Sermon: The Call: Then and There & Here and Now

The Call: Then and There & Here and Now
Matthew 4:18-22
RUMC 22 January 2017

A number of years ago, three military recruiters showed up at a particular high school to talk to seniors about military career opportunities. Since the scheduled meeting was to last 45 minutes, the Army, Navy and Marine Corp recruiters were each allotted 15 minutes.  However, the Army and Navy recruiters were long winded with their presentations which left the Marine only 2 minutes to speak.  The Marine sergeant walked up to the podium, and he stood silent for a full sixty seconds, which was half of his time.  Then he said: “I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corp.  I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall when we are dismissed.”  He turned around smartly and sat down.  When the Marine arrived in the dining hall, there was a great crowd of students who wanted to talk to him.  That morning the Marine had made the call to service and the students responded.

In our gospel text, Jesus also made the call, and the disciples responded. Even today, as our Lord calls us to discipleship or service, it is up to us to decide how we are to respond.  My text is Matthew 4:18-22.
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Today’s Gospel reading took place at the Sea of Galilee; there are some good reasons why Jesus went to the sea. For one, he needed followers.  And number two, he chose fisherman because the life on the water was good discipline where hard work combined with danger often built inner character.

The fishermen that Jesus called were not scholars; the education they received was in the school of hard knocks. Of all the fishermen who made their living on the Sea of Galilee, our Lord chose those men because they feared God and waited for the kingdom.  Even today, Christ looks for those types of disciples who will fear God and who would be willing to be used in the Kingdom of God.

I don’t know if you have ever thought of it like this. God looks for those who are not idle, but busy with the task at hand.  For example, I have some examples of faith in the Old Testament:

  • Moses tended his flock of sheep, when he was called to lead the young nation of Israel out Egypt.
  • Gideon threshed wheat, when he was called to be a judge of God’s people.
  • Saul searched for his father’s lost donkeys when he was called to be king.
  • David tended his father’s sheep when he was called to serve in the royal court.
  • Elisha plowed a field when he was called to be a prophet of the Lord.
  • Nehemiah served as cup bearer to the king when he was sent to repair the walls of Jerusalem.
  • Amos took care of sycamore trees when he was called to be a prophet of the Lord.

Here in the gospels:

  • Peter and Andrew were employed as fishermen when they were called to be Apostles.
  • James and John mended the fishing nets as they responded to the call.

There are also countless number of women, both in the Old Testament and the New, who though busy with their own lives, made a significant difference in the Kingdom of God.

What I am saying is this: when God calls a person for discipleship or to be in his service, he usually calls someone who is responsible with own time and who can be trusted with the things of God.

Jesus said in Luke 16:10. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” 

I often liken the call of God to when a cell phone or pager goes off. It seems that no matter where they are, when the sound or vibration goes off, people respond in a blink of an eye, and I am no exception.

Incidentally there is a new psychological disorder called “Nomophobia”. It is the stress and anxiety that a person experiences when they lose their cell phone or if they are in an area where there is no network coverage.

It makes me wonder: when God calls us to discipleship or service, will we be as responsive as we would to the call of a beeper or cell phone?

Someone asked Emily Post, an expert on etiquette, this particular question. “What is the correct procedure, when one is invited to the White House and has a previous engagement?” Her answer was this, “An invitation to dine at the White House is a command and automatically cancels any other engagement.”  In the spiritual realm, when God calls, it should be taken seriously.

When I was a chaplain at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, I heard a local pastor tell this story. While he was out, the church secretary received a phone call from the Office of the Vice President of the United States. The message was for the pastor to return the phone call.  The Vice President at the time was Dan Quayle, and it was reelection time.  When the secretary gave the pastor the message, he thought that someone in the congregation wanted to play a joke on him and he wouldn’t return the call.  Instead he went to lunch at a local restaurant.  The church secretary became concerned.  She knew the phone call was authentic, and it was no joke.  So she asked the associate pastor to go the restaurant and convince the pastor that the phone call was legitimate.  The pastor did make the phone call.  Vice President Quayle wanted to attend church the following Sunday.

You see, when the pastor was convinced of the message, he wasted no time responding to the call. It is the same thing with us.  When God calls those to discipleship or service, it is up to us to answer.

Another way we can look at this. Let’s pretend that there are three types of people in the world and they all begin with the letter C.  They are the curious, the convinced and the committed.

  • The curious will show up, but leave when asked for any type of commitment.
  • The convinced are the ones who show up and stay.  But when asked to make a sacrifice of a commitment, they don’t respond.
  • The committed are the ones who, when asked, say “yes.”  These are the dependable ones.

Genesius was an actor during the dark days of Roman Imperial Persecution of Christians. When Genesius appeared in a play in which Christians were ridiculed, he performed his part to the delight of the audience until the moment when he was to ask in jest to be baptized in water.  Seized by an irresistible power, he suddenly stood still and silent.  Then departing from, the script, Genesius explained to the astonished audience that he himself desired to become a Christian.  Genesius left the stage, answered the call of God, and was baptized.  Soon afterwards, he died a martyr’s death.  Genesius is the patron saint of actors.

Let me close, God is active in people’s lives; he invites, directs, guides, proposes and suggests. Is the Lord knocking at the door of your heart so you can be a disciple of Christ and of service?  We have a choice.  We can respond with a yes or we can respond with a no.