I think one of the most extraordinary and compelling stories in all of the Bible is the calling of the disciples in Mark 1. In the narrative, Simon Peter and Andrew are fishermen, a career generally void of glamor, riches, or intrigue. They are not only fishermen, but at times (as in the Luke 5 narrative), they are fairly unsuccessful fishermen.
When I think about fishing, one of the first things I think about is the smell. Simon Peter and Andrew lived with the smell of fish every single day. I would think that smell is more of a stench, not really something that would be a featured fragrance in the seasonal section at a big box retailer.
However, that was their livelihood. It was what they knew and what gave them purpose. It is likely Simon Peter and Andrew thought they would be fishermen for as long as their health and circumstances would allow. Then, one day, all at once, they were no longer fishermen. They were disciples. Disciples with a fresh, new calling. When we read this story nearly 2000 years after the Disciples’ call, we read knowing the rest of the story. We read knowing that what they were called to was infinitely better than what they gave up to fulfill that call. But had Simon Peter and Andrew never taken the risk to accept Jesus’ invitation, they never would have known either.
Each time I read this story, I think to myself “Wow. They just dropped their nets. Just like that”. The truth is, we are all holding onto nets in ministry, and there is some comfort in that. Even if the nets we hold are ordinary and possibly a little smelly, we hold on to them because they are what we know.
These nets might be our ministry budgets, our job titles, our resources, and our congregations. They might be our systems, our processes, our traditions. If we look down at our hands, we might find them clenched to the same fishnets we have always held.
What if Jesus walked by and called us to drop our nets and pursue something new, something different?
Would we? What might happen if we do? What might happen if we don’t? Sometimes we won’t leave our nets because we are afraid. We are afraid of the unknown, so we hold on tight and either hope the call never comes, or we ignore it when it does. The risk of letting go seems far too great because we cannot be assured how the future will unfold. So it feels better to just hold on.
But what if Simon Peter and Andrew had held on when Jesus called to them? We know from the narratives of the Gospels and Acts that they would have missed out on the greatest adventure possible. That’s the thing about risk. We often shy away from dropping our nets because in doing so, we relinquish control. Relinquishing control involves risk, as it pushes us to be more vulnerable and more dependent as we step into unfamiliar territory. Simon Peter and Andrew knew how to fish. That was familiar. In leaving all that was familiar, they turned their life and ministry over to Jesus. Their adventure into the unknown was sometimes dark, discouraging, and even brutal, but because it was ordained by God, it bears incredible fruit 2000 years later. The risk is not if God will hold up His end of the bargain, but rather if we will hold up ours.
Let’s drop our nets and answer God’s call and allow Jesus to be in control of our ministries and our places in those ministries.