Resurrection House Blog: Why are we here?
Why are we here?
I ask this not to be intentionally vague, though I understand that it is vague. I also don’t mean to “sound wise” without actually saying anything, though that question doesn’t mean very much beyond what you yourself put there. So, knowing that the question “Why are we here” means many different things, I want you to think about that for a moment.
“Why are you here?”
In the Gospel this morning, Jesus is going around Israel, living his life. His ministry is just beginning. Immediately prior to this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus was baptized by John , and then he goes out to the wilderness in order to be tempted by Satan.
He returns, and after an unspecified amount of time, finds out that John has been arrested for preaching that the kingdom of God was approaching. We find more details later in the Gospels, but basically Herod Antipas was upset that John was declaring that a new kingdom was approaching; this would mean that a new non-roman king was going to appear.
It also didn’t help matters that Herod had a second wife, and John went around calling both of them harlots.
Anyway, John is arrested for preaching about the coming kingdom, and Jesus withdraws into Galilee. This seems prudent. Someone is arrested for doing something, and if you want to continue or begin doing that same thing, far better to move than stay put.
So Jesus wasn’t in Galilee at the time. He was in Nazareth. But the key thing is: he wasn’t in great danger in Nazareth. John wasn’t preaching in Nazareth, he was preaching in Galilee. So when Jesus withdrew to Galilee, Jesus went right to where John was preaching. Jesus went right to where John got arrested; Jesus stepped right into the lion’s den.
Jesus hears that John was arrested for proclaiming “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” And you know what he did next; “From that time Jesus began to proclaim ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
God had a plan for Jesus’s life and for Jesus’s ministry. The fact that we are still here, almost two thousand years after this all took place is a testament to that amazing, incredible, frankly unbelievable idea. God has a plan. Even more amazing, is that God has a plan for each of us.
Still, moving into a territory where someone got thrown in prison for speaking God’s word seem reckless. It seems especially reckless when you plan to begin doing that exact same thing, in that exact same place.
Why are you here?
God does not necessarily call us to be safe. God calls us to do good, wherever that might take us. In the case of Jesus, he was called to move right to where his cousin was arrested. This can’t have been easy for him.
God calling us to go somewhere is not always easy. Jesus did not always find God’s call easy. When Jesus cries out to the Father, “Please let this cup pass from my lips” he is begging God, saying that it is too hard. God sometimes asks us to do really, really hard things, and Jesus totally gets that. He completely understands, because he has BEEN there.
Now, God probably hasn’t asked us to die for him, so its not a perfect metaphor, but Jesus gets it. He truly and completely understands it how hard it can be when God asks us to do things.
So Why are you here? Why do you go to church where you do, live in the city or state that you do?
Jesus was called to to Galilee, not to twiddle his thumbs, but to continue both his and John’s ministry. He was called for a purpose, for a reason, to do something that mattered.
Why are you here?
So Jesus began preaching the coming Kingdom of God. And he found himself walking by the water. Maybe he is kicking the waves as they move by, maybe he is watching some kids play in the surf. Anyway, he looks up and sees these two guys throwing nets into the sea-for they were fishermen, as the gospel so eloquently puts it.
All Jesus says is, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” AND THEY FOLLOW HIM.
So they walk along, and he sees two other brothers, and their father, fixing their nets in the boat. So Jesus calls to them, and they immediately left the boat and their father and follow him too. IT WORKS AGAIN!
What? They immediately left their nets. Immediately. I don’t do anything immediately. I set my alarm earlier than I have to so I don’t have to get out of bed immediately, and these brothers immediately follow Jesus when he says some weird thing about fishing for people.
Now that is faith. Now that is a call.
Why are you here?
What are you called to do so strongly, that you would leave your boat and your father and go and follow Jesus in order to do it?
One of the things that is amazing about Resurrection House is that it gives you the vocabulary to talk about your vocation. I was talking to a priest about why I feel called to ordained ministry, and as I described my call, I said something that I truly believed.
I believed in my call so strongly that I said, with a bit of pride, “God has called me to this; how could I say no?”
That got stomped on immediately. He jumped all over that.
This is what he told me. “You can always tell God no. We have a relationship with God. There are many different things that we are called to, and we can tell God no to any of them. If we can’t say no to God, it doesn’t mean anything when we finally say yes.”
If we are unable to say No, it means nothing if we say yes.
Selfishly, I want my call to mean something. I want to serve God, but for there to be any meaning you have to be able to say no. And that was something that I just did not get.
Simon Peter, Andrew, John, and James all said yes. This is so remarkable because they did not have to. They could have said that they had responsibilities; that they enjoyed life as a fisherman. They could have said no for any multitude of reasons. They Chose to follow Jesus. And because they had a real choice, it meant something when they said yes.
So why are you here? What is God calling you to do? What ministry is God calling you to? And man, wouldn’t it be nice if it was as blatant and obvious as someone literally calling out to you from the shore?
Peter, and Andrew, and John, and James had it easy in that regard. They were called. Literally, by a voice that said, “follow me.” We are not as lucky. When God calls us, it can be far more subtle.
Why are we here?
Vocation is the word that sums up our call. It is our calling, our ministry, our passion and hopefully, our job. According to Matthew, Jesus went through Galilee teaching and healing and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. If Jesus’s vocation was to be summed up, the last sentence of this morning’s Gospel hits the nail on the head.
Frederick Buechner, a theologian, wrote that, “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”
Our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need. Jesus lived his life serving others, fulfilling the greatest need.
You will notice that that definition is not restricted to church work. Teaching can be a vocation; so can construction work. Any way you merge your strongest passion with the deepest need of the world, you have found your vocation.
Why are we here?
We are here to do two things. We are here to listen. And when we hear God’s call for us, we are here to choose to say yes.