patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

at once

The calling is more dramatic in Matthew’s account: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20 NIV).

At once.

So, continuing on my speculations of yesterday, I’m wondering about that net, surely an expensive thing. And the other fishermen with Peter and Andrew, since casting a net and heaving it back in would likely require more than just two pair of hands. What did their fisherbuddies think? What would I think if one of my colleagues abandoned her or his job to join some guy talking weird about fishing people and going around saying “Follow me” to all the able-bodied guys around?

It gets even more dramatic: “Going on from there, [Jesus] saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:21-22).

Immediately. They're preparing nets—so, not yet out on the water. They just step out into the shallow water and take off.

And their father's like, “Boys! Sons! Get back here and help me!” No fish that day—or, probably, for many days after that. No fish. No money. No work. Wife yelling at him. Little ones hungry.

But mostly, the worry about those boys—good boys, Zebedee’s helpers, their parents’ hope, their pension in their old age—going off after a guy who does magic tricks at wedding parties. It all happened so fast—immediately, at once—they hardly knew how to process it, how to talk about it to each other, much less to their friends and neighbors, the people they went to church with.

When Zebedee and his wife encounter James and John in town, or maybe at church—since, weirdly, they still showed up there on occasion—the boys told them, “But he’s for real. It really happened. We saw the water in those jars, drank the wine!”

Clearly it was already too late to talk them out of this silliness. As John himself tells us and probably told them, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).


  1. When I read your thoughts today and your last posting, it made me feel like there is something missing in our modern Christian culture. It seems clear that the Jews of Jesus' day had a deep longing for the Messiah - at least some of them did. I call myself a Christian but where is this deep longing in me? Shouldn’t it be there? Isn't that a part of the Lord's Prayer - "thy kingdom come" - isn't that expressing a longing for the Messiah? Would I have followed him - I doubt it. That makes me sad. I need to kindle what little longing I have within me - fan that spark into a flame but I'm not sure how to do it. Does it only come with incredible hardship like the Jews of that time experienced - conquered and re-conquered by Assyria and Babylon and Rome - mistreated, miserable, and maligned? Would I trade my luxuries for that if it was necessary for finding that longing? Not willingly. Will God create it in me? He can and, if necessary, he will.

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  3. I'm usually suspicious of those who tell me they can't wait to die, or for the end times to come. I always think it's because they're unhappy in this life--disgruntled--and that, it seems to me, can't be a good thing. In Hebrews 11, though, those who look forward to a different, presumably better world than this one are commended. The writer of Hebrews is talking there about preChristian believers who "did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV). Somewhere in there is, perhaps, an admonition to me that I shouldn't feel the way I do toward believers who say they're hot to enter the next life. At the same time, the NIV's wording here--that they saw the promises and welcomed them from a distance--seems a bit less suicidal and sour than how the people who say such things generally talk.

  4. It truly does seem like the more miserable I am, the more eager I am for the next life. And there are plenty of reasons to be miserable if that is what I look for. But there are also plenty of reasons to be happy or at least joyful - that is what I look for and find. This world is truly an amazing and beautiful creation. Despite the good and beauty I see, I know that this world is screwed up. Even in the US we can easily find injustice and violence and corruption that are far beyond our influence. I long for those things to be fixed. Is that the same as longing for something better? Maybe it is possible to long for something better without the defeatist attitude that says there is nothing beautiful here. For sure, the next world is going to be even more amazing and beautiful than this one. No matter how amazing I think it will be, if Jesus asked me to follow him at once - outside of something supernatural occurring within me - it would be difficult to cast everything aside. I know that whether Christians endure any of the coming tribulation is contestable but maybe we do and maybe it is necessary to prepare us to depart "at once."

  5. I think that's the same as longing for something better. And that it's possible to enjoy this world and long for its wreckedness to be fixed simultaneously--though, in that Hebrews passage, it does differentiate between this world and the longed for one.

  6. In a note I just wrote to a friend it occurred to me that at least one time in our lives we will all be called by God to drop everything and come at once - when we die. If I understand the death cycle - mentally/emotionally/spiritually resigning all our God-given responsibilities back to him is one of the final tasks.