The best description of the irresistible call of Jesus is perhaps best characterized by Dorothee Söelle who wrote the following poem, “not without you.”
he needs you
that’s all there is to it
without you he’s left hanging
goes up in dachau’s smoke
is sugar and spice in the baker’s hands
gets revalued in the next stock market crash
he’s consumed and blown away
that’s what faith is
he can’t bring it about
couldn’t then couldn’t later can’t now
not at any rate without you
and that is his irresistible appeal
What made Simon and Andrew, James and John follow him, leaving behind work and family for a relatively unknown, itinerant preacher? We will never know except to ask ourselves why we are here today. What yearning in our souls draws us from our warm covers, from our book, our coffee, our devices? What is here that calls us from our comfort?
And to what call does Jesus respond? I think it is the call from a people who are alienated, disconnected; a people who are suffering and have lost hope for a better future. Jesus shapes his call as he walks the roads of Palestine, healing and challenging, teaching and practising compassion. He himself learns as he goes and sees that this road that he has chosen will inevitably lead to a confrontation with the powers in charge of the people for whom he cares.
I am not sure that there is anything such thing as an exterior call, that the Holy One singles anyone out for a special purpose. I think it is the incarnation, the abiding spirit of God that calls through our humanity, through our psychology, through our experience, even through our relationships. For Christians, that gets shaped in following the Way of Christ, and indeed, in his personal charisma that has stood the test of millennia now. In our heart, there is an unfulfilled longing that sends tendrils out into the world and for those of us here, those tendrils connect with Jesus. But that is just the beginning. Like Jesus, we are presented with choices at every branch in the road, The choices invite us to choose compassion or hate, indifference or connection, commitment or apathy. We are free agents, able to ignore the pulling of our hearts, the deep questions of our minds, the teaching in our relationships.
The touchstone for us around our choices is of course our baptismal covenant, which for many of us must be re-thought and re-chosen from time to time. It is the map that tells us how close we are to Gethsemane, how near the cross, how willing we are not only to love Jesus, but to make his choices.
The call that Christians hear begins within our hearts, but to be fully realized, we must hear also the cry of the poor, stand in solidarity with those who suffer, move from judgement to compassion.
Here is what Marcus Borg says: We are invited to go beyond the minds that we have to minds and hearts that are shaped by the Spirit of God. We are invited to go beyond the minds that we have – minds dominated and blinded by conventional categories, identities, pre occupations – to minds and hearts centred in the Spirit, alive to wonder, alive to seeing, and alive to compassion. We are invited to go beyond the minds that we have – minds dominated by the ideologies and preoccupations of individualism – to minds and hearts that see and hear the suffering caused by systemic injustice, minds alive to God’s passion for justice. (Days of Awe and Wonder)