Friday, January 18, 2008

This week's Sabbath School lesson: the calls

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8, NIV).
As part of last week's lesson, we studied the call of Peter in Mark 1:16-18 -- a call that was clear, personal, and decisive. As such, it provides a template for the way we usually think about God's work in our lives, i.e. God deals with us one-on-one -- and He demands an immediate response.

Yet the Gospel of Mark does not provide the only version of Peter's call.
  • To be sure, the account in Matthew 4:18-20 is almost identical with that of Mark.
  • But Luke 5:1-11 says Peter was fishing in a boat (and not with a hand net); what's more, Christ's call comes after he uses Peter's boat for a speaking platform, after he gives Peter a miraculous catch of fish, and after Peter begs Jesus to go away, "for I am a sinful man."
  • Finally, John 1:40-42 says nothing of fish nor fishing; neither does it say anything of Jesus reaching out to call Peter! Instead, we read how Jesus was seen by John the Baptist, John the Baptist was heard by Andrew, Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, and Jesus gave Andrew's brother the new name of "Peter."
In short, the story of Peter's "call" can be told at least three different ways . . . which is another way of saying the Bible recognizes at least three different times in Peter's life when he was "called" -- and each call comes to Peter in a different way:
  • "Out of the blue" (viz. Matthew and Mark).
  • After he'd heard Christ preach, seen Christ's power, and confessed his own sinfulness (viz. Luke).
  • And through the efforts of friends and family (viz. John).
Likewise, we should not expect God to "call" everyone in the exact, same way -- and even in our own lives, we will hear God's voice in different ways, at different times, and through different means.

In short, there is no single template for God's work in our lives. No, God's Spirit is like the wind -- "it blows wherever it pleases," and no one can predict what it will do next.

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