Sermon 4-17-2016 The True And Lasting Call
Matthew 4:18-22 Elaine M. Prevallet, S.L., Minding the Call, Weavings Vol 11, No. 3, May/June 1996.
There are some calls that are fleeting – they don’t last long. At least, the results don’t matter all that much. Your folks will call you in for bed on a sweet, summer night. That will happen more than once, I know. Your boyfriend, your girlfriend, will call you up to tell you they love you. That’s exciting, but it will happen again tomorrow, most likely, and you’ll be glad it did. There are some calls that you never forget. Choir Practice, May 8th, 2008. My cell phone rang, and when I answered it, all I could hear was the sound of a brand new baby’s breath – our granddaughter Ella had arrived in the world! What an incredible way to find out!!
Whether it’s an umpire’s “out” at home plate, a doctor’s diagnosis, a “yes” to that allimportant question, or the score on your ACT test, some messages come that we don’t forget. They stick with us. They matter. They change the game. They change the future. They change our lives.
This happened for Peter, Andrew, James, John, their families and friends, people who knew them and worked with them, and everyone they would meet, once they heard Jesus’ call. One regular, normal day, in the midst of their regular, normal lives, everything changed. Someone walked up to them and asked them to continue to be who they were, to be fishermen, but to fish for the hearts of people. To follow a new course. To follow a new person. To follow a life of love.
I wasn’t fishing. I was packing. Jesus didn’t walk up to my boat. He called on my phone. “Ruthie, I want you to candidate as a pastor for a small Quaker church in Iowa.” The voice on the other end of the phone sounded like Donna Hemingway – the Clerk of the Meeting, but it really was God. “I want you to continue to be who you are. I want you to trust in what you know, and what you don’t know yet. And I invite you to follow – to come. You’ve been a teacher. Come, be a teacher for me.” I thought Donna – God – was crazy! But I also knew that God knew more about me than I did. I was frightened, but ready to step out of my boat – my boxes – and follow. Six months later, I began serving as a pastor. Very scary. Very exciting. Very ‘God made real’ in my life.
You’ve had times like this. Times when you just knew you were supposed to stop. You knew you were supposed to turn around. Take that job. Not take that job. Help that person. You may not have gotten a phone call, or had someone walk up to your boat, but you felt a spiritual presence – a sense of the Divine – of Christ’s direction and intention in that moment. What did you do? How did it feel?
The four disciples left their nets – two of them left their dad – and followed Jesus. They left right away, as if they were ready. They were anxious to begin a new part of their
lives. And Jesus needed them, as they were. Who they were, as they were. He didn’t ask them to become carpenters or farmers. He called them to be fishermen, and promised a much bigger catch! This call – Christ’s call – on their lives and ours – is full of integrity. God asks us to be more of who we are, to deepen our understanding of God and of ourselves, to develop our skills more fully, to broaden our love for our work and our purpose. God’s call is a ‘becoming’ - an ongoing, life-building, creative, and simple thing. ‘Follow me’. Life changing, and yet so familiar – all at once.
What was Jesus’ call? He told his synagogue once, reading it from Isaiah the prophet: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [Luke 4:16-19] Christ’s call was to make God, and God’s love, power, and presence, real. I suppose he could have done all those things by himself, but Jesus chose not to. He understood the need for community. The need to share his work – his call – with others. He did not call just one disciple. He needed a group of people he could travel, teach, heal, and care for others with. And so do we. Our singular lives, shared in community, become ‘God made real’ for us and for others. We see God in others, and we see God in ourselves, reflected in the lives of others. Our community helps us, corrects us, teaches us, counsels us, comforts and encourages us, as we answer whatever we’re called to. Whatever ‘more’ God is making of our lives, whatever ‘new thing’ God is creating in our lives, we rely on community to help form ‘God made real’ in us.
Our history as Quakers shows the power of community and call. Prison reform, begun by one person, became a concern for the entire Quaker community and change was brought about. Human care for mentally ill patients began within the Quaker community. Fair and honest pricing was a major Quaker concern, as was the ending of slavery. In our own meeting this week, a team of people will distribute food to those who otherwise would not have enough to eat, and at least three people in our Meeting work for Second Helpings – a food recovery program. Each one of us, any time we act in love and follow God’s purpose and presence in our lives, lives out Christ’s call to make God real. Just the other day, I saw God at the Post Office. (He wasn’t the blind man who sells brooms – that man was gone for the day.) Two men a ways ahead of me were entering the outside door. One man said, “Let me get that door for you.” The other, older man entered saying, “Thank you.” The first man answered, “You’re welcome – just don’t tell anyone you caught me doing that.” That was God – with a sense of humor - at the Post Office.
God shows up all the time. In you. In me. In community. At First Friends. In the Meetinghouse and when we spread out into our life each day. And how does God show up most? In the call to love. Good news, release, recovery, freedom, and God’s favor all begins with a call to love. God’s call to love.
Sister Elaine Prevallet writes this in ‘Weavings’, and the early portion is given to you in your bulletin today:
“Fundamentally, God simply calls me to throw by whole self into following Christ, and really, it’s as bedrock as the call of Love to love. Jesus’ message is that God’s compassionate love is always, unconditionally, available. Jesus summons me to share that love with every comer, having, as he had, a predilection for the poor, the marginal, the difficult to love, those I am culturally or personally predisposed to keep at a distance. Such love is no easy task. It stands opposed to nearly everything society teaches about what it means to be someone, to go somewhere, to succeed; what it means to be powerful, to be rich, to be happy. It challenges me to experiment with my life to test these truths: that those who are willing to serve can be the freest; that those who are willing to be poor can be the richest; that those who are willing to lose their lives will find happiness and peace. The call, in other words, is a call to a radical freedom.
God only calls us to be who we are. By God’s gift, our deepest identity is not really to be or to do anything but love. We are, each of us, the uniquely individual container of God’s love in whatever particular context we live. We live to serve that love, to give it expression. The call to love is the same for everyone, unique for everyone. Our role is to help each other become free enough to entrust ourselves to the One who calls us.”
How is God calling you? How is God calling us? What expression of love are you and I being called to serve? What gifts has God already given us? What of who we already are, is meant to be used, in love, to reveal God-made-real to the world? As just one container, one community of love, how can we as persons, as First Friends Meeting help each other become more free to entrust ourselves to the One who calls us?