Faithlife Sermons

The Paradox of God’s Calling

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God’s calling in the lives of the disciples was both ordinary, but yet disruptive. His calling was also divine but utterly human. This calling is very similar in our lives today as believers.

THE PARADOX OF GOD'S CALLING Given by Craig Surrey, Jan 25, 2021 The theme this week is God's unstoppable calling. We cannot stand against God's unstoppable power in the universe. God always has the final say.Our sermon today is taken, from Mark 1, which focuses on the calling of the disciples-imperfect people who were called into God's unstoppable work. MK 1:14-20 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. * 2020 has been and will be a year we will long remember. Things seemed fairly normal up to the middle of March, BUT THAN IT ALL CHANGED. * How has 2020 changed out lives? * Maybe we lost our job * Maybe we watch out retirement nestegg dissolve in front of our eyes * Maybe we watched and saw loved ones die * Maybe we were forced to make a career change * Maybe the stress of it all sparked a health crisis in our lives * Maybe it was the loneliness of now being able to be with others * Maybe it was having to learn new technology to stay connected * Our National debt spiralled out of control with no end in sight. * Some were forced to take early retirement. The strangest sights have become familiar. * For months many stayed home and had their groceries brought by strangers in a mask. * Restaurants that were open only sold carry out and served us curbside. * Many restaurants and small businesses shut down. * Playgrounds were roped off with yellow police tape. * Spa's and gyms were shut down. * For more than a month, toilet tissue was the hottest commodity. One thing you can say about 2020 is that normal life was disrupted. * Despite all the securities and technology of modern life, Covid-19 somehow made it through all and disrupted our lives. * Yes, 2020 was a year of disruption. * At times it seemed everything was being disrupted and kicked off the stable rails where it ran (and it's still not over with). The story in our text for today is one of disruption. * Jesus not only called these men, but he also derailed their lives. * They were the last people you might think of as call-able, and they did not really seem to get it until Jesus ascended right in front of them. * My wife and I have been binge watching the series "The Chosen" which we highly recommend. * The series illustrates this very well. Let's look at this story of calling, which holds a lot of disparate realities together at the same time. * Like many of the stories of Scripture, this one is heavy with paradox. * A paradox is not "a pair of ducks" * A paradox is not "a pair of docks" * A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that when investigated may prove to be well founded or true. * The purpose of a paradox is to arrest attention and provoke fresh thought. * A statement or proposition that despite sound reasoning from acceptable premises, LEADS TO A CONCLUSION THAT SEEMS SENSELESS, LOGICALLY UNACCEPTABLE, OR SELF-CONTRADICTORY * Examples of a paradox are * Save money by spending it * If I know one thing it is that I know nothing * This is the beginning of the end. I WOULD LIKE TO LOOK AT TWO PARADOXES IN REGARDS TO THE calling of these disciples and all of us: 1. Ordinary, but YET DISRUPTIVE. 2. Divine, yet UTTERLY HUMAN FIRST LET'S LOOK AT HOW THE CALL OF JESUS WAS ORDINARY BUT YET DISRUPTIVE HOW WAS IT ORDINARY MK 1:16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. (NRSV) Years ago in American politics, a Washington insider nicknamed the "hatchet man" was embroiled in scandal as part of the infamous Watergate Seven. * He was tried and convicted and imprisoned in a very public trial. * Through the ministry of Christian friends, he came to accept Christ in his mid-forties. * He then went on to start a global nonprofit for prisoners and to write over thirty books. * We know the "hatchet man" as Chuck Colson, a member of Nixon's inner circle in the '70s. * He went from a convicted felon to a minister of the gospel. * We all go through a transformation, but not as dramatic as Colson. Many of us are like the disciples, who, in many regards, could not be more ordinary. * They were fishermen. * In that society you couldn't get more middle class. * They were even less interesting than the shepherds who got the announcement of Jesus' birth. * At least the shepherds were part of a slurred and disparaged part of society. * But when it came to the actual disciples, a good number of them came from a forgettable, lukewarm part of society. * The disciples were simple men they were NOT: * Religious leaders * Not powerful men, in the nations ruling body the Sanhedrin * Not of priestly or ministerial profession * Not student of higher learning. * However this being said what did Jesus see in these individuals that they were chosen: * They were industrious hard working men * They were visionary men who were looking for the Messiah and were ready to follow him * They were cooperative men * They had a willingness to sacrifice all in order to follow Jesus. * God doesn't look at us like a human resource manager may look at us. He sees the potential in us, what we can become. * As it's been said before: GOD DOESN'T CALL THE EQUIPPED, HE EQUIPS THE CALLED. * These men were not community organizers like Chuck Colson or great speakers or businessmen. * They were middle-of-the-bell-curve UNREMARKABLE, just like most of