Posts Tagged ‘Vocation’

Let’s Go Fishin 1-25-15

This morning’s sermon is based on Mark 1:14-20. Jesus encounters and calls the first disciples, telling them to follow him and that he will make them fishers of men. This is a familiar story. Within it I look at the notion of Jesus calling us within our vocation, not to spite it.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also 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
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a bit of a pop culture nut. I love movies, music, tv shows, books…all kinds of that stuff…and while I’m a big fan of a lot of things that are current…I’m also partial to some older stuff too.
This has formed a bit of a trend for me lately as well…as I’ve been finding many different ways to binge on the pop culture type stuff that was popular in my younger years…my music apps have been flooded with 90’s pop and alternative music…I’ve taken to watching some of the cult classic movies from that same time period…and most recently, I’ve been using Netflix to binge watch a lot of tv shows from that time period…most recently Star Trek the Next Generation and the super popular sitcom Friends. (pause)
Now friends is truly a blast from the past…and as I’m only about midway through the first season which aired back in 1994…a lot of it seems very dated…big baggy clothes…big poufy hair…huge clunky phones…it is a very honest representation of the mid 90’s…but what the heck…I like it because watching helps me remember those younger days and makes me think about what I was up to when the show originally aired.
In short…all these different little aspects that serve as a blast from the past really get me thinking about my life about that time…when I was in high school and college. I think about the changes that I’ve gone through…the directions I’ve gone…and I realize that where I’m at today is about as far away from that scrawny little blond haired kid that was bopping around NW Iowa 20 years ago.
And a lot of those differences center around how I pass my time. Granted…as a typical high schooler I had quite a bit more free time than I often find myself with these days…and so I had to find different ways to fill it…and one of those things that I chose to do a lot of, particularly in the summer time, was fishing. I was an outdoor nut…I hunted in the fall, and I was always going fishing in the summer time…I’d connect with a friend or two and we’d head off to one of the local lakes and spend hours tossing a line in the water.
To be perfectly honest, I can even remember doing this before I was old enough to drive on my own. I think it served as a good way to keep a couple of us occupied, so our parents would load us up…making sure we had plenty of nightcrawlers, and drop us off at a specific spot where we’d spend the afternoon pulling in bullheads left and right.
In fact this love of hunting and fishing…the general love of the outdoors that I still hold…shaped me so much in those days that it influenced my expected career path and therefore, my focus of study during my first two years of college.
But in all my time spent at the lake shore…in all those fishing excursions…there was one thing that never happened…never once did one of the local preachers come walking up to me and my friend telling us to follow him. (pause) But in today’s story…that’s exactly what happens. (pause)
Now before we really dive into Mark’s story for today, its important to remember something. Mark, being the shortest of the gospels…and focusing on the good news of Jesus Christ…tends to gloss over a lot of detail…if you were here a couple weeks ago you likely remember me talking about that.
But right here, with only a few tidbits of info at the beginning of Mark, we hear the story of Jesus going around the region of Galilee, proclaiming the good news…and now we hear that he’s calling his first disciples. (pause)
What we don’t hear is the specifics of just what Jesus has really been up to in the lead up to today’s story…While Mark doesn’t give us much of anything to go on, we do know from some of the other Gospels that Jesus has been active prior to this moment…he didn’t go from the baptism straight to the shore of the Sea of Galilee to where these 4 fishermen were hanging out…he did some traveling first…he was laying the groundwork for the rest of his ministry…and we do actually get just a tiny hint of that in the opening verses today…as Mark tells us that Jesus came to Galilee and he was proclaiming the good news…and so, it is very likely that this random encounter with 4 fishermen was not the first exposure that any of them had with one another.
Galilee itself is a fairly small region…it measured about 25 x 50 miles…so figure it stretches from here to down around Glenwood, and then over about 10 miles past the far side of Omaha…not overly huge…and there wasn’t much out there either…a few towns spaced out every few miles…and not really a ton of activity…life revolved around each town, and specifically in Jewish life around the synagogue of each town…and if Jesus had been traveling from town to town preaching as it sounds like he was…then the 4 guys likely had heard him on some random Sabbath day.
