Today’s readings are all about God calling people. He calls Isaiah, Paul and Simon to his service today. So, I have a joke about another call made by God: God calls up the Pope and says, "I've got some good news, and some bad news." God says, "I've decided that there should just be one church, and one religion. No more confusion." The Pope says, "That's wonderful. So, what’s the bad news?" God says, "I'm calling from Salt Lake City."
God is calling. Do you hear God’s call? I hope he calls me on my cell phone. I’ve stopped answering my land line because, instead of God, all I ever get are telemarketers!!!
God is calling. In our first reading today, we read about Isaiah having a spectacular vision with winged seraphs flying around. He moans that he is lost, with unclean lips. A seraph touches his lips with a live coal (ouch!) and he is forgiven of his sins. When he hears the voice of the Lord asking; “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” He answers: “Here am I; send me!”
God is calling. In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about how he was called by God. He was a terrible person, actively persecuting Christians when, on the road to Damascus, he was suddenly blinded by the bright light of the risen Christ. He became the most zealous of the early followers of Christ. He was called to change his ways and boy; did he ever change. And, in one of my favorite bible quotes, he got to say, like Popeye, “I am what I am.”
God is calling. In today’s gospel, we have the wonderful story of fishing with Jesus. Simon has been fishing all night long, and now, having caught nothing, is at the shoreline, cleaning his nets. Jesus comes along followed by a big crowd. He asks Simon to take him out on his boat so he can preach. Simon takes him and he must do some serious listening, because, when Jesus tells him to go back out into the deep water to fish again this tired fisherman complains, then complies. Soon, they catch so many fish their nets are bursting! Simon yells for his friends to get out there to share the great catch.
He realizes that there is something very special about Jesus and he is overwhelmed to be in his presence. He confesses his sinful nature. Jesus doesn’t say anything about forgiveness, he just invites Simon to follow him so that he can catch people instead of fish. Simon, James and John bring their boats to the shore and leave everything to answer the call of Jesus.
Over and over, God is calling, and people answer. Think of petulant Jonah who was so cranky about following God’s orders. Think of Moses who complained that he didn’t speak well enough to bring God’s words to the people. Think of young Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul, Simon Peter, James and John. They all heard the call of God and answered.
Now, when we think of answering a call from God, we may think of becoming ministers or maybe missionaries, traveling far from home, changing everything we know. That’s drastic and difficult but I believe that God calls us every day in all kinds of ways.
Luna and I are involved with Canine Reading Buddies. Most weeks, we visit schools or libraries so that kids can read to her. The idea is that sharing a book with a nonjudgmental dog boosts students' confidence and helps instill a love of reading. Dogs, kids and books – my personal trifecta of favorite things.
A few months ago, I realized that this is actually a ministry for me (and Luna) as we spend this precious time connecting with small people, listening, smiling, listening and listening. Luna isn’t really a very good listener, she gets bored and stares as me, wondering why we aren’t going for a walk, but the kids adore her, so she tries to kiss them on the lips. The kids often tell me all about their own pets, sometimes sharing personal details about ‘going to Dad’s house this weekend’ or the sadness of losing pets. It’s a ministry of companionship for me, to just be present with these kids.
God is calling. I believe that God often becomes manifest in the ordinary, even seemingly unnecessary events of a person's life -- events which nevertheless are in accord with some greater purpose.
Let me tell you a story: Dwight Morrow, the father of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, once held a dinner party to which Calvin Coolidge had been invited. After Coolidge left, Morrow told the remaining guests that Coolidge would make a good president. The others disagreed. They felt Coolidge was too quiet, that he lacked color and personality. No one would like him, they said. Anne, then age six, spoke up: “I like him.” Then she held up a finger with a small bandage around it. “He was the only one at the party who asked about my sore finger. And that’s why he would make a good president,” she said.
God becomes manifest in the smallest events. God is calling. How is God calling you? I see all of you answering God’s call in your daily ministries: Jim doing finance for Chaplains and St. Marks, Bonnie, without her collar, working in schools, Donna and Katie in their work with troubled kids, Mary doing jail ministry, Gretchen working with children, Kevin taking care of our church building. I could go on and on.
Today I ask you to look to your own lives. Look to how you answer God’s call every day with kindness to the stranger, food for the hungry, love for the ‘other’, compassion for the poor, patience with the aging. You answer God’s call like Isaiah, shouting, “Here I am Lord!”
We sing: “Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”