In today’s gospel we hear about Jesus calling his first disciples. And we hear too about the disciples’ response: “immediately they left their nets… their boats… their father, and followed him.” It’s a startling response. I wonder what your response would be, if you were in the disciples’ shoes?
They did choose to follow Jesus, and the journey on which we see them here taking the first step, would take them into situations they could never have imagined.
What about us, as followers of Jesus? Where does our journey of faith take us? Where has it taken us already, and where will it take us next?
We live in uncertain times. Brexit negotiations, Trump taking office, the rise of the far-right across Europe, the ongoing refugee crisis. It may be tempting to despair. But God calls us not to despair, but to hope and trust, to pray and work for peace which is built on justice, and above all to love.
We, like the first disciples, have a choice. In the face of whatever is going on in the world, and whatever is going on in our own lives, we can choose – and go on choosing – to follow Jesus, to walk in the way of the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
If we want to know how to follow Jesus, we need to look at how Jesus lives. A life of compassion and solidarity with the powerless and outcast. Of touching the untouchable, and bringing healing to those who seem to be beyond hope and beyond redemption. Of challenging the power of the few, when it comes at the expense of the many.
We become like those we follow. It may be tempting to follow those who seem to have the power to make our lives better – whether they are politicians, or the cool kids in the playground – but look carefully: are they really who we want to become like?
Or we can follow Jesus, who knew that the ultimate power lay not in wealth or strength or popularity, but in humility and truth, and love stronger than death. And by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can grow to become more like him.
In this week when all eyes are on America, it is perhaps appropriate to quote Martin Luther King, who said this:
“Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of [people] and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.“
The gospel is not moribund. The good news of Jesus cannot be buried. But it is only good news if it is good news for everybody. As the world seems to become more isolationist, more wary of the stranger, the foreigner, the poor, the ‘other’, more ready to demonise than to love, Jesus shows us a different way.
Following Jesus should lead us to stand not with the powerful, but with the least, the last, and the lost. That is where we find him: among the people the world would rather forget. Because the Good News is, nobody is forgotten. Nobody is excluded from God’s table. Nobody is beyond the scope of God’s forgiving love. Nobody.
And proclaiming that good news – in what we do and what we say, in our personal lives and in our politics – is the calling of the followers of Jesus.
“Come,” says Jesus, “and follow me.” Amen.