Maybe they’d even had conversations prior to this moment…we don’t really know, but it stands to reason that all four of them would have had some idea of just who Jesus was on this day when we walked up to them on the seashore and invited them to follow him. (pause)
In all honesty…I kind of hope that this is the case…because we hear that immediately Peter and Andrew dropped their nets…then James and John leave their dad…and off they go.
And if this really is an immediate response to Jesus’ call as Mark says it is…then I really find myself wondering just what it was about Jesus that made them respond as they did…what was it about Jesus that made them apparently leave everything…as tradition tells us…to follow this guy around for the next three years. (pause)
Scripture tells us that there was nothing about him that was overly special…in fact Isaiah said that he had no form that we should look at him…and no beauty that we should desire him…sounds like a pretty normal looking guy, and yet his simple invitation to follow him results in just that…(long pause)…or does it? (pause)
As I mentioned a moment ago tradition tells us that the disciples left everything to follow Jesus…and certainly there are some instances in scripture that support this notion…but all we really hear in this case is that the guys left their nets, and the other two left their dad…but we also know that Peter still had a house…and he kept his boat because later in the story we hear about them.
So maybe…just maybe…when Jesus offered the invitation to follow me…it wasn’t so much the idea that they had drop everything…turn their back on their regular day to day lives and forsake everything as they trudged along behind him. (pause)
Maybe…Jesus was simply offering an invitation to become a simple follower…and the more I thought about that possibility the more it seemed to make sense. (pause) Think about the rest of his invitation, particularly to Peter and Andrew…follow me and I will make you fishers of men. (pause)
Weren’t they already fishermen? It stands to reason that they are…Mark even tells us they are…and it seems like Jesus isn’t asking them to give up their profession…he’s just tweaking the way they look at it. Hey fishermen…follow me and I’ll help you bring in people…not to sell or to eat…but people who will come to believe in the truth that I present to you and through you…that the kingdom has come near…so repent and believe the good news. (pause)
But what if they hadn’t been fishermen? Would the invitation be a little different? Perhaps…but I think the message would be the same…You farmers…follow me and I’ll help you harvest believers…You accountants, follow me together we’ll add up the numbers…Doctors and nurses, follow me and I will help you care for others…Stay at home parents, follow me and I will help you raise disciples. (pause)
It seems like Jesus was simply engaging these 4 guys in the midst of their regular day to day lives…and while we do hear that they chose to literally follow him around…perhaps what Jesus was saying to them on that day…and what he is saying to us now today, is that we are called to be followers of Christ in the midst of our regular day to day lives…something that we call our vocation…or that which we are called to do.
Because let’s face it…not everyone is called into professional ministry…in fact very few have that calling…but yet Jesus still invites each of us to be his follower…to learn from him…to learn about him…and to hear his message…to receive the good news that he provides that through his life death and resurrection the kingdom of God is here now…and as we engage with that good news in the midst of our day to day lives we also engage with those around us and hopefully…as we encounter them in the midst of our routine, Jesus helps us to catch them as well. (pause)
If we learn nothing else from the example in today’s story…its that Jesus is willing to use everyone…and he offers the same invitation to everyone regardless of who they are. Fishermen…guys who hang out with fish as much as possible…and if they guys on Deadliest Catch are to be believed…then fishermen are dirty, smelly, crude, and rude…and these are exactly who Jesus calls into fellowship…and not only into fellowship but into service for the kingdom…And if he calls a bunch of crazy fishermen, and in the end places one in charge who has the constant tendency to put his foot in his mouth…then maybe, just maybe he’s calling you too.
Not to drop everything and forsake everything and everyone in your life to follow him around the countryside…but to simply engage in the message that he brings…that God loves you enough to come to you…to meet you where you are…and to form a relationship with you.
That’s the net that Jesus gives to these 4 guys as they fish for people…the love of God embodied in the life of Christ…and you know what…he gives you the same tool…the same net…when he invites you to follow him…so what do you think? Anyone want to go fishin? Amen.

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