Accepting the Call

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Epiphany 3
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 27: 1-9 and Matthew 4: 12-23
At once they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 4: 20 (NIV)

RESPONDING TO “COME AND SEE”

Last week we talked about the important of hearing Jesus’ call. Do you remember what he said? He said, “Come and see.” Jesus called people to follow him by inviting them to come and see. He didn’t tell them where they were going. He didn’t tell them what they would be doing. He didn’t them how much time it would take or what it might cost them. He simply said, “Come and see.”

Last week I also invited you to come and see something. Our Annual Congregational Meeting is happening in a few weeks on February 12 and we will begin the process of enacting our new constitution. It will require people to come and see how they may fit into it. At the annual meeting we will be electing nine to twelve members onto the Church Board from the congregation who will be there not to represent any committees or specific groups but to represent you, all of you. Their purpose is to discern the strategic mission for this congregation. What does God want us to do? Where does God want us to go? What does God want us to come and see?  It requires people who are creative and able to think outside the box.

That was part of the invitation to come and see. The other part was to think about where you might fit into this new structure. What gifts has God given to you to use for his work in the Church? On what committee or task group might your skills and talents best be used? Does God want you to let your name stand for the Church Board. Come and see if that is where Jesus invites you to be.

Today we get to the next step. Once we hear Jesus’ invitation to come and see, we have to make a decision. How are we going to respond? We read about many people in the Bible who responded by following Jesus, by deciding to go and see where he would take them. Jesus’ twelve apostles did that, as did the seventy-two other disciples who went out two by two to do his work in Luke 10. Nicodemus did it as did Zacchaeus and the Centurian. Lots of people went to see where Jesus would lead them.

But that was certainly not true of everyone. The religious leaders of the day, the priests, the Sadducees and the teachers of the law would have nothing to do with Jesus. A few Pharisees followed him but not many. Many common folk followed him if for no other reason than, like today, everyone loves a celebrity and Jesus was all that and more. But most of those people fell away and deserted him when they saw that he was headed for the cross. Jeremiah has words for such people. In Jeremiah 5:21 (NIV) he wrote: “Hear this you senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.” These people did not follow Jesus. They decided that they did not want to come and see. They’d rather close their eyes and stay where they were and they were quite happy to do just that.

GOING TO A NEW PLACE

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew tells us the story of four men who made a different choice. They decided that they wanted to go and see. It’s the story of Jesus calling the first disciples. These first four were all fishermen. The story begins when Jesus sees Andrew and Peter, two brothers, casting their nets into the lake. He invites them to follow him. Their response is instantaneous. Matthew 4:20 (NIV) says, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Bam! Two disciples. Walking along the beach, they spot two more fishermen, James and John the sons of Zebedee who probably knew Andrew and Peter since they all worked the same lake. They were in their boat preparing their nets. Jesus called them too. Matthew 4:22 (NIV) says, “… and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” I’m not quite sure of what their father thought of this, having his two sons walk away from the family business at the beginning of the work day, but nonetheless they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. Two more! Jesus now had four people who wanted to come and see where he would take them.

These men heard Jesus’ call to come and see and decided to go and see. Not only did they go and see, did you notice when they went and saw? They did it right then and there. Matthew says that Andrew and Peter went at once and that James and John went immediately. When they were invited to come and see, they went and saw right then and there.

I also want you to note a phrase that appears in verse 21. It begins with the words, “Going out from there…” Going out from there. What are the implications of this phrase? One implication is that they were willing to leave where they were. Going out from there means that they were no longer where they were when Jesus invited them to come and see. They moved. They left where they were and went someplace else.

That’s an important point. Going out from there means that, from time to time, we must be willing to leave where we are and step out in a new and different direction. That’s what the four fishermen did. Up until this point in their lives they had been fishermen. They knew how to do that. They did it every day. They made nets, mended nets, washed nets , cast nets, took fish out of nets, cleaned fish and sailed boats. And they knew all of the best places to fish. If you wanted to know anything about fishing in the Sea of Galilee, all you had to do was ask Andrew, Peter, James or John and they could tell you.

But Jesus called them to come and see and they decided to go out from there and start off in a whole new direction. Do you have any idea how scary that must have been? Not only were they leaving behind the trade that they knew so well that had provided them with a steady income, they were also leaving their families. I say that because we can assume that most young men in that era had wives and children. It was expected. We know for sure that Peter had a family because a few chapters later in Matthew 8:14, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. It is not the least bit presumptuous to assume that the other three men, in fact all of Jesus’ apostles, had wives and families. It would have been very weird if they didn’t. And yet they were all willing to go from that place to wherever Jesus would lead them.

