Is God calling you to something new?
on 26 April, Revd Dr Emma Ineson considers how Jesus called Peter and how this might shed light on how he might call you.
So here we are, two weeks after Easter. We’ve celebrated, we’ve eaten too much chocolate—and now, as the disciples did in John 21, we’ve gone back to our fishing nets.
Except maybe you haven’t, because maybe you’re not sure whether the fishing net you have been holding is the one you should be holding in the future.
Perhaps you are at a point of wanting to know whether God is calling you to stay where you are, or to step out into a new ministry, a new mission, a new service for him. Perhaps you are trying to discern your vocation.
I wonder if, that morning on the beach, Peter was expecting to hear the voice of Jesus that day: “Haven’t you caught anything?” Certainly, by the end of their conversation, Peter was left in no doubt that Jesus had called him to do something significant for him.
Let's look at how Jesus called Peter—and we might get some ideas about how he calls you and me.
Firstly, Peter had to face the truth about himself.
As Peter and Jesus sat on the beach by the fire, the memories of that awful night in the High Priest’s courtyard, also around a fire, would have been very present. Remember Peter? Peter, who loved to sit next to the rabbi, and usually spoke up, whether or not he’d been listening. Peter, who was ready to fight at any time but had a problem staying awake at critical times. Peter, who, when he recognised Jesus on the shore that day, jumped into the lake rather than coming in sensibly on the boat.
And Jesus knew. Jesus knew Peter. Jesus knew everything he had done, everything he was, and he called Peter anyway.
I find that a great encouragement. Jesus didn't sit Peter down and say, “Peter, let’s get a few things straight before I put you in charge of my church.” No, he said simply, “Peter, do you love me?”
We are all weak, fallible people, like Peter, but that’s where God's grace and love come in. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:7).
Recognising our own inadequacy is the first step in our being able to be used by God—facing the truth of our sheer ‘human-ness’—and offering ourselves to God anyway.
Secondly, Peter had to be forgiven.
Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved him, giving Peter the chance to put right the memory of a threefold denial with a threefold declaration of love. Peter was set free from the mistakes of the past. God does call us as we are, flaws and all, but he also loves us too much to leave us as we are.
Someone put it like this: “God never calls us to be something or someone we’re not. But God always calls us to what we are capable of becoming...”
I wonder if when Jesus called him ‘Simon, son of John’, his old name, it took him back to that first time Jesus had called him from his fishing nets (Matthew 4:18-19, John 1:35-42). How far they’d come since then. Yet Jesus called Peter again—Simon, son of John, are you still willing to follow me? Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Thirdly, Peter was freed for the next steps of the journey.
I wonder how Peter got on with John? John was the one who always seemed to get it right where Peter got it wrong. John was super-spiritual and had visions. John just seemed to know things, and Peter always blurted out the wrong things. Even now, as Jesus is asking Peter these slightly embarrassing personal questions, John is trotting along behind them.
“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’” Peter wasn’t happy with simply knowing what his own calling was. He wanted to know where John fitted into the picture too. Maybe he wanted to weigh up his own calling against what John would be asked to do - OK, I’m being asked to feed his sheep, whatever that means. So what’s he going to do?
It’s easy to do that - to look at what someone else is being called to and wonder if it is better than what we’re doing. ‘That’s not the way’, Jesus says to us. ‘What is it to you if I have asked that person to be ordained, or that person to be a lay minister or that person to stay right where they are? You must follow me in your own calling.’
And where Jesus calls, he will equip. If our vocation comes from God, he will take care of the details. The disciples gathered on the shore a few days later find themselves equipped and empowered beyond their wildest dreams, as the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost.
‘Follow my call’, Jesus says, ‘and the rest is up to me’.
Revd Dr Emma Ineson is principal of Trinity College Bristol.
God calls us all - resources and reading
Vocations Sunday website
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