us. * Yet they were called ringside for the MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN HISTORY.. HOW WAS IT DISRUPTIVE * Despite the sheer ordinariness of these men and these initial conversations, their lives were never the same. * Similar to the virus upending the tamed and explored modern world, Jesus' call disrupted every part of their lives, and society shortly after. * This twist is contained in their first conversation: MK 1:17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (NRSV) Jesus met them where they were-using the net-casting image they were used to, but "fishing for people"? * What does that mean? * He just compared the strange and the familiar, and that is how their lives would be from then on. These guys went from third and fourth generation fishermen * Who worked in the belly of their family fishing boat * They were willing to sacrifice everything to follow Jesus, giving up their profession or business, home or environment, family and friends to name a few things * International fame and excruciating martyrdom. * All in a few decades * Two scriptures come to mind MATT 10:37-39 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. LK 9:23-24 23 Then he said to them all, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. Responding to God's call is not optional - remember Jonah Jesus didn't just change the plan or the coordinates, * He changed the gravity. * Suddenly the way they knew identity (occupation, family, tradition) would be turned on its head. * What they waited for-the kingdom of God-was suddenly upon them in a way no one had guessed it would be. * Life-disrupted. Most of us, like most people in church history, were not called quite this way. * Yes, some of you may have dramatic stories like Colson, Dwight Moody, or Mother Theresa, but * Most of us will have a small circle of influence and be left out of the history books. * What does the call of Jesus mean for the rest of us? Let's take a small step to the side and consider a minor biblical character - JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA * The man is Joseph of Arimathea, who shows up in about 2 1/2 verses in the Gospels. * He's mostly known for donating his grave for Jesus' burial. * Other than that, Joseph was an upper-class member of the ruling council who kept his interest in Jesus a secret. * He was self-protective, half-in, half-out-like many of us if we're honest. * Yet he somehow followed the call even in his own small way. * After Jesus' death, Joseph used his influence to get the body for burial. * He stuck his neck out-not dramatically, but in a way that was necessary for things to go on. * The final time we see Joseph is in John 19: JN 19:40 So they took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. (NRSV) * Here he is, with Nicodemus, doing slave's work. * People in the upper crust like him were never supposed to do that kind of work. * But here he is, free from the status and prestige of his station, free to serve. * He has been disrupted by the call of Jesus. * We have no indication that he changed his occupation or left it all. * We just know that he was someone else after meeting Jesus. What about ourselves * And maybe that is the change we will see in ourselves. * Sometimes there is this dramatic dropping of everything, sometimes the gravity changes in the details within your life. * So, the call of Jesus is ORDINARY-meeting unremarkable people in unremarkable lives. * Yet it's DISRUPTIVE, changing the gravity we live by so that it's never the same. * So as I said earlier the CALL OF JESUS IS ORDINARY BUT ALSO DISRUPTIVE SECOND PARADOX I WOULD LIKE TO LOOK AT IS HOW THE CALL OF JESUS IS ALSO DIVINE, WHILE REMAINING UTTERLY HUMAN. CALL OF JESUS WAS DIVINE MK 1:14-15 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." (NRSV) Mark begins his gospel very suddenly. No birth stories, no long theological thoughts-Jesus just kind of appears, walks out of thin desert air. * And he announces that the "kingdom is at hand." * Those words seem strange to us in a world where royalty is rarely seen, but we have to try to put ourselves in that setting. King Jesus. Sure, Savior Jesus or best friend Jesus, BUT KING JESUS?? * And yet the imagery is all through the Gospels. * Jesus is the son of David in the royal line, he is hailed as King of kings, and he is given a crown of thorns, a purple robe and enthroned on a cross. * We have to remember that Jesus didn't just come to be our buddy and heal our self-image, HE CAME TO GET GOD AND THE WORLD RIGHT WITH EACH OTHER. * So the calling of Jesus is divine. * The foundational reality of humanity-its relationship with God-was fundamentally changed in Jesus. * He calls us into that changed reality-not just a warm fuzzy feeling, not just a subjective journey. In this passage, we see this exemplified in the fact that Jesus CALLED them. * In that society, if you were lucky enough to be educated and wanted to study with a famous rabbi, you had to go and find him. * You heard about him, you researched, and you then asked if you could learn from him. But Jesus comes to get these guys. * He's already at work as he "passed along the Sea of Galilee" (v. 16). * He is on the move and invites them into what he is doing. * If you've ever felt called by God into anything-the ministry, a marriage, a deeper relationship with himself-then you know HE DOES THE CALLING. * He comes to GET YOU and DRAWS you to himself. * The bigger the change that is needed, the stronger the call has to be. * So, for some people who grow up