If you would, humor me for a second here by allowing me to begin by remembering my college days (which really weren’t that long ago). On the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, right above the Pacific Ocean, there is a statue of Jesus and Peter titled “The Calling.”
The sculpture consists of Peter, seated while repairing fishing nets, and Jesus, whose posture and body language is telling Peter to “follow me” (an image of Matthew 4). Aside from the frequent placement of an orange in Jesus’ palm, or decoration done by some group of students in the middle of the night, this statue reminds me of our call to be with one another in the good and bad.
Fast forward four years to this past July in Olathe, Kansas, the night of my ordination. It has become standard practice in my denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, to present ministers with a much smaller version of this statue at their ordination, as a constant reminder that not only are we to walk alongside others in their lives, but Christ is also calling us to walk with him. Jesus did not instruct Peter to take notes quickly and to simply do as instructed, but rather Christ calls Peter to accompany him in doing God’s work throughout creation.
Peter went on to be one of the first leaders of The Church. The teaching he received from Christ would be passed on from generation to generation, and today we are able to stand in the confidence of true faith because of this lineage. But as I have been reflecting upon recently, so much more has been passed down than simply right teaching — right care has also been passed down.
Remember, the first disciples didn’t just listen to Jesus lecture, as a student in a classroom. Rather, they had a front-row seat to see example after example of pastoral care and allow it to take shape in their own lives, for when they were to be commissioned themselves (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8).
The holidays seem to be the time of year that we most emphasize our appreciation for family and friends. So often, it is these family and friends that most shape who we are and who we become. I’m not married, nor do I have any kids, but my friends who do say they unintentionally pick up the parenting techniques of their own parents — we do what we know.
It’s the same thing in the Church — we repeat what we know. Will we repeat a faith that is simply a vocabulary/system to help us get what we want (or don’t want) in life, or (and my prayer for us all is this) have we been fortunate enough to have been shown a faith that calls us to new life? A life of love, confidence in life, and willingness to share life with those around us, even with those we don’t want to!
As I look at my own miniature version of “The Calling,” I am thankful for the people in my life who have shown me what it means to extend Christ-like love, so that I may not only receive it, but turn around and share it with others as well. This Advent season, as we think about waiting and anticipating, we must not get so caught up in the hopelessness expressed by so many outlets around us. Instead, may we hold fast to the teaching and care we have received, the teaching and care of hope, love, joy and peace in order that we may respond to Christ’s call to “follow me” and walk alongside others in the same.