Epiphany III Year B Sermon, "Now Go and Follow Him."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector

St. John the Baptist, Sanbornville

Jeremiah 3:21-4:2; Ps. 130; I Corinth. 7:17-23; Mark 1:14-20

"Passing by the sea, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew . . . casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me' . . . and they immediately left their nets and followed him."

So, once you get yourself into that place where you can receive God's call to you to " follow him," what do you do? How do you respond?

The call to Simon and Andrew clearly indicates that the two major excuses most of us make for not answering Jesus' call are invalid. And those two excuses are these: Being too busy doing other things, and having such low-self-esteem, that we believe we are unworthy to do anything for God.

When Jesus called them, Simon and Andrew were hard at work running the family business being fishermen. They were blue-collar workers, putting in sixteen hour days to feed themselves and their families. Yet neither of them for a moment considered their workload, nor their low economic and social status in the society, to be an impediment to answering that call. They just did what Jesus called them to do. They followed him.

Of course they could have just said no. Remember that anti-drug campaign slogan to "Just Say No"? Well, when Jesus calls you can just say no. But that was not even a considered option for Andrew and Simon. And if for no other reason than you're in church this morning to hear the word of God, and understand what it's meaning is for your life, let's eliminate it as well. Saying no is not an option.

So let's examine excuse number one: Being too busy. When we hear Jesus' call we can beg off by saying we're too busy with other things: work, professional commitments, family, sports, hobbies, other interests, whatever. Many people do.

" Hey, I'm a busy person, Jesus. I have a job. I can't spare any time to do your work in the world! Go find some retired person to answer your call."

Or, "Isn't that why we have a priest, Jesus? Isn't that what the clergy are for: to do all the church stuff? What are you asking me for, he gets paid to answer your call."

But being busy is a poor excuse. And for God it's no excuse at all. In Matthew (8:22-23) before following Jesus' call, one of the disciples says to Him, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." But Jesus answered him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead."

Jesus demands we put aside all those things that pre-occupy us. We are to follow when called and not only when it is convenient for us. It's not that Jesus is callous toward our commitments. Of course he wants us to honor the dead, and to bury them with dignity. He also wants us to work in our livelihoods, and provide for ourselves and our families. What God is saying is that being busy with other tasks is not to be our first priority. And it is never to be an excuse not to answer his call to service. In all things and in all matters God, and our service to God, is to take precedence. Everything else must be subservient to that. And what you discover when you do this is that all your burdensome, time-consuming tasks and responsibilities become more manageable, when they are put into their proper perspective in your life. Your life becomes not only easier, but better, when you heed God's call.

Excuse number two: Feeling unworthy to answer God's call. This is the belief that is frequently expressed with the statements, "I am such a sinful person that if I even walked by a church, never mind into one, the roof would collapse." Or, "I'm just not educated or skilled enough to offer anything worthwhile to God."

This excuse is as equally erroneous as the first one. If the bible tells us anything, it tells us that the more unlikely we believe the candidate to be . . . the more likely God will call them to some specific task. Look at Abraham, Jacob, King David, St. Paul, the Virgin Mary, to name but a few. Because of either their moral failings, or their perceived lack of skills, or social standing, all of them would seem unlikely candidates to be called by God. Yet they were. God calls ALL of us regardless of whether we or others, believe us to be worthy or not.

William Willimon who is the Dean of Duke Divinity School's Chapel, tells the following story. Some years ago he was asked by a Duke fraternity to give a talk. The Dean required the frats to have a certain number of talks each year to give them some semblance of respectability. Willimon's assigned topic was "Character and College." When he learned of his topic, Willimon thought, "Lord, thou has delivered them into my hands."

On the appointed night he went to the frat house where a bunch of glum looking brothers filled the common room. As he began his remarks he noticed a little boy sleeping in the lap of one of the fraternity brothers, his head on the college kids shoulders.

Willimon hammered the audience for the moral failings of their generation for about a half an hour. He then asked if their were questions. The group was silent and so he prepared to leave. As he was leaving he heard the college kid telling the little boy, "You go on and get ready for bed. I'll be in to tuck you in and read you a story."

A moment later Willimon found himself outside the front door with that college kid, who lit a cigarette, took a drag on it, and then thanked Willimon for coming.

"Let me ask you" Willimon said, "Who was the kid there tonight?"

"Oh, that's Darrell," he said. "The fraternity is part of the Durham Big Brothers program. We met Darrell that way. His mom's on crack and having a tough time. Sometimes it gets so bad that she can't care for him. So we told Darrell to call us up when he needs us. We go over, pick him up, and he stays with us until it's okay to go home. We take him to school, buy him his clothes, books, and stuff."

That's amazing," Willimon replied. "I take back all that I said about you people being bad and irresponsible."

"I tell what's amazing," the frat boy said, as took another drag on his cigarette, "what's amazing is that God would pick a guy like me to do something this good for somebody else."

Even though we may not feel worthy of a call from God, thank God, God isn't as judgmental about us as we are of ourselves. God has plans for you. God has a job for you. God wants to amaze you. This is incredibly good news because of all the sad things in the world, the saddest thing of all is a life that does not answer God's call. Ultimately a life that ignore's God call is an unfulfilled life.

Jesus is calling you. You may find that amazing. But now, go and follow him, and live out that calling. Discover what really amazing truly is.

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