in a Christian family and willingly go with it, only a SLIGHT NUDGE may be needed. * This is NOT a change of perspective, it's a CHANGE OF IDENTITY. The call of Jesus remains UTTERLY HUMAN The call of Jesus comes to the ORDINARY. The call of Jesus is DISRUPTIVE, and it CHANGES life forever. The call of Jesus is DIVINE-the whole universe changed when he arrived. And the call of Jesus is UTTERLY HUMAN. Jesus calls HUMAN BEINGS. * He calls real-life flesh-and-blood people to his kingdom work in the world. * Utterly human, imperfect people. * Look at the guys in this story * James and John had their mom ask Jesus for the prime seats in his kingdom (was there seeking after power and recognition) (Matthew 20) * Peter denies Jesus the night before his crucifixion. Not just once but 3 times. (John 13) * Andrew fled when Jesus was arrested-along with all the other disciples (after 3-1/2 years, all the miracles, all the teaching his disciples abandoned Jesus in his darkest hour. (Mark 14). They, along with all the other disciples, are going to question Jesus all the way through. * They will misunderstand him, push back on him, undermine him through the whole story. * They will put their own agenda and themselves before him several times before they get it. But they were disrupted by Jesus. * They went to the ends of the earth with the gospel. * They died in exile, most were crucified or otherwise martyred. * These very human men received a divine summons-these are the called who were equipped along the way. ORDINARY, yet DISRUPTIVE. DIVINE, yet UTTERLY HUMAN. * The call of Jesus is full of PARADOXES, whether that means a CALL INTO MINISTRY or MOVEMENTS that change the world or simply shining brightly where you are. * He calls people in many DIFFERENT ways, each time INVITING us to be part of WHAT HE IS DOING. * God called Jonah to do a job for him, Jonah's first response was to ignore it and run away. * He had things to do and he did not share God's viewpoint, why warn the Assyrians, they were the ones who would take Israel captive. They were the enemy and he wanted to see them fry. Look at the disciples who Jesus called. * They were not skilled teachers of the law, except for Paul * They were common blue collar workers - fishermen probably some of their language was not appropriate * They were reject of society, Matthew a tax collector who according to the other disciples should not have been part of the 12. * The man were human with weaknesses just like you and me. * Jesus did not call us because of our great wisdom, great goodness, our spiritual condition etc. * I was not called into the ministry because of my goodness or spirituality. * Sometimes I wonder why God called me to pastor, because it was definitely not something I was looking for. * But when God reaches in our lives whoever we all we have 2 options to ACCEPT HIS CALL - OR PULL A JONAH MOVE. * The Jonah move is not really a viable option - the Jonah move does not bode well in the long run. Do we get what Jesus is doing in our lives? * Jesus calls each of us as he is at work, desiring that we be part of what he is doing. * He invites us to participate with what he is already doing. We will make mistakes! * We'll do the wrong thing, take the long way, double back a few times. * It seems like people don't share that enough. * The discipleship of the apostles was a comedy of errors, and one of them, Judas, never really got it. * Mistakes-not even sin necessarily-are a reality Jesus has taken into account before the creation of the world. * He's not looking for PERFECTION; he's LOOKING FOR YOU. So put yourself there on the lakeshore, tossing your nets into the water for the thousandth time. * It's a Wednesday, the wind is favorable, the catch is so-so. * And here he comes-this man you've heard of, somehow associated with this new movement. * Something in the fathoms of yourself responds when you hear his voice. * What will you say? * Many of you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. THAT IS THE BEGINNING OF A LIFE CHANGING PROCESS. * If you have not accepted Jesus as Lord of your life, WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR? * His call given to all humanity as Peter laid it out in Matthew 2:38 ACTS 2:28 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus stands at the door knocking. He is reaching out to all of us. He calling us to the work he is doing. Notice what he said to the disciples when he called them MK 1:17 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." * NOTE: Note that the primary call is to become "fishers of men," not to become teachers, preachers, counselors, administrators, builders, fund raisers or anything else. * Yet, how easily we obscure and camouflage the evangelistic ministry of the church. * The call of Jesus is not just to attend church!!! * It is so much more than that, the aspect of FISHING FOR PEOPLE. * His commission to his followers was: MATT 28:19-20 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." MK 16:15 15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. JN 20:21 21 Jesus said ... As the Father has sent me, so I send you." ACTS 1:8 8 But YOU will receive power when the HOLY SPIRIT has come upon YOU; and YOU will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ENDS OF THE EARTH." Jesus had called us to FOLLOW HIM Jesus has called us to REPENTANCE Jesus has called us to FISH FOR PEOPLE with the help of the HOLY SPIRIT HE HAS GIVEN US. So WHAT WILL OUR RESPONSE BE TO HIM. CLOSING PRAYER
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