Posts Tagged ‘Being Called’

We Are All Called 1-22-17

In this sermon, taken from Matthew 4:12-23, I explore the call of God to follow, and how this call has been extended to each of us, whether we realize it or not.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

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

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

The other day I was standing in the office making some copies…and as I stood there waiting for the machine I found myself staring at the large picture frame that displays the various pastors of our congregation. Now I’ve looked at that display many times…but this particular time it struck me to notice the number. Since the construction of this sanctuary, completed back in 1948, almost 70 years ago, 14 of us have stood in this pulpit as called pastors.

Now admittedly, I don’t know much about those that came before. Other than a few interactions with my immediate predecessor, I’ve never met any of them. I don’t know their stories or what brought them to Underwood…some of you long-time members out there might just know some of those stories…but all I can speak to is my own experience.

The very first time I ever heard the name Underwood Lutheran was nearly 4 years ago. February of 2013. A day that seminary students have come to call draft day. If you are unfamiliar, the vast majority of seminary students here in the ELCA are assigned a specific area where they will serve their first call. We have some input, but when it gets right down to it our fate is in the hands of the bishops of the different synods…as they gather together to hash out who’s going where.

This information is revealed to the student in two steps. First we learn what region we are assigned to…and then we sit with that information for about a week until the different bishops from that region hammer out who’s going into each individual synod. Now the day that happened for me was a Friday…and I recall sitting in class that afternoon…and each one of us was constantly checking our phones…waiting to it to ring as our new bishop called us to inform us where we’d be heading.

Funny enough…the first person to get the call that day was a fellow student skyping into class from Ohio…we all heard her phone go off over the computer…and her faced disappeared from the screen for a couple minutes before she came back on to share her news.

You can only image how intensely we were all looking at our phones from that moment on…various people getting calls here and there…but I waited…and waited…and waited.  Class got over, no call…I went home…no call. I saw postings on social media from classmates sharing their news…no call…and I could only think to myself…I didn’t get picked…perhaps you know the feeling if you’ve ever been the last one picked for a game at recess.

But…finally…about 8:30 that evening…my phone rang and I looked over to see “Storm Lake, IA” on the caller id…and our bishop shared the news with me, including the statement “And we’ve got this congregation in mind for you called Underwood.” (pause) It was wonderful news, once I finally got to that part…but the whole day leading up to it was horrible…because I wasn’t getting the call.

Now its this idea of receiving a call that takes me into the gospel today…for as we heard in the lesson, Jesus encounters the disciples for the first time…and Peter and Andrew and James and John, these two sets of brothers…this batch of fishermen…all hear the same call from Jesus…from God the son…come follow me…and as we hear, they drop everything and do just that.

Now interestingly enough, the confirmation class talked about this very story just a couple weeks back…and we talked about how Jesus was attracting a following here at the beginning of his ministry…and from that group of people that he attracted…somehow, someway…he tapped 12 of them to be “the disciples.” These 12 guys, 4 of which we hear about today along with 8 others…they are the ones that Jesus calls directly…and that’s a fascinating thing to consider.

But in the midst of that conversation during confirmation class, one of the students raised a pretty interesting question…(pause) Why did Jesus call these ones? (Pause) Why them and not someone else…especially considering the ongoing failures that we would see from this ragtag batch of guys. What was it that made Jesus look at them and say “you…I choose you.”

Now…its safe to say that we can’t answer that question…we don’t know the mind of God…we don’t know what was going through Jesus’ head…we don’t know what he knew about them…but yet, these are the ones he called…and as we see in the example of Peter and Andrew…and then immediately following James and John…they left everything behind to heed the call.

But here’s the really crazy part…they weren’t alone were they? There were other people around…particularly the 2nd time…James and John are sitting there in the boat, mending their nets…along with their father Zebedee…and along comes this rabbi with a couple of their fellow fishermen tagging along behind…and he looks at James and John…says come follow me…and they do.

Now imagine for a moment…that you’re Zebedee. We don’t know what’s going through his head at this point either. “MY BOYS? WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” or maybe “HEY, WE’VE GOT WORK TO DO HERE!” Or maybe, just maybe Zebedee was thinking “I want to go too.”

That’s been a strong thought in my head this week…what about the other people who were around…who encountered Jesus walking along…perhaps were even there when he offered the invitation…but for whatever reason, they are left behind. (pause) Why are some called and some aren’t?

Now we could argue, within the gospel anyway, that Jesus had a specific purpose in the early formation of the church that would take over as “the body” once his mission was over…and that the 12 that he picked were for a specific reason, even if we don’t know what it is. That’s a fair assumption.

But what about when we get farther down the line…maybe even to today….why does it seem that some are called and some aren’t? (pause) I wish I could answer that question…but I can’t…because I don’t know the mind of God…and I don’t understand why God does or doesn’t do things…and it would be incredibly arrogant for me to think otherwise.

But as we are thinking along those lines, I feel that it is important to dispel a common thought…that here in the church, only a few are “called” as the disciples were.  Admittedly, that’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, especially when we start talking about Pastors…that they are called…called to a congregation…called to be a pastor in the first place…because while that is true…they are not the only ones.

The amazing thing about the body of Christ is that we have all been called…we have all received the invitation to follow along after God…every…single…one of us.  (pause) The great reformer Martin Luther wrote about this 500 years ago when he said “I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him…but the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in truth faith.”

You are called…maybe not in the same way that Peter and Andrew and James and John were called…but make no mistake…God has called you through the Spirit…just as he has called and gathered the entire church throughout time…We are one body…each called to be a part of it. (pause)
Now that being said…perhaps the next big question is what are we to do now that we realize the truth of our call…and I believe that’s on display within today’s lesson as well…we are called to proclaim the gospel.  This lesson picks up at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He was baptized…the Spirit led him out into the wilderness where he endured 40 days of temptation at the hands of Satan…and then he got to work…and that’s where things pick up.

But here’s the important thing…we hear that John the Baptist has been arrested and put in prison…and because of this Jesus shifts his area of operation…but think about the message that Jesus is proclaiming…Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven has come near. (pause)

Have we heard that before? Does it sound familiar? It should…because that is precisely the message that John the Baptist proclaimed during his ministry. (pause) The messenger is new…the tactics are different because their gifts are different. John was good at baptizing…while Jesus was good at being God…but in the end…the message is the same because the gospel does not change.

Likewise, we are called by God to share that same message…that same good news…in our own unique way…each and every one of us…we are all called to follow God…to go where God leads, recognizing that we are flawed, imperfect people who need a savior…and that we cling to the hope found in the promise of God through Jesus Christ that we are loved as we are…that we are called…as we are…and that we are to use the gifts that we have received from the spirit in our lives…right here right now…knowing that one day, our time as messenger will come to a close…but that others will come along behind us in order to share that same good news.  (pause)
Zebedee might have had to stay in the boat that day…but I like to think that at some point, that same call came for him as well…just as it has come to each of us. We are all called…now what are we going to do it with it? Amen