The Third Sunday after The Epiphany
Pastor George Pejakovich
Mark 1:14-20

IN READING THE GOSPEL OF MARK, ONE CAN GET THE IMPRESSION THAT JESUS COMES OUT OF NOWHERE TO CALL THE DISCIPLES TO FOLLOW HIM, AND THEY DO SO WITHOUT QUESTION OR CONCERNS. THIS IMPRESSION IS FORMED BY MARK’S TERSE STYLE, AND HIS LOVE FOR THE WORD “IMMEDIATELY.” THIS IMPRESSION OF THE CALLING OF THE FIRST DISCIPLES IS WRONG, AND HAS LED TO A MISUNDERSTANDING OF HOW THE CALL OF GOD WORKS IN THE HEARTS AND SPIRITS OF PEOPLE. THE CALL OF GOD MAY COME IN THE NIGHT AS A SUDDEN TUGGIING ON THE HEART, MAY COME AS A SUDDEN EPIPHANY, OR EVEN AS A SLOW AWAKENING TO A SENSE OF PURPOSE, BUT IT IS ALWAYS PRECEEDED BY A RELATIONSHIP, BECAUSE THE CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS IS ALL ABOUT BEING CALLED INTO A NEW RELATIONSHIP; A NEW COMMUNITY. THE FIRST DISCIPLES DID NOT RESPONSE TO THE CALL OF A STRANGER ON THE SHORE; THEY RESPONDED TO THE ONE THEY ALREADY KNEW.

IF YOU WILL RECALL THE GOSPEL READINGS OF THE PAST FEW WEEKS, YOU WILL REMEMBER THAT THESE FISHERMEN WERE AT THE JORDAN RIVER REPONDING TO THE CALL OF JOHN THE BAPTIST TO REPENT AND BELIEVE THAT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WAS AT HAND. THEY MAY HAVE THOUGHT OF THEMSELVES AS DISCIPLES OF JOHN, BUT WHEN JOHN POINTED TO JESUS AS THE LAMB OF GOD, THEY SOUGHT JESUS OUT, AND PHILLIP TOLD HIS BROTHER, “WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAH.” HAVING FOUND THE MESSIAH, THEY WERE PROBABLY DISAPPOINTED WHEN HE DISAPPEARED INTO THE WILDERNESS, SO THESE FISHERMEN WENT BACK TO GALILEE TO PICK UP WHERE THEY HAD LEFT OFF. I’M CERTAIN THAT THEY MUST HAVE MULLED OVER AND OVER WHAT HAPPENED AT THE JORDAN AS THEY PLIED THEIR NETS.

WHEN JESUS CAME TO GALILEE AFTER THE ARREST OF JOHN, PREACHING THE SAME MESSAGE AS JOHN, WORD MUST HAVE GOTTEN AROUND. WHEN HE APPEARED ON THE SHORE CALLING THEM TO FOLLOW HIM, THE ONE THEY HAD BEEN SEEKING NOW HAD FOUND THEM, SO, THEY IMMEDIATELY LEFT THEIR NETS AND FOLLOWED HIM. JAMES AND JOHN EVEN LEFT THEIR FATHER SITTING IN THE BOAT TO FOLLOW JESUS. THE CALL OF JESUS TO FOLLOW HIM IS THE CALL TO A NEW RELATIONSHIP WHICH TRANSCENDS ALL THE RELATIONSHIPS OF THIS LIFE, AND THE RESPONSE TO HIS CALL IS THE RESULT OF THE PREPARATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH PRECEEDED HIS CALL.

A WEEK AGO SATURDAY, I WAS HONORED TO DELIVER THE HOMILY FOR THE ORDINATION OF MARK OLHEMEIER IN SPRIMGFIELD, MO. IN MY REMARKS, I NOTED HOW STEVE, KENT, DON, AND I ALL SAW HOW THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS WORKING IN MARK’S SPIRIT, AND HOW WE ENCOURAGED HIM TO BECOME A DEACON. HE WAS NOT QUITE READY TO TAKE THAT STEP, BUT HE DECIDED TO BECOME A VERGER. WHILE SERVING AS A VERGER, WE COULD SEE HOW THE HOLY SPIRIT CONTINUED TO WORK IN HIM, AND WHEN HE DECIDED TO PURSUE HOLY ORDERS WE WERE NOT SURPRISED. WHEN HE RESPONDED TO THE CALL OF CHRIST, HIS RESPONSE WAS IMMEDIATE AND TOTAL JUST LIKE THAT OF SIMON, ANDREW, JAMES, AND JOHN. HE LEFT HIS NETS AND FOLLOWED JESUS.

