Mark 3 7-19 New International Version (NIV) ; Jesus disciples are both called and sent
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.
13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
It’s jolly hard getting a job these days, particularly when setting off on a career. There seem to be so many people out there looking for the same job. There are so many educational and training establishments. Undoubtedly we have taken tremendous steps in our country in the past decade to overcome nepotism and discrimination and promote appropriate diversity, all of which many of us support, but it doesn’t seem to have got much easier.
Indeed finding out about vacancies is difficult. It used to be a matter of looking in the newspapers. When I was a daily Guardian reader, Mondays was media and advertising, Tuesday was law and the professions, Wednesday was teaching and health care, Thursdays was local government and public bodies and Fridays was the rest! Now one has to trawl through many websites
Over the last 15 years or so, the University of Law in Guildford has run a mentoring scheme where local practitioners each year take on a student to help them in the job search. I’ve been doing it throughout this time and it seems each year they give me harder and harder students to help or maybe, and worryingly, there are more seeking a career who have far less chance of making it despite the cost. Also, over many years I’ve also been involved in recruitment at my law firms. It’s bewildering what some people disregard when looking for a job
Most simply ignore the fact that potential employers will look at social media profiles of potential recruits. So one guy had boastful pictures of how he had got, in his words, completely wasted every night of the week during university term time. So why wasn’t he impressing potential employers? Some women have pictures which leave nothing to the imagination and wonder why they are quickly getting lots of job interviews but which then lead nowhere. One of my favourite faux pas was a mentee who, on the interview application form of one law firm about books that she had recently read, put 50 Shades of Grey.
Traditional career advice is putting something distinctive and different. Sometimes it works. As you will know, I’m bit of a Trekkie, Star Trek, and I had a job application from somebody who said she spoke Klingon. I imagined when work was quiet we could have a fascinating Klingon discussion together in the office. So she got the interview on that alone. Pity she was a hopeless lawyer and never passed the interview.
And then there are the bright sparks who get their act together and produce an astounding letter as to why the law firm should employ them. Only they forget to change the content based on the firm to which they are applying. My firm only undertakes family law. So the potential recruit who wrote in terms that they could help us become a leading criminal law firm had either not done their homework or more probably hadn’t changed the pro forma letter from the one they had just written seeking a job from a criminal law firm!
No, getting a job is jolly hard. Making the application and conducting the interview.
But in recent years has arrived the head hunter. No, not cannibals although some might hold them in similar low regard. The recruitment consultant who is instructed by an employer to approach somebody, already employed and invariably successfully employed and sometimes very happy in their place of employment, and invite them to consider moving to the other job. It’s often very specific and sometimes just one person will be approached. As the employee, it’s very flattering. I’ve been approached a few times and it gives one a real buzz that another employer has picked one out as suitable material. For the present employer, it’s a nightmare. Without knowing it, one’s best employees are being seduced and enticed elsewhere, to leave employment and move invariably to a competitor. It sometimes known as tapping up. In some areas it’s a regulatory offence and Liverpool football club were recently condemned and fined for trying to tap up, entice to leave, a player from Southampton.
We have this problem at the very moment at work. Another law firm is explicitly holding a lunch for lawyers at sub partner level, inviting the best in London including one of ours. They call it a professional get-together and networking. It’s obviously with a view to possible hiring. Ann has had a dilemma. Do you allow them to go and be confident that they are committed to you and will be loyal and just enjoy a good lunch, or do you refuse on the basis of what it actually is. She would welcome your thoughts after the sermon.
So we have the situations vacant column and the head hunter.
In our bible reading Jesus recruits his disciples just as he recruits disciples today. And he head hunts. He doesn’t put an advert in the Galilee Advertiser or on the website of the Gethsemane Gazette. Verse 13: he called to him those he wanted. That they might be with him and that he might send them out. This was his calling of the 12 disciples. We see similar in chapter 1. In verse 16 Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee and he called out to Simon and his brother Andrew, fishing on the lake and said: come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people and at once they left their nets and followed him. The same with James and John a couple of verses later.
