Grace to you and Peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen, listen God is calling. This hymn is my son’s favorite. He loves to sing it. And he loves me to sing it to him. Not only once, or twice but over and over again. Until I feel like, well, not so much like being called or even calling but more like yelling… But my son is persistent, like all five year olds are. And so is Jesus.
Jesus calls Philip to come and follow him. There are no promises of a better life, of more money to be made. Or more of fame to obtained. He just calls: and Philip follows.
When was the last time you heard God’s call in your life?
As long as I can remember I heard God’s call in my life to become a pastor. (Even though as a child I wouldn’t have named it call.) But when I finished high school, I didn’t follow this call immediately. There were so many other calls in my life. There were my parents who really wished that I would become a doctor. There were the calls (or better mockeries) of my friends, who thought it would be pretty boring for me to go to seminary and become a pastor. There was also my own voice, telling me that I wouldn’t be good enough to be a pastor and that God surely must have better people than me to follow that call.
Well, to cut a long story short, God can be as persistent, or maybe even more so, as my son. So here I am, finally listening to God’s call and going to seminary to become a pastor.
When did you hear God calling in your life? And what was your answer? My answer to God were a lot of excuses. Something was always more important than God. My family, my friends, my fears, you name it. I put God aside. Hoping that if I would ignore His call, He might stop calling. Guess, again…
I believe we all have our own excuses for not listening to God’s call in our life. And they seem quite valid to us. We cannot do this. It would be a burden for our family. We are not able to do that. No one would take us seriously. We don’t want to do this because it would mean to invest: money, spare time, ourselves. Whatever our reasons for not following God’s call might be, if we were honest we would have to admit that they are just excuses.
Following Jesus is not always easy. Because there are no promises of something we will gain from that. There is no promise of a better life for us. Jesus just calls us to follow. He calls us to trust and accept him.
This is not easy. It is not easy for Nathanael - and it is not easy for us. Nathanael has a hard time believing that this call is real. Could ever come something good out of Nazareth? Out of a small town hidden in the middle of nowhere? Surely nothing good could come from there. The good things, the real prophets, they come from those big places like Jerusalem, or Wall Street, or Hollywood. Surely nothing good could ever come out of some little town in Upstate New York, like Your-City…
Maybe it is that reason why we sometimes do not follow God’s call in our life. He surely wouldn’t call us. There are other people. More important people. More intelligent people, God could call. God wouldn’t call someone so unimportant as me.
And so we wait. We wait for other people to pick up and do the job. When Jesus began his ministry he called people to become his disciples. So he called Simon and Andrew, Philip and Nathanael. Men with family and friends, and work to do. But Jesus called them to leave all that behind and follow him. And the amazing thing is: they heard this call - and answered to it. They didn’t say “Oh, yes, thank you, but I don’t think I can really do that” or “Oh, I’d love to but…”
No, they left everything behind and followed Jesus.
They didn’t wait for someone else to be called instead. They didn’t wait for someone else to do the work because they had enough of their own, thank you. They heard the call, answered it and followed Jesus.
But Jesus not only called the four fishermen, he also calls us.
Jesus calls you.
Listen, listen God is calling. Are we going to follow?
I am sure we all have our “I need to do something else first” answers ready. Or the “Yeah, but…” or even the “I’m not really qualified. Ask someone else!”
But this call, this new life is not about but’s and if’s. It is not about: someone really needs to do something about this or that. It is about a call to us now.
It is about us doing that job that needs to be done.
It is difficult to trust in God’s call in our life, because this call usually leads us away from what we have always known and calls us to do something new.
45 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. dared to leave all the known and secure behind and started his march on Washington. Even though it was not an easy way for him, he changed the world forever.
Most likely neither you nor me will ever be a Martin Luther King. But we are still called by the same God that called him. Because we don’t need to go off and join the Peace Corps or to help people in war plagued parts of the world to answer that call. God calls us to go out and answer His call today, here in Your-City, the little town in the middle of nowhere. We don’t even have to be rich to help. We don’t have to be famous to answer God’s call. Instead God calls us to love our neighbors and to care for them with what we have. He calls us to see and answer the needs our sisters and brothers have.
Can anything good come out of Your-City? It can and it does. Like it does here from this church with all that you do. With your volunteer work. With your care for each other. And most of all with all that you do to still be a loving and welcoming church even though you don’t have a called pastor. You answer God’s call every day so that the doors of this church stay open for all in need. What a wonderful gift you are giving!
Listen, listen God is calling. He is calling us. He is calling us to follow Jesus the best way we can. And following Jesus means trusting in the love of God. Trusting that God will walk with us wherever we will walk.
But sometimes we don’t want to listen. Because listening to God’s call means that we have to give up our own wishes and plans. Listening to God means to become a servant of God and our neighbor. Listening to God means allowing God to be God. Powerful, in charge. That is not easy. Because it means that we have to admit that we are not in charge. Even though we try that again and again. We are not in charge. God is.
This is not something that is encouraged in our society. We are those in charge and in power. We are those who are strong and in control. But are we really?
I have no problems admitting that I am powerless when I am in trouble. Because, like all of us, I come at a point where I realize that I cannot do anything to get me out of whatever kind of trouble I got me into. (And believe me even seminarians get into trouble!) But when all is well, when all seems to just go along easy and fine, I don’t feel powerless and I don’t want to be powerless. I want people to see and comment on how well I manage my life. I know God helped me out of a lot of trouble in my life. But now that all is well, thanks God, I can manage on my own. I will come back when I have more trouble.
But this is not what it means to follow God’s call. This is not what it means to accept Jesus as Savior. This is just sinning self-righteousness.
What then is answering God’s call about?
It is about trusting in Jesus and going where he wants us to go. Into the wilderness. Into the soup kitchen and help feeding the hungry. Into the hospital and visit the sick and lonely.
It means to see in all people our brother or sister. It means to open our arms to the marginalized, the outcast, the unseen. It means to be the voice of those unheard and the face of those unseen. It means to go out like Philip and invite others to come and follow Jesus.
But why should we, or anyone else for that matter, follow Jesus? There is nothing he promises beforehand in return. He just calls. But when we accept that call and follow him, he reveals to us, like he revealed to Nathanael, that we will see the heavens opened and the angels descending on the Son of Man.
This sounds strange. When we will follow Jesus we will see angels descending onto Jesus.
But when we look back to the time this was written, we start to understand what an extra-ordinary revelation Jesus has given us. This is not the first time someone in the bible sees the heaven opened and angels descending. This sounds a lot like Jacob’s dream of the ladder into heaven. This is also what people in ancient times were looking for. A ladder, a means to come into contact with God. So people in ancient times built tall temples with long stairs that were supposed to show the stairways to heaven. But we know that no stairs built by men or tower built by people will ever be tall enough to reach God. We fail reaching God, like we fail listening to God’s call.
But Jesus tells us that if we follow him he will become the stairways to heaven. He will become our means to come into contact with God. What we cannot do alone, coming to God, becomes possible through Jesus.
Listen, listen God is calling. God is calling us to come and see and follow. God is calling us to serve, and love, and care. He is calling us to come and be with Him. Not through our works but through our following of Jesus. Not by being powerful but by being a servant just like Jesus.
God is calling. Are we willing to follow?
May the peace of God which surpasses all our understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.