Isaiah 6, 1-2, 3-8 – Psalm 138 – 1 Corinthians 15, 3-8. 11 – Luke 4, 1-11
February 7, 2016 at Saint Peter and St William Parishes in Naples, FL.
The call of Peter is so dramatic in Luke’s Gospel that it presents a problem. It is the same with the call of Isaiah and Paul heard just before the Gospel. These experiences are so unique that we can easily step back focusing only on those three as though those really called to discipleship have to accept a radical change of life, quit their jobs, leave their family, put everything up for sale on eBay, and be focused on doing God’s will and nothing more. After all, isn’t that what “they” did? Add to that the fact that we tend to think of a Prophet like Isaiah, St Paul, and St Peter as being “saints”, holy and courageous, bold and confident. These are the kind of people God goes after, the bold and the brave. Excuse me friends, this thinking is ridiculous, and it seems to gloss over the fact that Isaiah did not have a clue about what was going on around him, Paul was a notorious and violent persecutor of those who followed Christ, and Peter was a liar and a coward at the most critical moment of Christ’s life. A closer look at the three of them tells us something more important. This “call” comes to anyone and maybe everyone from an upper-class well-dressed Israelite named Isaiah, to a Roman trouble-maker like Paul, and to a simple fisherman just earning an honest living by the work of his hands.
What this episode of Luke’s Gospel calls into question is who is called, what is the call, and what does it take to respond.
At the historical level, Peter is called. At the theological level as Luke writes it is the church that is called, you and me, The Church. So what is revealed here in God’s Word is our call, and root of our vocation in life. I think it is important to understand that this is about “vocation”, the purpose of and the reason for one’s very life. There is one, you know, a reason for each one of us to be here right now, today, in this place. There is a reason in the mind of God for our very existence. God has called us into this life, not just to eat and breath, reproduce and die. There is a plan in God’s providence for each of us which is why we all have gifts that may differ, but are tools to complete the Will of God.
There is no expectation that we sell our homes, our cars, bid farewell to our families, find a tunic, an old pair of sandals, and learn how to beg. There is an expectation however that we take seriously our unique vocation and seek at every turn to understand what God asks of us and calls us to become as a disciple. It is way more than keeping the rules and going to church. This vocation to discipleship is not for the holy and the perfect, for those who have their lives all in order and spend hours in prayer. It is for people like us who have a past, who live every day conscious of our unworthiness, our mistakes, and brokenness. In fact, it is probably good to remember all of that like Peter who falls on his knees in humility. None the less, he is called, and so is the broken and sometimes sinful church which is no better or worse than any of us. Discipleship and our vocation is not about the past. It is about now and about the future.
I would propose that there are three steps to embracing one’s vocation. First, we need to be absolutely convinced that God is alive and powerfully working within and around each one of us. We need to be unshakably certain that we are loved and worthy to be called, just as we are. Second, based upon that understanding we need to hear Jesus when he clearly says to us, “Do not be afraid.” The job description for discipleship has as its first prerequisite: love. The second is “no fear.” Now the third and final thing we need to do is learn to listen. God is prompting and calling each one of us right now. This is the making of a disciple.
We have all been there: at work, at home, in a store, anywhere. We see something or hear something said and wonder, “Should I respond and help that person?” Then we start trying to figure out if it’s proper, or if we should just mind our own business and what other people might think. By the time we go through all of this rumination either someone else has responded, the person has moved on, or it’s just too late. What kingdom do we serve, the “kingdom of excuses” or the “kingdom of God”? If we are convinced that we are being loved and led, committed to removing fear from our minds and hearts, and becoming skilled at the art of listening then we would not hesitate to act on those promptings we feel within. Those promptings are from God. You are being called to respond. Jesus is saying, “Come, and follow me.” You have an opportunity to be a “fisher of men”!
It takes time to discern whether that inner voice is my own or God’s. That discernment comes once we get rid of the fear and excuses and actually start doing! In listening to these inner promptings, we begin to notice all of the opportunities that become available to us to be disciples. We will realize that my past does not matter. What is important is what I can do. If you find yourself saying, I should ask that person his or her name, then do it! If you find yourself saying, I should help that person carry that load, then do it! If you are driving and see someone in distress and say I should stop and help, then do it! If you see a homeless person and say to yourself I should do more, then figure out what to do!
After Jesus ascended to the Father all those first disciples had was God’s inner voice. They were able to recognize just as they recognized Jesus on the road to Emmaus. We can learn to recognize it as well. And with Lent beginning this Wednesday, we have a full forty days to think about love, fear and listening and how we can become better disciples and fishers of men.