And Jesus calls to us. Not just us here. Incredibly Jesus calls to every person on our entire planet throughout history. He calls to follow him. To be his disciple. To be in this incredible relationship with God the creator.
One of my favourite pictures is by Holman Hunt called the light of the world. I have it in postcard size on my windowsill at work, faded and bent after several years of the Covent Garden sun, but still an inspiration. An old door, with rusty hinges that haven’t opened for decades, covered with ivy and overgrown and Jesus is patiently standing outside with a lantern. Knocking on the door. Revelation 3.20. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.
A head hunter is very exclusive. They approach just a few, sometimes just one or two, for a particular job. Jesus is a head hunter with a difference. He is certainly exclusive in as far as he only approaches those he loves. But he loves us all, all of us here in the Surrey Hills, England and the entire world. He opens his arms to call all of us, to invite all of us. We don’t apply for this job. This employer wants us to join him. He comes out to meet us where we are. For the disciples fishing on the Lake of Galilee, it was their place of employment. But it could be our home, our recreation. Anywhere.
Experience tends to show that we are most likely to listen to his calling at a time of turmoil and difficulties in our lives or at a time of change and reflection. Sadly when all in life is booming and good, very few of us reflect on the deeper issues of life. But we all know that life is never, from beginning to end, a bunch of roses, unmitigated joy and happiness and success. However much that might be celebrity lifestyle as portrayed in the media. That’s not reality for them nor is it for us. And at those times in life, God is the loving and sensitive head hunter. He says, Matthew 11.28, come to me all who are weary and burdened, heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Having been approached by the head hunter we have the interview. Despite being selected by the head hunter, will we be good enough for the employer? Will we be what they want? Will there be any terms of the employment which will be too harsh and demanding? Will it all seem too good to be true? Many of us, flattered to be headhunted, have thought why not, see what it’s like and go for the interview and then at interview we realise we are far better off where we are and not move.
Christ wants us to join him. He wants us to open the door to our lives and let him come in, and to use the analogy in Revelation, eat with him and live daily lives with him. But there are a couple of aspects to the interview. We need to come with a humble heart. After all, this is God the creator, God the saviour, God the Almighty, who wants to enter into a special relationship with each of us. Humility is essential. We also need to come with an awareness that in our previous life, our previous employment to use the analogy, we haven’t lived to the standards and expectations of God. We have failed pretty hopelessly and often. He doesn’t expect us at the interview to say we will live a perfect life thereafter because he knows that won’t happen. But he does expect us to change parts of our way of living, to change our priorities and expectations, to change relationships and to change attitudes. Not everything on day one. It’s a progressive thing. What we can each cope with. But the commitment to change is part of taking on this new life, this discipleship. So having heard his calling, his open invitation, there needs to be humility and commitment to change to be more like the person Christ would want us to be
And when we have been headhunted and we join the new employer, having got over the gardening leave from the resentful former employer, we know in advance that we will work by the culture, the rules and regulations and the way of doing things of the new employment, the new employer. We know it won’t be the same as before. Cultures in workplaces can be very different. We want to please our new employer. We are grateful for having been taken on. We go the extra mile. We work with colleagues whom previously we would have shunned because they are also keen to be working with this new employer. We are working for a common cause and a common aim. We are working with the same standards.
Jesus doesn’t headhunt us to be a cosy twosome. Certainly we have the happiness and joy of fellowship and worship. But it can sometimes be hard work in being a disciple but the Holy Spirit within us gives us the peace, assurance and confidence of Christ with us at all times.
Sometimes when one is headhunted, one is sent to be part of an office elsewhere. To be a representative of the employer in another location where there is work to be done. For the lucky ones it is Singapore. For the unlucky ones it is the Slough trading estate.
