As people of the twenty-first century, we spend much of our lives building a resume of accomplishments and achievements: where we’ve studied, the jobs we’ve had, the goals we’ve achieved. If we work hard enough, we can accomplish anything. We can earn approval, success, even the love of others. And that “resume” can also include the work we do to be good people. We volunteer our time to help others; we advocate for those who are marginalized; we strive to be good examples to those around us.
But Jesus’ call is not something we can work toward; it’s not something we earn. Levi, a tax collector whose work was based on taking advantage of other people, clearly doesn’t “earn” his call. Jesus doesn’t require that Levi clean up his life first or prove anything or bring anything. Jesus simply calls, and Levi responds, turning away from his old life and toward Jesus. In that simple call to “follow me,” Jesus points to a new way, and Levi begins living his life in response.
Jesus does not wait until we are ready, or prepared, or perfect. He does not call us because of our resume, or accomplishments, or good works, or even our potential. He calls us to turn toward him, and he gives us what we need to do and to be in response to that call. Levi embodies what it means to repent—to change direction when we are going down the wrong path and to turn toward a life of following Jesus. We, too, are called. We may not feel ready, or worthy, or up to the task. But if we respond and turn toward him, Jesus will give us what we need.
The Rev. Dr. Bill Lupfer, Rector, Trinity Church Wall Street, New York, NY