A Higher CallingEpiphany
In the gospel story, Jesus comes upon Peter, Andrew, James, and John as they prepared their nets and fished, going about the routine of their daily job that was comfortable and familiar.
We, too, get caught up in routines that are comfortable and that we can control. Routine rarely feels extremely holy. Much of my job seems routine: phone calls, answering emails, and attending meetings. However, behind every email, phone call, or conversation is a person who needs to be heard and valued. I prepare for worship and write sermons. But the truth is that many people prepare and contribute to worship: Christine, the choir and musicians; Jerry and his technology team; Shannon, the proofreaders, and those who copy worship plans and deliver them; ushers and greeters, and those who prepare Kirk hall. Each person who prepares and participates in worship is creating an opportunity to worship God together.
As Presbyterians, we elect session members to be our representatives and trust them to make decisions that lead us. In our conversations on Sunday and in the lecture room on Thursday, we meet to listen to one another–not just our ideas about the church but my hope is that we also share what is happening in our daily lives that reflects a deeper relationship with God and each other.
As Jesus encountered these career fishermen doing familiar tasks, he called the future disciples to be something greater than their daily routines. He was asking them to do something different that they could not fully understand. At that point, they didn’t know that “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” would involve risk. It would involve coming to learn new things about different cultures like the despised Samaritans. It would involve challenging situations like feeding 5,000 people with practically nothing. “Follow me” was a higher calling. What does that mean for us?
Most of the time when I come into this building, I’m thinking of my responsibilities for worship or for a particular meeting. We aren’t merely spectators or the audience on Sunday. Some of us do have tasks to perform. We open the doors. We turn on the lights and the cameras. We make the coffee and put out the snacks. We sing in the choir and sing from the pews. But I wonder if our focus on our jobs keeps us from understanding the depth of Jesus’ higher calling. What does it mean to follow Jesus, to be in a relationship with Christ, that goes beyond the familiar tasks of worship?
Psalm 27 consistently moves back and forth between the dire situation the Psalmist finds himself in and the relationship with God that the Psalmist longs to have. We like to begin with how hard things are,yet the Psalmist begins with confidence and trust in God; “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” The Psalmist acknowledges his fears and moves to claim his own responsibility to face his fears.
In verse 4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, that I will seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” The Psalmist is acknowledging that he has some skin in this relationship, it isn’t all up to God. We are responsible too.
Psalm 27 gives us a pathway to our higher calling. First, we must commit to living in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives. What that means is that we don’t give up on God. We don’t strike out on our own. We trust that God will show up and will lead the way. Second, we are to behold the beauty of the Lord. What that means is that we recognize God’s uniqueness above all others. We know that we will face pain and trouble, yet we are able to see the image and goodness of God in the people around us. And the third thing we commit to doing is to inquire in God’s temple.
What happens to us after baptism, after confirmation, after we join the church? Those are just the beginning of what it means to be an inquirer. It means we continue to remain faithful to God as we keep reading and praying and doing the things that mature and grow our faith. We ask God to teach us, lead us, and grant us grace to extend to others when we begin to get stingy. Are we still listening and learning?
The Psalmist knows that we have to keep listening and learning and not simply retreat into our confidence in God. We must enter into a deeper relationship with God and resist spiritual laziness. We resist giving power to the anxiety and fear that surrounds us.
What does it mean to follow a higher calling, to be in a relationship with Christ that goes beyond the familiar and comfortable? As the Psalmist ended the 27th, he offers to us to consider; “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.”