Calling


Sermon by Rev Allister Lane on 10 February 2019

Readings were Jeremiah 1: 4 -10Isaiah 6:1 -8 and Luke 5:1 -11

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Christianity doesn’t follow the rules of religion.

If someone asks you “What do I need to do to be a Christian?” …how would you answer?

Look at what Jesus does… Does Jesus come to offer instructions for how to be religious? Does Jesus focus primarily on laying out a set of rules to live by? Does he ask people to jump through certain hoops to demonstrate one’s hard-earn holiness?

Nope. What does Jesus do? He says:

Stick with me.

He calls people to follow him. This is what he did with the first disciples. This is what he is still doing. Jesus still calls people to follow.

Today, I want to describe the call God makes to us. And perhaps it’s helpful to see that there are two calls:

  • Call with a Big C,
  • and call with a little c.

The Call (Big C) God gives is through his Son Jesus who calls us to follow him into the Kingdom – to move from one reality into a new reality. To transfer our loyalty; to embrace a new allegiance.

This is the Big C Call – one to the whole us, to respond with all of who we are. It is to rightly acknowledge the source and ultimate destination of all existence. It is to make this acknowledgement with joy and expectation.

Importantly, this is not a call away into a subset of humanity. The call is not to establish a holy clique of pious exclusivity.

Last week we heard how radically inclusive Jesus is – no one is left out. The Call Jesus gives is not away from others, but to a deep commitment to all humanity.

The Call Jesus gives is to share in God’s total solidarity with all humanity, and all that brings.

The Call Jesus gives is to follow; to join in the way Jesus shows us: to love and serve others – this is God’s mission, God’s plan, God’s deep desire.

We are called to follow. Jesus says to those who would follow him:

from now on you will be catching people. (v10)

It’s a strange expression. It is a picture of what this Call is about. Those who are called, join in what God is doing to rescue people and bring them into restored relationship with God, as always intended.

These disciples had a job (fishing) and they were called to an expanded vocation. They remained fishermen (we hear in the Gospels how they went back and did fishing, even after Jesus’ resurrection), but they had a new purpose. They now live in the new reality of God’s Kingdom – of expansive love and commitment for humanity. Pretty ordinary people, with ordinary lives, and as followers of Jesus all they do is now part of the mission Jesus calls them to share in.

Jesus doesn’t bring merely a new religion. Jesus calls all to follow him, as ‘the way the truth and the life’. This Call (Big C) is a call of hope, purpose and fulfilment for all humanity.

So what about the call with a small ‘c’? This is the more specific call we each discern God gives us. It flows from the Big C Call given to all, to follow Jesus.

This small c call is the call of vocation

  • to use the gifts we have,
  • in the place we are,
  • with the people around us.

We have two such examples from our scripture readings this morning. To Jeremiah, God says:

you shall go to all to whom I send you (v7)

And to Isaiah, God says

Whom shall I send?

And Isaiah said,

Here am I; send me! (v8)

God speaks directly to these two people, calling them to use their gifts, in the place they are, with the people around them. Jeremiah and Isaiah were God’s prophets of Israel in the Old Testament, called to do God’s work.

With the Holy Spirit coming upon the Church, all of us are now called to join in what God is doing, in an expansive love and commitment to all humanity.

Our call (small c) comes after we have heard the Call (Big C). As we get to know God better (as we learn to trust more, and follow closer) we get an insight into what God wants us to do:

  • what God wants Allister to do…
  • Betty to do,
  • John to do,
  • Jenny to do…

With help, we can discern our specific vocation –

  • to use the gifts we have,
  • in the place we are,
  • with the people around us.

 

We can do this because we are called by God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ, and is at work in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As a Minister I find this is perhaps one of the things people struggle with the most: making the connection between their love for God and the work they do; discerning the ‘small c’ call in their life.

I’ve found that many people seldom have an adequate appreciation for how their work is part of God’s Kingdom and how they are able to live as followers of Jesus with hope, purpose and fulfilment for all humanity.

And I think Ordained Ministers are often to blame! We can make it too hard! Ordained Ministers can imply that working as leaders of the church is the ultimate.

But, let me say clearly, this is a false presentation of God-given vocation. All work, all people (young and old) can live as followers of Jesus with hope, purpose and fulfilment for all humanity.

Think about that… if we accept that definition of vocation, then that’s not limited to ministers, or people who work for the Church, is it? In fact, to follow Jesus with hope, purpose and fulfilment for all humanity – can be more straight-forward when you don’t work for the Church. If you aren’t working in the Church, you are around ‘normal’ people!

And there

you will be catching people.

A member of our church family, has been in hospital this last week. It has not been an easy situation, but what has warmed my heart is the raft of people from St John’s keeping vigil at her bedside every waking hour. There have been comments from doctors and nurses about the wonderful support her church gives her. Such a witness has been offered by a range of people – retirees, as well as working professionals, and at home parents.  All in different life situations, but all with an understanding of God-given vocation.

Jesus came to where Simon was fishing (or, at least, trying to fish). Jesus came with a suggestion of doing something different; something counter-intuitive and at odds with the practices of experiences of career fishermen.

Jesus calls to all of us in the middle of our lives, where we work, where we live, the seaside, the classroom, the hospital, the office, the kitchen, and asks us to trust him enough to do one strange little thing, like fishing in the deep water in broad daylight.

Life together as Church is where we encourage each other to follow Jesus closely, to grow in our faith. Helping each other to discern the call to each and every one of us. Together we remind each other Jesus is the one we follow.

Jesus has called us to join in the purposes of love and service to all humanity. Together we remind each other that we have a specific call

  • to use the gifts we have,
  • in the place we are,
  • with the people around us.

 

So, if you need to ask others to help you discern God’s call, please find someone today to talk to. And my hope and prayer is that you hear the call of Jesus:

Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.

 

Amen.

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