January 25, 2015: Who’s Calling You?


Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Third Sunday after the Epiphany

When my father graduated from independent to assisted living, he often sat in the lobby to watch people. Dad predictably would warn us when we came in, “Watch where you step. There’re a lot of loose marbles rolling on the floor around here,” as he nodded toward someone. I often wondered how many Teague marbles joined the others rolling around.

I wonder if that was said of the four fishermen when they dropped their nets and left their livelihoods to follow Jesus, “They’ve lost their marbles.” I can’t figure why they did it, and Mark is kind enough to let us wonder. Jesus calls them. They follow. I wish I had such authority, “Hey, God’s Kingdom is here. Follow me to St. Paul’s Church this Sunday,” and they’d follow. More likely, they’d think I’m missing some marbles and walk away. I imagine Jesus spoke with a commanding authority. Only later would his followers realize they were actually hearing God in Jesus.

You are Biblically astute people. You know gospel means good news. Ask someone today to believe the Gospel, and they most likely think that means, “repent, become a Christian, go to church and await heaven one day.” That’s far from what Gospel means. In Rome, Gospel was a political declaration. Gospel sounds like this: “I report news from the front lines. Our troops have decisively prevailed. Treaties are signed. Believe it and get ready to live in a new world.” If your side wins, that would be good news. The good news Jesus brings is to declare God’s victory over creation, for everyone – regardless of where you’re born, who you parents are, rich or poor…all are included. At our own peril we ignore this news. Jesus is more than a personal savior to grant our wants. Jesus comes to lead us into a new reality. So does Jesus still call us?

My friend’s father tells him when he graduates from college, he’ll come home to take over the farm – grow corn and tobacco. He tells his father Jesus other plans for him – seminary and ministry. Dad says, “Well, in that case, Jesus wins; I lose.”

I was headed to law school – prepared, admitted, but something got ahold of me that wouldn’t let go. It didn’t – and now you’re stuck with me. But don’t blame me. We decided Jesus called us together here.

It’s a nice story – but does Jesus come for everyone? In some vague way, God – even in other religions, calls all. Some just don’t pay attention. You’ve been called. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. God calls us through human voices – maybe through parents who brought you to a baptismal font, or whoever first introduced you to Jesus; maybe through a church-full of people who loved you into Christ, because they knew God first loves them, they learned to love God, and out of that love – you. Maybe one day lightning strikes, and you suddenly know. Jesus calls and woos us in many ways. You awaken and follow. And when you do you see that Jesus does more than rearrange the furniture. He transforms us with new hearts, gives us vision and new lives. St. Benedict says we hear God’s call daily – in each other – old and young, in parents, in people who bore the tears out of us, in people with whom we differ. Why a human voice? Because God comes to meet us in human form – Jesus. For us, as for the disciples – it takes a lifetime of growing into what we are called to be, living more in God’s realm, less in the world’s, to paraphrase Jesus. We don’t always get it right – but we do keep following.

We listen together, not by ourselves to discern where Jesus calls us next. The VIVA process helps us do that. This year we’ve discerned a call to a new vision of nurture – to become more welcoming and inclusive, to strengthen personal and corporate spiritual growth for all ages, to get people more involved, connected and committed. Together we listen for where Jesus calls – in the dreams of our hearts and the stories we share. So follow. I assure you it’s safe. Our goals are not the rector’s or vestry’s – I mean, we’d be the blind leading the blind. Together we listen and follow Jesus.

I think Sundays are vital and important. I have said I want us to fill these pews, and I do. Our mission is to call others to Jesus, not pews. Our lives will not be reshaped by the Good News unless we are intentional and present to God. Whether you consider yourself religious, spiritual or a bit of both – Christian faith is lived in community. Together we listen for God’ voice among us, so we can go and serve God beyond these pews. We are nurtured to embody the risen Lord at our jobs, at home and schools, in stores, with neighbors and strangers – in our words and actions. We are first responders to the good news of victory God declares in a risen Lord. We don’t go to church. We are the church, Christ’s presence on earth, as in heaven.

As on the shores of Galilee God still walks up to us, creating faith where there was none, making folks like us Jesus’ disciples. As I look over my life, and those disciples Jesus called, I realize God’s patience must be infinite. Our job is to keep falling in love again with God, to paraphrase dear Marcus Borg. We are God’s people, the sheep of his pasture. Is God’s Kingdom arriving through us or not? Do you believe God’s good news enough to live like it’s true?

When all is said and done, Jesus won’t say, “Well believed, well sung, well prayed.” He’ll say “Well done.” We hear, we go, we follow. And in our day, too, probably more than a few will think we’ve lost our marbles. God’s Good News can make people think that of us, know.

 


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