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Sunday, 23 January 2011

Calling the First Disciples

As some of you know, I am a lay minister in the Church of England. Today I am preaching and the text for the day is the calling of the first disciples (Matthew 4:vs 12-21)

For those of you who may be interested, here is the text

When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, James and John, he didn’t tell them what they would be doing, or where or with whom. He didn’t give them an opportunity to decide whether they would like it. He simply said come and follow me. It’s really quite extraordinary that these fishermen simply left their nets, their livelihood, their security, and followed Jesus.
If I said that Jesus calls us to follow him today would you agree with me?
But I wonder how many would say – Yes Jesus calls us to follow him ... except for me... I’m too old .. I have a family to look after .. I have an important job .. I’m not qualified ... I’m not good enough? There are no exceptions. There is no such thing as “not good enough”. Jesus calls us exactly as we are. Jesus’ call is a non discriminatory equal opportunity.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? Well, first let me tell you what it is not.
Following Jesus is not setting off and saying, “Jesus, I’m going. Are you coming with me?”  Even if what you are doing is in his name.
Following Jesus is not standing still. You can’t follow someone if you are going nowhere.
Following Jesus is not paying him an occasional visit – no matter how sincere you are.
Following Jesus is about listening to him. It’s about spending time with him. Let me give you an example. This morning the first thing I did was connect with God. Actually the first thing I did was to make a cup of tea – the second thing I did was to make time for Jesus. I started by offering the day to him. In my mind I gave him this service and my sermon. I thought about all the things I have to get done today. I remembered in his presence all the people and situations that are on my heart. I gave him time to bring to my mind anyone else that is need of prayer. I didn’t tell him what to do – I simply remembered them, knowing that he already knows what they need and certainly doesn’t need me to tell him what to do. If it had been a work day, I would have remembered my staff and business. I would have offered to him the work that I have to do, any meetings I might have, clients I need to speak to. I would ask for wisdom and guidance and lay out my day for him. Now you may be thinking isn’t that saying “I’m going Jesus, come with me.”
The answer is that I truly believe that God wants me to be a civil engineer. I don’t rule out the possibility that one day Jesus may say to me “it’s time to leave your nets – come, let’s go and do something else.” That’s why I need to keep listening to him. About 17 years ago, I was feeling restless. I felt Jesus was calling me to do something. I wrote to a friend asking whether he thought God was asking me to move church. My friend wrote a long letter back saying yes definitely. As soon as I read the letter, I knew that he was wrong and that God was calling me to train for ministry in this church.
But Jesus call to follow him is not usually for anything as significant as that. It might be to get in touch with an old friend or to pop in on an elderly neighbour. It might be to say something encouraging to a young person, or perhaps to put some money in a charity envelope. It might be nothing more than to spend time with him.
I want to tell you that I honestly believe that this is the meaning of life. The whole purpose of our existence on this planet is to learn to have a relationship with God. We are here for a blink of an eye compared to eternity and all the hardship we endure is nothing beside being reconciled with God for all time.
If you are sitting there thinking that all this talk about a relationship with God is a bit touchy feely and uncomfortable, please remember that Jesus suffered and died a horrific death on a cross for the purpose of making that relationship possible. There is nothing comfortable about the cross. Jesus gave everything and he asks for so little in return. He simply asks us to come to him for rest, to drink living waters, to receive his peace and joy, to have a fullness of life, to be set free from guilt, to be loved. Isn’t that worth a bit of touchy feeliness?
 Jesus calls every single person on the face of this planet to follow him. It just so happens that those of us who acknowledge him to be the Son of God, who believe that he was raised from the dead and that he reigns with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are in a better place to hear that call and to respond to it. It is our common response to this call to follow Jesus that unites all Christians, of whatever denomination. This is the week of prayer for Christian Unity. My prayer is we can celebrate our differences while following Him together.


  1. Amen, Thank you for sharing your text.

  2. Hi Dom, our Lay Preacher delivered a sermon on the same subject this morning and today we had 2 new people join our congregation. One of the things that stuck in my mind was the fact that Jesus invited those disciples to join him without much persuasion and certainly no coercion, which is something I never considered before. :O)

  3. Dom, at first I'm hesitant to ask, but I'll go ahead and do it anyway and hope to be enlightened (please forgive me if this is inappropriate - just delete my comment):

    1) In the Bible I'm reading Matthew 4 vs 12 says:" When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison..." - why the difference?

    2) Is it ok for a non-minister, or a person not related to the church (a layman) to quote texts from the Holy Bible in his writing/blog?


  4. Hi Grandpa

    It is my firm belief that every Christian is called to have a ministry of one sort or another. Some have that ministry authorised, but every Christian is a child of God and has equal right to share their faith, and their understanding of scripture.

    With regard to Matthew 4 vs 12, we infer that Jesus withdrew at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was previously in Jerusalem, having just been baptised in the Jordan and tempted in the wilderness nearby, and this is where Herod had his seat of power. John was Jesus’ cousin and there was a real possibility that Herod might also see Jesus as a threat and have him arrested too. Clearly this was not in God’s purpose for Jesus at the time – hence the move to gentile lands outside Herod’s immediate influence. I hope this helps.


  5. I think the trouble is dintinguishing between what God wants and what we want.

    Nice post, btw :)

  6. Very well said, Dom. I agree with mshatch, and sometimes the way we are meant to do God's will involve much hardship and pain, which we would have avoided if we were in charge of our own lives!
    -- K
    PS - the verification word on here is "menled" which could easily be two 3-letter words referring to the first disciples

  7. Good post Dom. I didn't get around yesterday, sorry.

    I read a book years ago that you might enjoy called, "Sit, Walk, Stand." by Watchman Knee, I think that is his last name. I'm getting old. Anyway, most Christian Bookstores carry this book and if not The Living Stream Ministry has it. I provide that link every Sunday.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author


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