Let me begin by asking a question. Please raise a hand if you are NOT going through a very challenging time in your life? Health? Family? Work? Relationships? School? Taxes? Everything is fine in your life – no inconveniences, no rush-hour backups, no unforeseen bills, and with plenty of time for Bible reading, prayer, and worship…
Please keep you answer on the back burner…
Today we will be continuing going deeper into the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a word that roughly translated means “manifestation”, “revelation”, or even in a wider sense, “an action meant to get the point through.”
While the Book of Revelation tried to interpret first century events under the light of God’s eternal purposes or to describe events yet in the future, the Epiphany points to the here and now.
In other words, if Baby Jesus was more than a Christmas story, then what does it mean for those are to follow in the steps of the Master of Galilee?
So, today our theme is God’s calling people. In the Scriptures as well as in the history of the Church, God’s “call” refers to God’s initiative in addressing his beloved sons and daughters and calling them to be in a closer relationship with Him. And, sometimes but not always, God calls people to send them on a particular task or mission.
But God’s “call” is not only limited to calling preachers, apostles, missionaries, monks, or nuns. In a more general way, all human beings are “called” to be in and remain in a close relationship with Jesus, and through Him, to get closer to the heart of God.
When did God call you? In a practical view, in Baptism we all have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and signed a Christ’s own for the eternity. But, of course, we know that God’s call to humankind began in Creation. Long before we were born, God called us unto Him.
And yet, there is another layer to that “calling,” in the sense of being a vocational call to a particular trade or profession – like Joseph as a cabinet maker. Such “calling” is meant for using God’s given gifts of creativity, imagination, and entrepreneurship.
Further, work is not only for our own needs, but we also believe that honest work with one’s own hands goes beyond ourselves. On the one hand we are called to return to the Lord a portion of the bounty God has shared with us, “For God loves the cheerful giver.” And then, beyond our own support, we should strive to have “something to share,” for as Jesus taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
But here is the thing. It is not use in trying to mute God’s calls! God’s call always comes through. We may ignore God’s calling, but God is patient and will insist and keep ringing until you cannot ignore the call any longer.
And here is another thing. God’s call almost never arrives when we are quietly seating in church, or with the Bible at hand, in the bliss of celestial communion with our Creator. Yes, sometimes it happens. And in fact, sometimes we need to get away from the din of the world, so we may be able to hear God’s voice. But often God rings in the midst of the most challenging times.
In our second lesson, Paul says that he was called to be an apostle. How did he get the message? With a bump from a horse and a terrifying experience. And, to boot, while he was fighting against God in the name of religion!
Isaiah was called while he was worshipping in the Temple. What it was significant is that God’s call arrived during the upheaval brought by the sad death of King Uzziah. Even if Uzziah was a good king, he died in disgrace because he could not handle success and power.
There was not only the national mourning and the regrets, but also the open pushing and shoving about who would be anointed as Uzziah’s successor.
Psalm 40 is a psalm of someone who was in the pits of despondency and tribulation. The author, possibly David, recalls his experience while he was persecuted in the wilderness. In Psalm 39, we hear David crying for deliverance and in Psalm 40 he continues with the struggle.
And yet, it was at that time when David thought that he could not handle anything more, God called – again! And in verse 7 he acknowledged God’s call, for he had ears to hear his Master’s call.
When Jesus met John, Jesus understood right then and there that he had to make a choice. Jesus, being about thirty years of age, was supposed to take over and expand Joseph’s workshop and to begin forming a family. That was what was expected of him – not going after John’s steps.
In fact, later on, we learn that the family pleads with him to get back to them, (Mark 3:21).
At the time, John’s ministry was at his peak – and it didn’t bode well. We know how John ended up. And Jesus had to decide what to do with his life. On the one hand, while in the water, Jesus heard God’s voice reassuring him that He was God’s beloved child.
But at the same time, John’s prophecy was quite clear. Jesus was to be “The Lamb of God who would take the sin of the world.” To us “Lamb of God” is a kind of liturgical label. But at the time where the Temple sacrifices were still carried out, “Lamb of God” was a death sentence.
And even as Jesus knew that hearing God’s call would mean to lie down His life for us, Jesus answered and committed himself right away. And then, what is the first thing He does? He calls his disciples to Him.
In today’s gospel, we read about Jesus calling his disciples. Mark (3:14) offers us some more information telling us that when Jesus called his disciples, He called them to be with Him.
In the experience of Isaiah, David, Paul, Jesus, the Apostles and countless more through the ages, God’s call arrived at a time when they would rather have a “time out.” A time to calm down, to get their affairs in order. Like in the gospel’s story, “time to check out a property, to say farewell to the family, and to try a new car.” And then, whenever they were ready, to answer the call.
Now, going back to the question I asked at the beginning, and addressing all those of your who acknowledged going through a challenging time, let me ask – Would it be possible that God may be trying to reach out to you? Could it be that even in the midst of what is going on in your life, God is intent in reaching out to you?
Now, don’t be scared! For if you were to answer God’s call, the first words that you are most likely to hear are these, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
For in Jesus, we will find rest for our weariness, a shoulder to cry on, a firm and loving embrace securing us into his abiding love, and we will hear words of concern for our welfare.
Yes, and Jesus will say words of wisdom to cheer us up to carry on – even when we may think that we cannot take it anymore. Jesus offers himself as the way to true rest. Jesus offers himself as the source of a deep and abiding peace that can only be found in Him.
Right at the heart of God’s call is God’s desire to bring us back closer to Him.
I know that among all the noise, distractions, challenges, and problems of daily life, you may be too busy or even distraught to hear God’s voice softly calling into your heart.
But here is the good news of God’s faithful love. He’ll never quit calling.
Listen to God’s words whispering words of peace, love, and comfort. You’ll never be disappointed in hearing what God has to say to you for your are God’s beloved daughter or son.
Would you please take the call?