If we took all the different stories of how we managed, individually to be here will be as many different tales about coming to faith as there are people, no 2 people will have the same story, they will be almost infinitely variable. One of the stories that you get asked quite a lot as soon as people find out that you want to be a vicar is “How on earth did you end up doing this?” And during the course of my training I have often stopped and pondered the same thing. “How on earth have I ended up doing this?”. It isn’t the most obvious choice it has to be said, I don’t sound like Derek Nimmo for a start, but the fact remains that I am now here, doing this because I couldn’t keep on ignoring that niggle that refused to leave me alone.
But enough about me, we have all these other stories in the room about people coming to God or maybe you are just simply wondering, “What is this all about?” Those stories that people have could be big. In the Bible we have Jacob wrestling with the Angel or Jonah doing what he can to run away from God, but for most of us it is a much less dramatic affair, I have not heard of too many people being swallowed up and regurgitated by a Big Fish…thankfully. Unless anyone has anything to share now….
What most of our lives comprise of is a series of small decisions that gently guide what it is that we become, and our faith is no different. We love stories of dramatic conversions like Paul on the road to Damascus but it is not usually a finally and forever kind of thing. We find that being followers of Christ means that our entire life consists of being converted, of being converted in increments. Even if we have some drama in there, we are mostly shaped and formed into the likeness of Jesus in the small things that we do. As we talked about last week, over and over again Jesus comes to us saying “Follow me”, and we decide if and how we will follow.
This resonates with the Gospel reading. The first interaction between Jesus and his followers is only that, a first interaction. Our relationship with Jesus is grounded and experienced in the people and events of our lives and our world. It started off dramatic, downing tools and following, but that wasn’t the last decision that they made. They continually chose to keep following, usually getting things wrong but following nonetheless. We see that through the remainder of Matthew’s Gospel the writer doesn’t just describe the life and ministry of Our Lord and Saviour but also the ongoing shaping and forming of the Disciples' lives. That shaping and forming happened in Jesus’ teaching of the beatitudes, in his healing of the sick, in his parables, his feeding of the 5000, in Peter complaining that they had left everything behind, in James and John arguing with the others about who would be at Jesus’ right hand and his left. In Jesus’ crucifixion, his resurrection and his ascension, and in the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Every moment that they and we have a choice to make echoes with Jesus saying “Come and follow me”, every one of those moments is a turning point. The turning points in our lives bring us face to face with Jesus and they come in lots of ways, they can be planned, they can be surprises, they can be joyful, they can be filled with sadness, they can affirm, they can confuse us. But each turning point gives us the opportunity to have Jesus refashion our lives. He tells us, just as he told Peter, Andrew, James and John “I will make you…” He makes us more than we are. He changed them using the same sailing boats that they always used, on the same lake as they always were on, using the same nets.
As we look at our boats, our lakes, our nets, the circumstances of our life. What is the turning point that we face today? What is happening? What do we see? Maybe we are ignoring it, not recognised it or maybe we know exactly what it is.
Regardless, there is Jesus beckoning, calling to us, longing and desiring for us to listen. There he is standing there saying “Follow me, I have picked you”.