The Third Sunday after the Epiphany (1/27/2008)

Called to Follow Jesus

Lessons:      Isaiah 9:1-4      Psalm 27:1, 5-13               (NRSV: 27:1, 4-9)      1st Corinthians 1:10-18      St. Matthew 4:12-23

Prayer of the Day:      Lord God, your lovingkindness always goes before us and follows after us. Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness that come through the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4.12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15  "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles -- 16  the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea -- for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

St. Matthew 4:12-23, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C) 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A man had fallen away from his church. A friend of his decided to give him a call about a tennis match they were scheduling for later that week. The friend called from the phone at Christ the Lord Lutheran Church where he was attending a meeting. The phone rang, and the man glanced at his Caller I.D. It said, "Christ the Lord." He thought Christ the Lord was on the phone waiting for him to answer. This turned out to be a wake-up call for him, and in its own way, it motivated him to become involved in his faith community once again.

In the Lutheran Church, we have a strong tradition of considering what it means to be called by God. Not called on the telephone - God's call usually comes in ways that are a bit more subtle than that. But our conviction is that everyone is called, by God, to a particular ministry, as we seek to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

The most obvious example of this, of course, is the call that a congregation (or religious institution) will issue to a person they want to serve with them in ministry. In our church, we have set up an elaborate system for training and evaluating those who believe God is calling them to serve as pastors or associates in ministry or diaconal ministers. There is an equally robust set of procedures in place that determine how a congregation goes about finding a new person to serve in one of these roles. When a congregation chooses a new leader, it calls him or her to join them in ministry.

Yet this sense of call is not restricted to religious professionals. Through the waters of our baptism, each of us is called by God to become agents of the Gospel - the presence of Jesus Christ - wherever it is God calls us to serve (Let your light so shine, that others may see your good works...). Some of us are teachers, and our call is to be Christ-like in caring for the students entrusted to us. Some of us are parents, and our call is to raise our children in a faithful environment. Some of us are in the business world, and our call is to honor justice and righteousness as we work on behalf of our employer. Some of us are in the trades, and our call is to honor God with quality work and respect for our customers. In every vocation God transforms what we do, and uses it to grace the lives of those who come in contact with us; uses it as an opportunity to proclaim that people of faith make a difference in the world, as they see their involvement in the workplace as an opportunity to glorify the God who equipped them for the work they do.

When Jesus happened upon Simon, Andrew, James and John at the Sea of Galilee, they were hard at work doing what God had called them to do: they were professional fishermen, feeding their villages and supporting their families by working hard at their trade. Jesus didn't call them to stop fishing - he transformed them as fishermen, so that they no longer exclusively focused on fish, but began to use their skills at gathering in a catch on gathering in people for the kingdom.

One aspect of faithfulness has to do with discovering what it is God has called and equipped us to accomplish in this world. As we do so, we are aware that God also wants to transform the way in which we serve, so that in all that we do, the justice and mercy and grace of the kingdom are proclaimed to all.

David J. Risendal, Pastor  (January 23, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. What skills and abilities had the four fishermen in this week's Gospel lesson developed?
  2. How did Jesus transform those abilities for the sake of the Gospel?
  3. What do we know about the witness that those four eventually made on behalf of their faith?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. What gifts and abilities has God given to me?
  2. How have I made use of them in fulfilling my primary responsibilities?
  3. How might the daily routines of my life be different, if I saw them as opportunities to do ministry?