The First Sunday after Epiphany
Pastor George Pejakovich
Matthew 3:13-17

WHEN WE READ OR HEAR THE GOSPEL ACCOUNT OF THE CALLING OF PETER, ANDREW, JAMES, AND JOHN WE TEND TO GET THE IMPRESSION THAT THE CALL OF JESUS WAS SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED. IT SEEMS AS IF JESUS APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE, CALLS THE MEN TO FOLLOW HIM, AND THEY RESPOND IMMEDIATELY WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST HESITATION. THIS MISINTERPRETATION DOES TWO THINGS; IT SKEWS OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURE OF THE CALL OF JESUS, AND MAKES US SEEM SOMEHOW DEFICIENT SINCE NONE OF US HAVE BEEN CALLED IN A LIKE MANNER. THE CALL OF JESUS, HOWEVER, DID NOT COME OUT OF NOWHERE; THERE WAS, IN FACT, A TIME OF PREPARATION FOR THOSE CALLED, AND A TIME OF A DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS BEFORE HE CALLED HIS DISCIPLES TO FOLLOW HIM.

A STUDY OF THE GOSPELS REVEALS THAT THOSE WHO BECAME THE FIRST DISCIPLES WERE AT THE JORDAN WITH JOHN THE BAPTIST, AND PROBABLY SAW JOHN POINT OUT JESUS AND SAY, “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.” IF THEY DIDN’T WITNESS IT, THEY SURELY HEARD OTHERS TALKING ABOUT IT. WHEN JESUS DISAPPEARED INTO THE WILDERNESS, THE MEN RETURNED TO THEIR HOMES IN CAPERNAUM AND WENT BACK TO FISHING. AFTER HIS TIME OF TRIAL, JESUS RETURNED TO JUDEA, AND, HEARING THAT HEROD HAD ARRESTED JOHN, LEFT HIS HOME IN NAZARETH, WHICH HEROD RULED, AND MADE HIS HOME IN CAPERNAUM OUT OF HEROD’S REACH. WITH CAPERNAUM AS HIS BASE, A SMALL TOWN WHERE EVERYONE KNEW EVERYONE ELSE, HE WENT AROUND GALILEE PROCLAIMING, “REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN HAS COME NEAR.” WE CAN’T KNOW HOW LONG IT WAS BETWEEN WHEN JESUS SETTLED IN CAPERNAUM AND WHEN HE CALLED HIS FIRST DISCIPLES, BUT THERE WAS SURELY ENOUGH TIME FOR THOSE HE WOULD CALL TO COME TO KNOW HIM AND TO HEAR, AND PERHAPS START TO UNDERSTAND, WHAT JESUS PROCLAIMED. THE CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS DID NOT COME OUT OF THE BLUE, BUT WAS BASED ON HEARING AND ACCEPTING THE WORD OF GOD HE PROCLAIMED, AND OF A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. WHEN HE CALLED, THEY WERE READY TO FOLLOW HIM. SO IT IS WHEN HE CALLS US TO FOLLOW.

IN MY OWN CASE, IT WAS AFTER YEARS OF STUDYING THE WORD OF GOD, AND A DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS THROUGH PRAYER, THAT THE CALL OF CHRIST BECAME INCREASINGLY CLEAR. IT BEGAN WITH THE SIMPLE ACT OF TAKING THE CHILDREN TO WORSHIP, AND, THEREBY, GETTING TO KNOW AND COMING TO LOVE THE MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION. WHEN ASKED TO TEACH THE JUNIOR HIGH SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS, I AGREED, EVEN THOUGH I WAS IN THE MASTER’S PROGRAM AT DUKE. AS IS OFTEN THE CASE, THE TEACHER GAINS MORE FROM TEACHING THAN THE STUDENTS, AND I CERTAINLY WON’T TAKE ANY CREDIT THAT TWO OF MY STUDENTS BECAME PASTORS. TEACHING, HOWEVER, LED ME TO A MORE INTENSIVE STUDY OF GOD’S WORD, UNTIL THE CALL OF CHRIST TO FOLLOW BECAME IRRESISTIBLE.

MY CALL WAS TO THE ORDAINED MINISTRY, BUT I HAD FOUR YEARS OF OBLIGATION TO THE ARMY TO PAY FOR MY MASTER’S DEGREE. THE CALL TO FOLLOW CHRIST INCLUDES FOLLOWING HIM RIGHT WHERE YOU FIND YOURSELF DOING WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU ARE DOING, SO I SOON FOUND MYSELF IN THE ROLE OF THE RELIGIOUS SCHOLAR FOR THE ENGLISH AND PHILOSOPHY COURSE FOR THE SENIOR CADETS AT WEST POINT. IN FOLLOWING CHRIST RIGHT WHERE I WAS, HE LED ME TO WHERE HE WANTED ME TO GO; TO SEMINARY, THEN TO THE CHAPLAINCY, AND, SO FAR, TO RIGHT HERE.

WE ARE ALL CALLED BY CHRIST RIGHT FROM THE MOMENT OF OUR BAPTISMS. NOT ALL ARE CALLED TO THE ORDAINED MINISTRY, BUT ALL ARE CALLED TO THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL; ALL ARE CALLED TO BE FISHERS FOR PEOPLE THROUGH THE NET OF THE WORD OF GOD. TO DISCERN IN WHAT PARTICULAR DIRECTION THE LORD WANTS US TO FOLLOW HIM REQUIRES THAT ESSENTIAL TIME OF PREPARATION OF THE STUDY OF GOD’S WORD, AND THE DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS THROUGH PRAYER, THROUGH WORSHIP, AND THROUGH THE LOVE OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST. IN THIS WAY, THE HOLY SPIRIT PREPARES US TO BE OPEN AND READY TO FOLLOW OUR LORD WHEN HE CALLS US TO OUR PARTICULAR MINISTRY; WHETHER AS LEADERS, TEACHERS, CLERGY, SERVERS, HELPERS, SINGERS, MUSICIANS, OR ANY OF THE MANY WAYS WE CAN LIVE OUT HIS CALL RIGHT WHERE WE ARE.

ON THIS SUNDAY OF OUR ANNUAL MEETING, WHEN WE REVIEW WHERE WE ARE AND SEEK THE HOLY SPIRIT’S GUIDANCE OF WHERE OUR LORD WANTS US TO GO AS A CONGREGATION, IT IS A GOOD TIME TO REDEDICATE OURSELVES TO A DEEPER STUDY OF GOD’S WORD, A CLOSER RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR LORD, AND A LOVING EMBRACE OF OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS. IN THIS WAY, WE WILL HEAR HIS VOICE SPEAK TO OUR SPIRIT, AND BE READY TO LEAVE WHATEVER BOAT WE ARE IN AND FOLLOW WHERE HE LEADS. AMEN.

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