Sunday, January 22, 2012

Openness to God's Call

A sermon based on Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and Mark 1:14-20
January 22, 2012

What would you find compelling enough to leave everything and everyone you know behind and go for something new? It would take a whole lot, wouldn't it? Some folks will leave roots that they have built in one place in order to find a job or to take advantage of a career opportunity. Some will move for a relationship - move across the country to be with either a significant other or to be near children or grand-children. It would have to be something worthwhile to take such a risk.

It might be hard to find something worthwhile for an individual to take such a risk, but it would be even harder to find something worthwhile for a group of people. Sometimes family members will move together, such as in immigrating to a new country. Sometimes members of a religious group will move to a place where they are free to practice their faith. In order to motivate a group of people, either the current situation has to be really bad or the possibility has to be really good.

Simon and Andrew, James and John were all fishermen. That is what they knew, how they supported themselves and their families. And yet, they left it all behind to follow Jesus - their family, friends, homes, livelihoods.

We do not know what these disciples were thinking, or what other information they might have had. Were they happy or satisfied being fishermen or did they already have a sense that there was something else that they should be doing? Was this the first time that they had ever seen Jesus? Or had they heard Jesus teaching earlier? Or had they heard from others about Jesus? Did James and John know Simon and Andrew and were encouraged to follow Jesus by their example? We don't know.

All we know is that Jesus called and they followed. There must have been something powerfully compelling about Jesus.
-so compelling that these and other disciples left all they knew to follow
-so compelling that people followed Jesus wherever Jesus went, seeking wisdom and healing
-so compelling that Paul stopped persecuting Christians and became one himself
-so compelling that Christians throughout the ages have been martyred as witnesses to the power and love of Christ.

It can be discouraging if we don't always feel that compelled. We should remember a few things. Not everyone Jesus  called followed him. There was the rich young man who went away disappointed, and there was the person who wanted to bury their father. Not everyone Jesus taught understood or believed him. And not everyone responds at first, but might later.
We need to be open to hearing God's message, to hearing Jesus' call to follow him. Openness is important, because it makes us easier to reach. I have some noise-cancelling headphones that are really great, they make it easy to tune out the world around me. If I have them on, then to get my attention you have to wave in front of my face, tap my shoulder, or yell loudly. You can still get my attention, but it is much harder. Openness helps.

How can we be open to hearing God's call to us? There are numerous strategies to open ourselves up to God’s call, but I have four to talk about today.