MARK’S ORDINATION CAUSED ME TO REFLECT ON MY OWN CALL, WHICH TOOK A SOMEWHAT LONGER PREPARATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN MY LIFE. WHILE IN GRADUATE SCHOOL, I JOINED A LITTLE CONGREGATION IN DURHAM, NC. SOMEHOW, I ENDED UP TEACHING THE HIGH SCHOOL SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS. THEN, FOR REASONS UNKNOWN TO ME, I JOINED AN ADULT BIBLE STUDY LEAD BY THE PASTOR ON THURSDAY EVENINGS. I KNOW YOU WON’T BELIVE ME, BUT I WAS SUCH A PAIN IN THE NECK WITH ALL MY QUESTIONS, THAT THE GROUP QUICKLY WITHERED AWAY TO JUST THE PASTOR AND ME. I STILL FEEL SORRY FOR THAT DEAR MAN IN HAVING TO PUT UP WITH ME. FINALLY, ONE EVENING, I SLAMED MY BIBLE DOWN ON THE TABLE AND SAID, “IF ANYONE REALLY BELIVED ALL THIS, THE ONLY THING THEY COULD DO WOULD BE GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO BECOME A PASTOR!” HE GENTLY CLOSED HIS BIBLE, SMILED AT ME, AND SAID, “GEORGE, WE’RE DONE HERE.” BECAUSE OF MILITARY COMMITMENTS, I COULD NOT IMMEDIATELY FOLLOW THE CALL, BUT, WHEN I DID DROP MY NETS, THINGS MOVED AS IF I WERE ON A BOBSLED TO ORDINATION.

WE ARE NOT ALL CALLED TO HOLY ORDERS, BUT ALL WHO ARE BAPTIZED ARE CALLED TO FOLLOW OUR LORD TO WHERE HE LEADS US. YOU MAY HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO THE WATERS OF BAPTISM AS AN INFANT, OR BEEN MOVED BY THE SPIRIT TO BE BAPTIZED AS AN ADULT; EITHER WAY THE SPIRIT OF GOD HAS PREPARED TO HEAR THE CALL OF JESUS TO, “FOLLOW ME.” WHERE HE LEADS US IS ALWAYS INTO A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS WITH HIM AS THE CENTER AND THE SOURCE OF THAT RELATIONSHIP. HE CALLS SOME TO BE PREACHERS, SOME AS TEACHERS, SOME AS PROPHETS, SOME AS HELPERS, SOME AS LEADERS, AND CALLS ALL TO LIVE AS IF THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD ARE PASSING AWAY.

WE ARE NOT CALLED TO FOLLOW JESUS IN A GENERAL WAY, BUT ALWAYS IN A PARTICULAR WAY; TO DO THE BEST AT WHATEVER YOU ARE CALLED TO DO. AS LUTHER SAID, EVEN A BREWMASTER CAN LIVE OUT THE CALL OF CHRIST BY DEALING HONESTLY WITH ALL AND MAKING THE BEST BEER HE CAN. WE MAY FOLLOW JESUS BY BEING GENEROUS WITH OUR WEALTH, BY SERVING FOOD TO THE HUNGRY, BY SHARING OUR COATS WITH OUR LESS FORTUNATE NEIGHBORS, ABOVE ALL BY NOT CLINGING TO OUR NETS BUT LETTING THEM GO TO DO THE WORK CHRIST CALLS US TO DO. THIS, OF COURSE, IS WHAT BEING A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST IS ALL ABOUT, BUT BECOMING A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST IS THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

BY HIS GRACE, WE ARE CALLED TO TRUST IN JESUS, RATHER THAN OURSELVES, AND THAT TRUST BLOSSOMS INTO A NEW REALTIONSHIP WITH EACH OTHER AND WITH THE WORLD. WE ARE CALLED BY CHRIST INTO A NEW COMMUNITY OF GRACE AND PROMISE WHICH LIVES THE LIFE OF THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE MIDST OF THE WORLD WHICH IS PASSING AWAY.
AMEN