(Your vocation here) of people
The first four people that Jesus calls to follow and learn from him were in the business of catching and selling fish. The Gospel according to Mark tells us that Jesus saw them working and invited them into a life of discipleship with a play on words that described their new vocation in terms of their old one. “I will make you fish for people” is how he put it.
Like many good communicators, Jesus knew how to be funny and profoundly serious at the same time. The fishing metaphor worked for Simon, Andrew, James and John on several levels:
- It described a change of direction in their own lives, a pivoting away from their old work.
- It picked up and built off an old image of God seeking out those who are estranged.
- It introduced the idea that those who are called by God die to an old way of life in favor of life with God.
- It hinted at the fact that life apart from God is lived in a chaotic abyss.
The four fishermen would have gotten all of this intuitively; they were as deeply engaged in their vocation as fishermen. It’s what they thought about and what they talked about. It’s how they spent their days and why they sought sleep at night. When Jesus calls them fishers of people, he’s building on their deep knowledge born out of years of experience.
We can find these insights for ourselves, if we take the time to study the Gospels and seek connections into their cultural context, but it won’t be intuitive for us. We’ll have to imagine our way into the things that Simon and his fellows just knew.
But you know stuff too.
All of us fill our days with the activities of our various callings. We are students and professors, managers of projects and people, we are tradespeople and technicians, cooks and custodians. We are writers and musicians and artists, scientists and mathematicians. We are fathers and mothers, sisters, brothers and friends. When we spend time doing things, we develop expertise and that knowledge is of great value. In addition to helping us be good at what we do, it provides us with ways of looking at life.
I know that for me, the vocation of fatherhood has deepened my insight into the nature of God’s commitment to creation. I was working as a pastor for several years before our son was born. As a seasoned preacher, I had lots of experience describing the love God has for us. Looking back, I believe I didn’t really understand what I was talking about. Like many new fathers, my definition of love deepened and widened with the birth of our child. I think back on the conversations I had as a younger pastor and realize that I was only scratching the surface in my understanding of God’s abiding promises for us. With deeper insight, I know that I still am.
How does Jesus call you? How can your vocations – the things you know from doing – provide you with a way to describe the rule and reign of God? How does your life’s work give you ways of describing the hope that is yours in Jesus?
It might have nothing to do with fish and that’s just fine.
Jan 31, 2018
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as one of our university pastors at Valpo and takes turns writing weekly reflections.
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future