Only a beginning

“Follow me,” Jesus said, and two young men dropped what they were doing and followed (Matt. 4:12-23). Ever since, he’s been calling, and people have been following. Today we baptized two children, their entry into a church that is both relationship and journey. Two young girls receive their first holy communion, following deeper into the mystery of faith. And one more person has chosen to continue her journey of faith by joining us as a member. Did Peter or Andrew, or even Jesus himself, know at first what was in store for them? Do any of us?

Decades ago, while making a difficult and promising job change, I made a new commitment to follow where God would lead, without having any idea where that would take me. I was led first to a job I doubted I could handle but that turned out to be just right for me. I was led to a church where my faith was challenged, clarified, and deepened. I was led to seminary, to a career in parish ministry, to congregations in three states, and finally to here.

Never in my journey could I guess what would come next. My commitment was only to listen and to follow. And though I tried many times to plan my journey, every next step was a surprise. Along the way were tests of my character and faith, many of which were painful and humbling. There was failure and rebuilding, loss and healing – all of which contributed to my growth and wholeness. And if I’ve learned anything about life, if I have any wisdom to share, it has come from this unpredictable, surprising, challenging, difficult, and oh-so-fulfilling journey.

Nothing in the scripture tells me that Jesus knew in the beginning what was in store for him. He simply – or not so simply – made a commitment to listen to God and to follow where God would lead. Then he began his work (Matt. 4:23-25); he learned to speak his truth (5:1–7:29); he learned the cost of a faithful life (e.g., 10:34-39; 17:22-23); he committed to going the distance (Luke 9:51); and he surrendered his will into God’s will (Matt. 26:39).

When Jesus calls us to follow him in baptism, at the table, or as a new member of the family, he says, “I want you to share in my life and mission, and I want to share with you the joy and fullness of my life. I want you to rest full and complete at the end of each day and to welcome each morning as a new opportunity to live in the fullness of God’s promise of eternal life. And I want you to be part of a community that is my presence in the world today, healing the wounds of division and restoring the perfect integrity of creation.” Follow me, he says, and all this and more will be yours.

Questions for reflection

  1. Recall an occasion when you stepped into a larger role than you had previously filled – for example, a promotion at work or increased family responsibility – that you were not sure you were ready to take. What doubts or questions did you have? Did you know at the beginning how you would perform or what you would do, or did you discover those things later, after you had begun?
  2. How were you tested? What was have been the results or outcomes of that testing?
  3. In being called to be something more than you had been or to accept a greater responsibility than you had ever before had, what did you discover about yourself, about the inner strength or resources on which you could draw? To whom did you look to help you in that role? What kind of people did you seek to gather around you for support or guidance?
  4. What contributed to your growth in that new role or responsibility? Do you think God knew how you would do (did you know?), or was the way you performed in that new role a surprise, something you and God had to discover in the doing of it?
  5. When you accepted the call to follow Christ, what were your first feelings or thoughts? What were your first hopes or aspirations? Your doubts, fears, or concerns?
  6. How do you work out what God is calling you to do today? To whom do you look for support or guidance in the role to which you are called?

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