Now just to be clear, I am not suggesting that anyone here should leave their jobs or their livelihoods – at least not right now. And I’m certainly not advocating that you leave your spouses and children. But it does point to the importance of being willing and able to leave where you are and go to the new place where Jesus calls you to be.

NEW THINGS

Did the twelve apostles including Andrew, Peter, James and John know where Jesus would take them? No. Do you think they any idea of the hardships that would result? I doubt it. If they had known that in three short years, Jesus would die on the cross, would they have left their fishing boats? I admit that I’m doubtful. If they had known that each of them – except John – would die a martyr’s death for their faith, would they have accepted Jesus’ invitation to come and see? I really don’t know if they would have. All they knew was that Jesus was the rock star of the day and they wanted a piece of that.

Accepting the call to come and see is not for wimpy people. It is for people who are willing to swim against the current, who are not afraid to be creative and think outside the box. It’s for people who are willing to embrace a new dream or vision and run with it in faith to see where it might take them.

So how are you going to respond to Jesus’ call to come and see? Are you going to close your eyes and stay where you are or are you going to pick yourself and step out in faith wherever that might lead you? It’s up to you how you respond.

I should also say that answering Jesus’ call to come and see does not necessarily mean some big huge changes in your life. Sometimes it means making a minor adjustment. That’s because even minor adjustments can make a big difference if enough people do them.

I saw that idea put into action on Tuesday. Jan Kubiak has been volunteering with Gleaners for a while now and she has invited me to go and check it out. Gleaners, if you recall, is one of the ministries that we support at Cottam United Church. They take good vegetables that are rejected by grocery stores because they aren’t quite the right shape, size or colour and they process them at their facility in Leamington so that they can be shipped in a dried state to places in Canada and around the world where people need better nutrition.

Jan invited me to go quite a while back and it just didn’t work out. This week, finally, it did work and we both arrived in the Gleaners facility in Leamington at about 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning. We both got signed in and, because I was a newby, got my little orientation tour and paperwork done which took about four minutes. Then we got to work.

Tuesday’s crop was potatoes. So, I spent the next two and a half or three hours inspecting potatoes, cutting out the bad spots and placing them on the conveyor belt where they made their way to the dicer and the dryer before being packaged. I asked where all the potatoes came from and was told that producers are only able to sell about 10% of their crop to the grocery stores because they won’t accept anything with a little blemish on it. That means that the vast majority of what farmers grow is destined for land fill if Gleaners can’t use it. It’s just hard for me to believe that that much food goes to waste. To me it’s mind-boggling and I really hope that someone tells me that those stats are wrong.

What I was also amazed at was the number of people who showed up. If you remember, it was pretty foggy on Tuesday morning. When we got there, they only had about half the people required for a whole crew which I think is about thirty people. But just before 8:30 a.m. the flood gates opened and all these volunteers came in out of the fog. In fact, it was the first time in a while where they had a full crew. Every seat along the conveyor belts had a person sitting at it. And I think someone said, “Hallelujah!”

Now, here’s my point. None of us did anything overly difficult or time consuming. We simply spent one morning cutting up vegetables and chatting away. But together, we made a difference. Wholesome food that would otherwise have ended up in landfills was saved. People are going to have good nutritious food who otherwise would not have any. So while no individual did anything earth shattering, all of us contributed to doing something positive and life changing for someone else whom we will probably never meet.

Doing the work of Jesus sometimes involves doing something extraordinary like what Martin Luther King Jr. did or Mother Theresa of Calcutta or John Wesley in 18th century England. But more often than not, doing the work of Jesus is about many people doing their own small parts to make the whole thing work. That’s what happens when people come and see.

That’s how the Church typically works. No one person can do it all. No one person should be expected to do it all. But when all of us pitch in to do our part then the gospel is shared and lived out in our community. The end result is that lives are changed for the better as we reach out with the love of Jesus to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

So, here’s my question to you. What part are you supposed to play in the work of Cottam United Church? There are all kinds of things to do. There are all kinds of things that need to be done. We have a good history in this congregation of people stepping up to do the work of Christ but we could always use more.

In this morning’s bulletin there is a pink insert that talks about the missions of the different committees. Each committee has a mission and each committee is given the freedom to fulfill that mission however they think is best. No one is going to stand over your shoulders telling you how to do something. No one is going to tell you that you can’t do something in a particular way because that’s not how we do it here. What we want you to do is be creative and flexible. If the way things have always been done works than keep at it. But if it doesn’t work, find a new way that does.

What I am encouraging each of you to do is take that list home, look it over and ask Jesus where you fit into the mission and ministry of this congregation. What does Jesus want you to come and see? And how are you going to respond to that invitation?

