.

There are times when what God expects is not clear, but more often than not, clarity is not the biggest hurdle to my following Jesus. Jesus is remarkably clear about many things, about how to respond to my enemies or to people in need. He pulls no punches regarding the danger of money and possessions to the life of faith. Clarity is not the issue here, but rather an unwillingness or inability to trust that Jesus knows what he's talking about.

In today's gospel, Jesus calls the first disciples. "Immediately they left their nets and followed him... Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him." Immediately. That doesn't happen all that often among people of faith. In the gospels we hear that the winds and the wave, demons, and evil spirits all obey Jesus, but people often don't. For various reasons, we're not quite ready to acknowledge his authority over our lives.

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, one of my denomination's foundational creeds, begins thus. "Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death? A. That I belong--body and soul, in life and in death--not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ..." But such a statement is fundamentally at odds with the norms of our culture. I may be convinced of the rightness of some of Jesus' teachings if they are explained in a certain manner. But I, and I alone, am master of my own life, captain of my soul.

Jesus says, "Follow me." My response: Send me a proposal, Jesus, with a clear-cut explanation of the costs and benefits, and I'll get back to you. As I said, clarity is not the issue here.

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