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Mark 1, 14-20

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TITLE:   Callings

SCRIPTURE:    Mark 1:14-20



Our Gospel lesson is the story of the call of the first disciples, which opens Jesus' ministry.  Mark begins his Gospel with the words, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ" (v. 1), and tells the stories of the ministry of John the Baptist (vv. 2-8), the baptism of Jesus (vv. 9-11), and Jesus' temptation in the wilderness (vv. 12-13). 



In her book, Things Seen and Unseen, Nora Gallagher, a writer who is a parishioner at Trinity Church, Santa Barbara, writes these words about faith:

"Faith is not about belief in something irrational
or about blind connection to something unreal. 
It's about a gathering,
an accumulation of events and experiences of a different order. 
These experiences are gradually convincing enough,
or you have paid them so much attention,
they reach critical mass. 
The famous "leap" comes at the beginning,
when there is not enough experience to justify the effort. 
Even then, something begins faith --
a memory of a reality
or of an experience that doesn't quite fit with everything else,
the longing a soul has to find its shape in the world."

The story from Mark's gospel about the call to discipleship of Simon, Andrew, James and John, is the story such about a leap of faith. The four fishermen, in a dramatically simple encounter with Jesus, drop their nets by the side of the Sea of Galilee, and leave everything they know to follow him.  Jesus calls out to them,  "Come with me and I will make you fishers of people."  This call marks the beginning of their lives following Jesus.  This call makes their faith begin.

 It is a story about a radical change made by those four men.  Leaving the safety and security of what they had known, they dropped it all for the risk of an unknown future.  There was something about Jesus that resonated within them that called out to them, that promised them that with him this ultimate longing of the soul would be satisfied.  Something about Jesus promised them that their souls would find their unique shape in the world through knowing him.

For the disciples, knowing Jesus was a matter of life and death.  To know him was life -- to abandon him was death.  And they clung to that understanding even though they were persecuted, even though many lost their lives.  Even to save their lives they would not abandon their faith.  They had dropped their nets on the shore, and with those nets, they had begun the process of dropping every vestige of their old selves, including their need for self-preservation.  In Jesus, even though death had done its best, life had already won the race.

Today, we are here as heirs to that same call. We are here in the promise that our being with Christ Jesus will satisfy the longing of our souls to find their shape in the world.  I have met people whose call is clear and distinct, who know decisively how and when they were called.  Sometimes they hadn't known for that long, but they were sure, totally without any doubts. As far as my calling to ministry, it wasn't my path and in the beginning I felt unsure about it.  But I grew to know it was real.

 As a pastor, I find people with that same certainty about being Christians, being followers of Christ.  But I have also known persons whose call is fuzzier, who may want to drop their nets and follow, but they just aren't quite sure they want to do it now

And then there are those who hesitate.  You can count on them to be in church every Sunday -- and even come early -- but then they start drifting.  One Sunday, then two, then five gone, and before long they have dropped out.  They may not even know the reasons why. Then, suddenly one morning, they wake up the whole family, bang around getting breakfast in the kitchen, shepherd everyone into the car, and arrive back in church, early as usual.

Maybe one day the mysteries behind all of these different experiences of the call will be cleared up. We will learn why one person hears perfectly well without any static all of their life.  We will learn why for another person, their receiving apparatus works about as well as a cell phone, sometimes clear, sometimes fuzzy, sometimes dead. But every church I have ever known has every kind of person with every kind of call, which is why it is important that we have days like this one when we celebrate the life of the church, gathering everyone together, hearing about the past, planning for the future, celebrating our common sense of call.

Because no matter who is here on any given Sunday, the church is here not only to receive the call of Jesus -- but also to broadcast the call of Jesus.  We with our clear and fuzzy receivers!  Those who may feel like taking a long sabbatical from the whole thing as well as those who have never doubted a day in their lives -- we are here together, as community, as body of Christ.  And collectively, we may transmit the only call that someone ever hears in his/her life.

Each church, I believe, has a unique experiences of the call.  A church might have heard the call in ways that lead the congregation to many ministries of reconciliation.  The focus of one church is evangelical.  The focus of another is social action and outreach.

We here at ( Church name)  are still forming and shaping that sense of call, and it is probably too early to say what our collective sense of call is. But it seems to me that we are good at living out the whole of Christian life.  Worship, education, nurture, outreach, evangelism, all are important to us.

What I know is that week after week we are here as souls in partnership with Christ, responding to his call to us in the longing of our souls to find their shape in the world.  And as we respond in faith, so we become ones who call out ourselves, in the name of Christ to a world desperate to hear that call.

This day we celebrate the living Christ in our midst, calling one and all with the timeless, but timely message of salvation and hope, "Come with me, and I will make you fishers of humanity."  Hearing that call, will you drop your nets and follow?  Following, will you share the call with others?  It will bring you to new and abundant life. And over the years of hearing, following, and sharing you learn that without that life, you are nothing.  But with it, you have everything that really matters.

SERMON IN A SENTENCE:     Christ calls each of us individually to our personal call, and calls all of us to "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

God did not call you to be like a canary within a space no larger than the size of the cage. 
God calls you to be eagles, and to fly from sun to sun, over continents.

It is very significant that in every recorded instance, the Apostles were busy at their daily work when the Master called them:

Peter and Andrew were fishing.
James and John were mending their nets;
Matthew was sitting at the receipt of custom.
God never visits an idle or unserviceable life.

God is not saying to us, "Come, boys and girls; each of you do your own thing and try to get along." He is saying, "It is time to do my thing. Take these keys -- a Gospel that is true, a love that has flesh on it, and the power that belongs to me alone -- and open the door to the world."

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