27. December 2012
The Day of St. John the Evangelist
“You follow me!” Christian vocation does not take one from the home, or workplace, or world to a higher calling. As Luther helpfully taught us in the Small Catechism, we serve God by fulfilling His commands attached to the stations in life. Indeed, if you had to chose between feeding your child and coming to church who would choose church? Not even God. You love, honor, and worship Him in all things and with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Luther said: “There is no doubt it is Satan’s own doings that divine worship is confined only to churches, altars, masses, singing, reading, offerings and the like, as if all other works were vain or of no use whatever. How could Satan mislead us more completely from the right way than when he confines God’s worship within such narrow limits, only to the church and whatever is done in it?”
Sometimes we like to think of these saints as more beloved by God because of their great and noble deeds. St. John the Evangelist wrote a Gospel, Epistles, and even an Apocalypse. He autobiographically referred to himself as the “beloved disciple” and “the one whom Jesus loved.” He followed Jesus those three years. He even stayed with Christ at the cross. Surely this sets him apart from the gentle husband, lowly mother, diligent worker, or obedient child?
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them… [Peter] said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” It is as if Jesus were saying: “Why are you so worried about the one who will betray? What if this guy lives until I come again, what does that matter? Who should you be concerned about? Yourself! Be faithful to your vocation. I have called you to follow me, now do it!”
We’re always tempted to worry about the other guy. Is he Christian enough? Will he stay in the faith or fall from it? Do I measure up to the other guy’s impeccable Christian standard? Learn from St. Peter. Don’t do it. Be concerned with your faith and vocation. Follow Christ and live.
You can’t measure yourself without looking to your works and the works of your neighbor. Isaiah calls even our righteous works filthy menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6). This applies even to St. John’s most noble works: the glorious Gospel, the fantastic Revelation, and the bold confession of his first Epistle. Filthy, bloody rags. We, like Peter, want to judge ourselves based on how “beloved” the next guy is. We’re always trying to live up to some impossibly high standard and thereby think we’re pleasing from God.
Listen to Jesus: “You follow me!” There you have it. What’s your purpose in life? Have trouble deciding what to do next? Debilitated by the fear of making a wrong choice? Don’t worry about it. Ask yourself, what has God called me to be? And then be who God has called you.
If a pastor, be a pastor. Hold fast to the trustworthy word. If a layperson, listen to preaching, receive instruction, support the ministry financially, and respect your pastors. If an authority, rule with justice and honor. If a citizen, submit to your authorities and pay them taxes. Husbands, love your wives. Wives, submit to your husbands. Parents, do not exasperate your children but train and instruct them of the Lord. Children, obey your parents. Workers, obey your masters. Masters, treat you workers with respect and fear. Youth, listen to the older. Widows, pray without ceasing. Everyone, love your neighbor as yourself and pray without ceasing.
It is often asked how one can be a good Christian. From Jesus, it’s easy “you follow me!” Your works are worthless before God but are loving service for your neighbor. Love your God by being who He has given you to be. This work will undoubtedly fall short of the glory of God. But these works are not for your benefit. You’re not trying to measure up to God’s perfect standard. Your works are for your neighbor and God well supplies them.
If you look to your God-given vocations you’ll find ample to keep you busy and your time will be too short. You’ll have neither the strength nor the resources to fulfill them. But do not look to your works. God does not deal with you according to them. Your reward is not attached to them. Stick to your duties. As it is written, “let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” (1 Cor 7:17)
Notice St. John wants no credit in the Gospel he writes. He only refers to himself by the handle “the beloved disciple.” He’s not comparing himself to others but merely speaking of his place in the apostolic band. But notice too that he repeatedly states his purpose for writing. The beginning of the Apocalypse reads: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the thing that must soon take place.” St. John was called to the vocation of Revelator and his work on the book is the fulfillment of God’s calling. The purpose of all his work is to testify to Christ that your joy may be complete in Him.
Just as with St. John, we can learn to be humble in our boasting and in all things give God the glory. The mother changing the diaper, the father working the factory, the child obedient in his work all work to God’s glory. Even in suffering and death we can boldly give God the glory. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Or as Jesus said, “You follow me!”
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church