the one about not fearing the turn...
January 22, 2018, 7:16 AM

Sermon from Sunday, January 21, 2018

Text: Jonah 3: 1-5,10 & Mark 1: 14-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our Redeemer; amen!

So, as I read our first reading and our gospel this week, something struck me. These two texts can scare the daylights out of anyone!

In the book of Jonah (which I feel everyone should read as it is A) kind of funny, and 2) really short and thirdly) it’s really good.), we hear that God comes to Jonah for a second time to proclaim to the people of Nineveh that they will be overthrown! Surprisingly the people of Nineveh – including the king – turn from their evil ways in hopes that God’s mind would change. And God’s mind does change, and the city is not thrown into calamity.

What I think scares us about this text is that very first part of this small slice of Jonah – The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.

If y’all remember, the word of the Lord already came to Jonah one time and what was Jonah’s response? To literally run in the opposite direction. Jonah wanted nothing to do with what God wanted from him. He didn’t want to speak to that large and dangerous city. He didn’t feel he was capable of living into or up to God’s call in his life.

Then we get the whole ordeal with the sea, a storm, a sailors’ revolt, and a fish.

God sticks with – for whatever reason – Jonah so that he might finally speak to the people of Nineveh. To help them understand and repent – to turn in another direction.

I think the fact that we read and believe that God ‘sticks with us’ can be scary. Especially when it pertains to living into the call that God has for each and every one of us. We at times struggle in our lives to understand why anyone would ‘stick with’ us in spite of all the glaring reasons to not stand by us.

We are full of faults and selfish desires. Yet, there are those – those who have cultivated relationships with us – who desire to stick with us. God so too sticks with us. Pursues us. Is in fact, relentless in reaching out to us and guiding us into this life of faith and call.

We constantly ask why God is this way towards us. Why does God desire to use us to speak and act and live to and for others? There must be someone better than me who can do this.

As I’ve said before, in our baptism we get to know what God already knows: that we are good enough. We are so good enough that God has declared each of us beloved children and has claimed us and marked us with the cross of Christ forever.

You. Are. Good. Enough. That’s why God sticks with us. That’s why we stick with family and friends. That’s why we reach out in love to help those in need. That’s why we receive that help from others in our own lives. We are good enough to be loved, helped, and sent to others.

Now, it can be ‘scary’ that God does stick with us, but I think the text that scares most people in God’s call and action in our life is what we read of in our Gospel text today.

It’s short and leaves us asking lots of questions – which most of Mark’s gospel tends to do.

We look in on Jesus’ call of his disciples as told from Mark’s perspective. Jesus speaks and these four disciples – Simon, Andrew, James, and John – immediately stop what they are doing and follow Jesus. They drop their nets and even leave their father behind to live into Jesus’ call for them.

I’ve talked with a lot of people in ministry throughout my life about calls from God and following the Word of the Lord. In fact, in Michigan I was a part of the Candidacy Committee that walked with and talked with people who felt a call and desire to be involved in ministry as either an ordained pastor or deacon. I’ve heard LOTS of call stories.

I’ve talked with people who work actively in the church who are not a ‘professional church person,’ but who have devoted their lives to help enrich the church through education, music, community, and more.

I’ve talked with my friends and colleagues who have been at this pastoring stuff for a few years or even longer than I’ve been alive.

All of them, all of us, look at this text and get a little nervous and worried.

“Follow me.” And they immediately left their nets and followed him. They left their father in the boat and followed him.

When I’ve preached on this text before, I’ve focused on one particular interpretation of the mystery of this text. That there is something about Jesus in his presence and the 10 words he speaks that is so profound and full that these four men drop everything to be with him.

I don’t even know if I – even as a pastor – have EVER felt a call that strong. In fact, I’ve probably been more like Jonah in my life of ministry than anything else. And there is a better chance that I’ll continue to be that way in the future.

Of course, for those who say that they have felt that sort of call and pull, the response has typically been, “When you know – you know, and you follow.” And that’s wonderful and I’m completely supportive of those types of calls. It still freaks me out and unsettles me, but I support and pray for those folks.

But, as I was preparing this week, something struck me. Even though there is so much immediacy to Mark’s gospel, there is nothing to say that these four disciples didn’t know Jesus beforehand. Or that they didn’t have some sort of relationship and friendship with him before this appointed time.

In fact, if we’re being honest, there is a pretty good chance that they knew who he was and possibly knew him personally too. He was from Nazareth of Galilee after all. Jesus was probably the kind of kid growing up that everyone knew of. Whether good or bad, people knew of him. As we’ve read in scripture, he is the kind of a guy who doesn’t really draw the ‘best’ people around him. At least not ‘best’ in the eyes of conventional wisdom and thought.

You know there was some parent that was like, “I know he might be nice, but I don’t want you hanging around that Jesus kid. You hear the things he says, and the people he associates with? That’s not you.” Which of course as any who has lived, worked, seen, or been a teenager hearing an adult say, “Don’t do that.” Immediately calls you to do that very thing.

So, there’s a good chance these guys knew Jesus. They’ve grown up in the relatively same area.

So, if they knew Jesus, there’s a chance that they had conversations with him, even built a relationship with him. A relationship so strong and full that when the appointed time came they would follow him.

For me, that speaks volumes and deep to my soul.

For me, I never felt like my call was an ‘immediate’ thing in the sense of what we read of in our gospel today. I didn’t ‘drop’ everything in order to follow Jesus. It didn’t come as a surprise to those around me. I could probably guess that for many of you – if not most of you – whatever it is that God has ‘used you’ to proclaim, support, and love those around you – it probably wasn’t quite like how we’ve typically read the calls of these four disciples.

It might have seen ‘immediate’ to those around you (the ones that didn’t know you so well), but for you (and even your closest friends and family) – there was a relationship built up over a long time to guide you to that spot and place. You heard ‘The word of the Lord’ and you might have run the other way at first (or even multiple times). Perhaps during the course of that preparation time, you may have felt like you wanted to run away, but you also felt that God stuck with you regardless. Continually calling out to you and pursuing you because you were and are good enough.

Then, when that appointed time came – you jumped at the chance to be a part of the ministry you felt called to – a musician, a teacher, a doctor, a funeral director, a nurse, a custodian, or any other fruitful and wonderful of vocations.

It wasn’t so much that God spoke. You heard. You followed. Dropping everything around you.

But, perhaps after years of being in conversation and prayer – not only with God, but with others around you, you saw where God was calling you in ministry. You’d built up and have been built up in relationship.

Formed, shaped, guided, loved. By God. By those you love. By those who love you. By those you don’t know as well.

I feel that is what it is to be called by God. It can still be nerve racking and a little scary, knowing that God sticks with us because we are good enough, and that when God calls – we follow. But, we remember that God does and has loved you through and through, has built relationship and invites you deeper into that love and community. We are shaped and moved by the Spirit working through us and working through others for and with us.

So, God does call, and we do follow. But, our Lord has been leading us to that call the whole time. Amen.


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