I want to talk about true calling. Now, in our Gospel passage today, we have the following three instances of calling. Let's look at them:
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:57-62)
We are going to look at the first and third "calling" first. What do you see that they have in common? Let's start with number three. We have someone coming to Jesus and wanting to follow him. But there is a condition. He tells Jesus that he must do something first. I'll follow you, but... I call this the "Jesus-but" situation. These are the people who are "trying" Christianity out. They are experimenting. They are dabbling in faith. They may be trying Christianity out this week, but Buddhism will be next week, etc. There's always a condition, and it's a hurdle that needs to be overcome before following.
Now, Jesus responds to this individual that anyone who hesitates, anyone who has a condition, is not fit for the kingdom of God. But, we see in the book of Kings that Elijah calls Elisha, who then says goodbye to his family before joining him, and there's no problem. Matthew Levi is called by Jesus, and he . . . throws a party. Conditions or hesitations are not really obstacles to following Jesus.
The third "calling" and the first have this in common: Jesus never called them. Jesus rejects the "but" guy, because he was never called. The "but" guy approached Jesus. That's the real problem.
Same with the first guy. Let's call him the Jesus-and guy. Here he offers to follow Jesus, without conditions. This sounds like the prefect disciple, but once again, Jesus never called him. Calling is the initiation of Jesus. We only respond to the call. This first guy was never called.
He is also a Jesus-and guy. He will follow Jesus, but he is going to do it on his own terms. He approaches Jesus. He has decided that he wants this. This is something that he has chosen to do. We see this in the church all the time. We see people in places of leadership, regardless of denomination, who have worked their way to the top, and they are now in positions of power, and they are leading people astray with false teachings. Why? Because they were never called.
We also see this in church leaders who cannot overcome an addiction that interferes with their ministry. Once again, regardless of denomination, we have people who feel called, but then they are downloading pornography onto the church computer. Guess what? You weren't called. You don't need therapy. You don't need to try harder next time. You weren't called to be there in the first place. Still get help, but get out of the church first.
Jesus responds cryptically, but it makes sense when you realize that following Jesus means poverty, means homelessness, means SERVICE, not STATUS. The Jesus-and crowd are in it for the status. They are gregarious and laugh the loudest. Jesus never called them.
Now, for the middle guy. Jesus calls him. "Follow me." Now, the guy has conditions, and he's hamming and hawing, but Jesus will not be stopped. We assume because the first and third guys are rejected, that Jesus also rejects the middle guy. No, Jesus just plunges on ahead and gives the guy an assignment.
Moses, Jeremiah, and many others hem and haw, and try to get out of the calling, but God will not be stopped. God plunges on ahead and gives them the assignment. Moses says he can't speak well. Jeremiah says he is just a child. God doesn't care. Here's your assignment.
We also assume that following Jesus means literally walking after him. Some are called to go to faraway countries as missionaries, but some are called to stay right where they are and preach the Word to their hometown. Jesus gives that sort of assignment to the middle guy. He is not to walk after Jesus with the disciples, but he is to proclaim the Word of God to his area. This is no less following Jesus, and this is no less a calling.
Think of the call you heard and think of others you know. How do we know true calling? Well, are you or your friends dabbling in Christianity? That's the Jesus-but. Are you or your friends seeking status in the Church? That's a Jesus-and. Are you proclaiming the Word to the place where you have been sent--even if it is where you live? You have been called.