Maybe God wants you to sit on a committee or maybe God wants you to put your name forward for the new Church Board. Either way, there are many things that need done and, as we all know, many hands makes light work. So what is your role? Where is God calling you to step up and step in? Take that list home, read it over and seek God’s call on your life for the ministry of this congregation.

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

The final thing that I want to say is this. Sometimes people are reluctant to step forward because they’re too new or they’re too old. Sometimes they don’t think they have the time or the energy to do one more thing. And sometimes, that’s true. We do not want you to take on one more things if it means that you are going to burn yourself out. We want you to be healthy and vital and full of life. We want you to live in the light of God’s love and do his work within this community of faith and elsewhere as well.

But if you are reluctant, I want to share with you some words from Psalm 21:1 (NIV) which says, “The LORD is my strength and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27 goes on to say all kinds of things like that. Verse 3 says, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” Verse 5 says, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon the rock.” The whole psalm reads like that. It’s a reminder that we are not alone; we live in God’s world. No matter what may happen, no matter how hard something may appear to be or how unworthy we may feel, God is there to provide all that we need to satisfy his desire for us.

Do not be afraid to accept Jesus’ call to come and see. Do not hold back from doing what Jesus wants you to do. As a reminder, here’s something you’ve heard me say before and I’m going to say it again. God will never ask you to do something that he has not already equipped you to do. Be ready to step out in faith and see where God wants you to go. Say yes to him. The results will change your life and maybe in the process change a bunch of other lives for the better because you agreed to go and see and lived your life in faithful service. It’s time to time to come. It’s time to see. It’s time to say, “Yes,” to Jesus.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of Grace and Glory, speak to our hearts. Remind us our your many blessings which, if we to number them would be more than the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea shore. How blessed we are that you love us beyond measure. We lift our thanks and praise to you.

We come before you with our prayers of thanks. Thank you for warm homes and clothing. Thank you for good food, efficient communication and snowplows. We thank you for the long walks in the winter air. At the same time, we remember those for whom winter is a chore and burden. Give them patience during this long season and guidance on the icy sidewalks.

We give thanks for those who reach out to others in times of need, who lend a hand or bend an ear in Jesus’ name. In our actions, your word becomes real. In our words we share the reason for our deeds – the grace of Christ and our saving faith in him.

We also pray this week for our southern neighbours who are being torn apart yet again by media driven vitriolic hatred. We pray for cooler heads. We pray for open ears and hearts. And we pray especially for peace.

We offer thanks, especially this week, for those who operate the local food banks. Many are served who need assistance. Many eat more and better than they otherwise would. Thank you for the generous donations from our community as we strive to meet the real needs of those who are most vulnerable.

We offer our prayers for the sick of our congregation and community. We pray especially for Helen Upcott, Millicent Wormald, Barb Cowan and Jacqui Seguin. Bless them and all those who are ill with your Holy and Healing Spirit.

For Christians who have walked the road of faith before us and shown us the way to go, we thank you. May we travel in the footsteps of Jesus even as they did that, one day, our children may look back at our lives and call us faithful.

In all of life we give you thanks. In all our troubles, we come to you in prayer knowing that you answer even before we ask. Grant us your peace and your blessing in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

January 22, 2017 / Epiphany 3

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 27:4-9; Isaiah 9:1-4; Matthew 4:12-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

CALL TO WORSHIP

God is our light and our salvation!

We have no need to fear!

God is our light and our salvation!

We will never be afraid!

Come, let us worship!

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God, you are our light and our salvation. We have no need to fear. God, you are the rock upon which we build our houses. On your firm foundation, they will never fall. The wicked may seek our lives. The enemy may encamp around us but your salvation is sure and secured in the work of Jesus Christ. How great you are! How awesome your might! How gentle your love! Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Speak to us of our need. Remind us of the temptations that the wicked place before us which lead us away from you. Your path is narrow and the way is sure but our feet turn aside because our minds deviate from your thoughts and our spirits from your Spirit. Cleanse us, O God of Mercy, from all of our individual and collective sinfulness as we repent and offer our sins to you. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Jesus remembers us. He remembers the cross which he bore for our sins. He remembers the gates of Hell that were shattered by his resurrection. In our repentance, we honour Christ and enable him to forgive our sinfulness. No sin is too great for his mercy.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

We have come with our gifts. We have come with our abilities. We have come with our worries and our fears. We lay them all before you, O God of Love, upon the altar of your grace. Accept us and what we bring enabling us to accept Christ and his sacrifice for us. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

Jesus called the fishers to leave their boats and follow him. God blesses us with the same courage to answer his call. As we leave, let us listen for his voice and respond in humble faith.

More Sermons

Sharing Our Stories

LEARNING FROM THE PAST George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher who died in 1952 once said, “Those who cannot remember the

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *