What Do You Do 1-26-14

This sermon comes from Matthew 4: 12-23. It presents Jesus’ calling the first disciples. In the sermon I explore our vocation in life.

You can hear the sermon here.

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here.

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Last Thursday I had the pleasure of a visit from one of my old seminary classmates. She was on her way back towards Minnesota from a call interview down in Kansas, and since she was in the area with some time to kill, she called me up and swung into Underwood to see where I’ve set up shop.
We sat and talked for a while about various things, many of which centered on various members of our old seminary cohort. Now, many of you have heard me talk about the program that I was in when I started seminary back in 2008, a part time distance program that would allow me and a group of others to slowly work our way towards a seminary degree and ordination.
I think back to those first days in the program, and we were quite the group. There were 18 of us, and we had a wide variety of backgrounds. We ranged in age from 22 to 57. We came from all directions, some as far away as New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Texas. At the time, 7 of us were already working in a church in some capacity, whether youth directors or visitation ministers or something along those lines. We also included a lawyer, a trucking broker, a farmer and accountant, a newspaper publisher, a civil engineer, a restaurant manager, an artist, an aviation insurance agent, a fund raiser for a private prep school, a librarian, and one undergrad student.
They told us that our process of seminary education would take between 5-6 years to complete depending on how closely we stuck with the program…and now, as we come towards the end of the 6th school year since starting, my old cohort includes 9 ordained pastors, 5 at various points in the call process, 2 in their last semester of classwork, 1 working towards a PhD, and just 1 that ended up quitting the program.
If my time in seminary taught me anything, its that God calls all kinds of people into the vocation of pastoral ministry…but not just into that specific vocation…God calls all kinds of people into all kinds of vocation.
Now vocation…that’s kind of funny word isn’t it? It gets thrown around the church community…and particularly the seminary circle…quite a bit…and its used to describe the way that God calls an individual to serve the kingdom…but out in the real world…where the rubber meets the road as they say…the word vocation often times gets lumped in with the word occupation…and what we do is quickly defined by where we work.
I look out at you today and I see a wide variety of occupations. I see farmers, I see students and teachers, I see retirees, I see real estate agents and insurance agents, I see contractors, and pharmacy techs, and computer specialists…and I see everything in between.  Those of us gathered here today truly represent an eclectic mix of occupations.
And while there are some out there that find tremendous joy and fulfillment in our occupations…there are also many who quite simply work their jobs…and they find their fulfillment elsewhere.  As I look out at you today, I think not only about your occupations, but I also think about what you DO…for some of you, I think of the volunteer work that you do here at the church…serving on the alter guild, teaching Sunday school to our children, serving meals for funerals, playing the organ, directing the choir, ushering, and the list goes on and on…and for others, I think of your activities outside the church…coaching a trap shooting team or pee wee football, singing in community choirs, organizing the Colorwood 5k, or leading a boy scout troop…that’s the stuff you DO…and that’s the stuff that makes up your vocation…
And that is the stuff that God calls us to in our lives…I think about all those different aspects of our community…represented by those of you sitting out there today…I think about various occupations…and I think about various vocations…and I am reminded that God has called each and every one of us for a specific purpose…in the midst of our day to day lives…just as we see in today’s scripture lesson.
In today’s story we hear once again about the calling of the first disciples…we heard a similar story last week, when Jesus issued an invitation to the first disciples to come and see…and to abide with him…and in today’s story, Jesus offers another invitation, though a little bit different this time around.
We see Jesus, having relocated to Capernum, a small town about the same size as Underwood, on the shore of the sea of Galilee, populated by farmers and fishermen. Jesus is walking along the shore one day and he sees a group of fishermen…and he says to them, quite simply, Follow me, and I’ll make you fish for people…
Now there’s a wide debate amongst scholars as to whether or not this marks the first interaction between Jesus and the four fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John. Some will say that in fact it is and that the men immediately followed him speaks to the intense power of Jesus…others say that in a town of 1000 people, where Jewish life centered around the synagogue, certainly these guys have bumped into each other before…but regardless…Jesus says follow me…come on guys, let me teach you something…and they do it…leaving their nets and their boats, and even family members behind…and they follow Jesus.
But you know what’s interesting here…Jesus recognizes the occupation of the 4 men…and in turn he gives them a vocation to do in the midst of it. Follow me fishermen, and I’ll make you fishers of men…it is certainly important to recognize the immediacy of the way the men drop everything to follow Jesus…but we also know that they came back to regular life as well. We hear later in the gospel that the group visits Peter’s house and family…there are other moments in the gospel when we see them up to their normal activities…and in the end, following the death and resurrection of Jesus…they go right back to fishing again.
Jesus enters into the lives of these regular people…4 of them in this story, but as we all know there were 12 total…and countless more that followed Jesus…and none of them were the same person…they weren’t carbon copies of each other…they were just normal everyday people…and they certainly didn’t have it all together just because they chose to follow Jesus. They were impulsive, they bickered with each other, they were a bunch of scardy-cats, and most of the time that we see them following Jesus around, they’re still a bunch of self-centered ragamuffins.
But in the midst of their commonness…in the midst of being so ordinary, and nothing special, Jesus invites them not only to follow him…but to take part in the ministry that he is doing…Jesus doesn’t say follow me and you’ll stay students forever…he doesn’t say follow me and we’ll walk around you’ll just watch me do stuff…no, he says follow me and I’ll make you fish for people…You’ll get your hands dirty…because I can’t do this without you. (pause)
And Jesus can’t do it without you either. At some point in your life, Jesus asked you to “come follow me,” and you are here today because you listened…and in the midst of your day to day life, which may at times feel very ordinary…and as absolutely far away from God inspired as possible…in the midst of that, Jesus is inviting you to join with him in the work of the kingdom.
In today’s story we hear Jesus say that the kingdom of Heaven has come near…it’s at hand…the kingdom here…now today and everyday we are a part of the kingdom of God, because Jesus brought it with him…and just as he told Peter and Andrew, and James and John…simple fishermen, follow me and I’ll make fish for people…he’s calling you too…follow me and let’s get to work together. (pause)
He’s not calling you out of your normal day to day life…he’s calling you to live it…and to live it together with those around you…and so today, I ask you…what is God calling you to do?  (pause)
I’m not asking how you pay the bills…I’m asking, what do you do…what gives you joy…what brings you in contact with those around you? Because that’s where you find your vocation…your vocation is the point where your greatest joy and the world’s greatest need intersect.
For some, it’s coaching children. For others, its serving in a food pantry…for others, its volunteering on the community fire department…there are countless vocations in the world, just as there are countless individuals…and God is calling you…saying Follow me…and in the point where you find your greatest joy, I will place people in your path, people that you can form relationships with over a common interest…over a common bond…and in the midst of that relationship, God is calling you to share the relationship that he has with you…a relationship made possible through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…in every way fully man, and in every way fully God…who invites us in the midst of our lives…Now is the time…the kingdom is here, and God is leading us all somewhere… will you follow? Amen

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Teri on January 27, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Great sermon. I have & will continue to follow Jesus. I pray that I will know his will & what he wants me to do.


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