For some disciples, Christ calls us to live our lives elsewhere in service to him. A very good friend of mine was a family lawyer in Bury St Edmunds, then spent about 15 years as the executive director of the lawyers Christian Fellowship but then two years ago felt called to go to work in Mozambique. From his prayer letters it is not an easy time. The new musical director appointed by Busbridge church lived in London and in some spiritual way which is difficult to understand, felt called to Godalming and we will be the beneficiaries. And for the record, I’m not comparing Godalming with Slough.
But for most of us, Christ tells us as disciples to stay where we are. In and amongst our families. In our community, in our place of work, in our places of recreation. Sure there will be places and activities which Christ says to us that in the new life he has given to us we should avoid and would not be helpful to us. But as a matter of generality, we are disciples where we are.
And this is how we can best be a disciple. Because sometimes quickly and sometimes over time but inexorably we change after we become Christians. We ourselves often can’t see it but others can. The ones we have lived alongside over many years or those we see every year or so and meet up. And they see that we have changed having become a disciple of Christ. They see it in big ways; completely changed priorities and expectations and lifestyle. They see it in little ways; just a small but significant way of doing something or way of talking or commitment within relationships. And in seeing these changes, and knowing that we are Christians, many ascribe this to the fact of our having become a Christian, of having committed ourselves to Christ, of having accepted his call. And this brings glory to God. This is one of the primary purposes of being his disciple.
Disciple is an interesting word in the Bible. It only appears once in the old Testament. Isaiah 8.16. A teacher pupil relationship. But by the new Testament it had broadened. It signified those who accepted the teachings of another e.g. John the Baptist or the Pharisees or Moses. It denoted adherents, followers. By the time of the early church, the book of Acts, it is used to describe believers, those who confess Jesus as Christ. Incidentally, as a biblical trivial pursuit, the word disciple is always as a noun. It’s only used in one context as a verb, to be or become or make a disciple and that is at the end of Matthew, 27.57 and 28.19.
Being a disciple is not necessary an easy situation. We are called to follow Jesus in his footsteps. Let us look as an example at the first part of the reading. Jesus went to the lake and a large crowd followed. Many came from the entire region. He had to get into a boat to keep the people from crowding him. He healed many and those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Words we may have heard often. But let’s picture the scene. Huge crowds without any stewards, queueing in the English fashion and just pushing forward, often desperate in the hope of being healed. Incessant, frantic pushing and shoving. People falling over and being trampled. A cacophony of Demons shrieking. In our middle-class way of saying it: a frightful scrum.
Anyone desiring to be Jesus disciple needs to work with him in the mess in which he worked and be prepared to be sent into it. A messy, crowded, uncomfortable and intense ministry in which Jesus practised and prepared his disciples. By our words and actions, in the power of the Holy Spirit, desperate people will become aware of their desperate need of deliverance through Christ and they will come to us. We need to be willing and able to speak of what it means to have been headhunted by Christ and to enjoy our life with him.
And we never know when this opportunity will happen. On Wednesday afternoon this week I met up with a very good friend of mine. We do so every six months to catch up with news and each other. We met at a tea shop in Covent Garden. It’s all very girly. Plush soft armchairs, bone china tea sets, really squishy patisserie, everything in pink. And some when during the conversation I mentioned I was doing the sermon today and she asked me what it was about and for the next half an hour quizzed me on what it meant to be a disciple, how it makes a difference in one’s life and what it really means and involves. And then she apologised, as is often the English way albeit she is Chinese, for asking such questions but of course I was delighted she had.
When we accept Christ’s invitation, his head hunting, we don’t know whether we will be called necessarily to the messy scrum of the Lake of Galilee, to work in the back streets of Mozambique, or as a music director in Godalming or in a cupcake tea house in Covent Garden. What matters is that we are willing, that we are known as Christians and his disciples and we live a life reflecting our new life, the Christ who gives us new priorities, new expectations and new power to live in his strength in his way. He is head hunting us and all whom we know and love this morning. Please accept