Turning Points

I get invited to different prayer and clergy groups, and I’m often the only Episcopalian. And folks are usually very interested in how I went from being a marketing consultant to being an Episcopal priest.

“Tell us your conversion story,” they say. “Tell us how you found Christ and became a pastor.”

“Well…,” I begin. And then usually there is silence. I think hard about the question. I start again. “Well…”

More silence.

Then I something like, “You know it’s just sort of always been there. A growing and deepening connection. I can’t really remember a time when it wasn’t.”

Then I’m usually asked, “There wasn’t a particular day or event?”

“Nope, not really.”

Then I think they’re usually disappointed and maybe even a bit doubtful about me.

I think that conversation highlights one of the difficulties with today’s gospel.

It sounds as if one day Jesus shows up and immediately we walk away from our old life and leave everything behind.

That’s how Matthew describes it for Peter, Andrew, James, and John in today’s gospel.

And I don’t doubt that’s true.

I know that’s some of y’all’s experience.

But I also know some of you would describe a story similar to mine; a continuous and steady experience of Jesus.

Others would tell a story of struggle and wrestling, give and take, back and forth.

In truth our lives are probably a mixture of all of those experiences plus others.

There are probably as many ways of being called, finding Jesus, being found by Jesus, whatever you want to call it, as there are people.

It is unique and personal to each one of us.

The point isn’t how it happens. Rather, the point is that it did happen and continues to happen.

We are always being converted, shaped and formed, into the likeness of Jesus.

For the disciples, that ongoing shaping and forming happened in Jesus’ teaching of the beatitudes, in his healing of the sick, in his telling parables, in his feeding the 5000, in Peter complaining that they had left everything behind, in James and John arguing with the others and hoping to sit at Jesus’ right and left, in Jesus’ crucifixion, in his resurrection and ascension, and in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Every one of those moments is a turning point in the lives of the disciples.

Every one of those moments echoes with Jesus’ words.

He only really says two things today: “Repent,” and “Follow me.”

At some level they are two sides of the same coin.

Repentance is more than just a moral change.

It is a life change, a turning point.

We look in a different direction.

We travel a new road.

The turning points of our lives bring us face to face with Jesus, and they come in lots of ways.

Sometimes they come as we planned, worked, and hoped for.

Other times they are completely unexpected.

Sometimes they bring us joy and gladness.

Other times they are filled with sorrow and loss.

Sometimes they affirm everything we thought and believed.

Other times they leave us confused and not knowing what we believe.

Think about your turning points in your lives.

Times when, for better or worse, your life was turned around:

  • Failing out of college
  • Graduating and beginning a first job
  • The death of a loved one
  • The birth of your children
  • Your divorce
  • Falling in love

That’s just part of my list. And my list could go on and on.

We could all tell stories of our life’s turning points.

What they all have in common, however, is Jesus’ invitation, his command, to turn around and follow him.

Each turning point comes with the opportunity and promise of Christ to refashion our lives.

That’s what Jesus did for Peter, Andrew, James, and John, when he told them one more thing. It wasn’t just “follow me,”

It was…“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people…,” he says.

That’s what he does for us as well.

In these turning points, Christ makes us and remakes us into who we truly are to be.

So what is the turning point you face today?

Maybe you know exactly what it is.

Maybe you’ve not yet recognized it.

Regardless, it is there and so is Jesus, beckoning, calling, longing, desiring.

He stands there saying, “Follow me. I’ve picked you.”