Sunday, June 6, 2010

God is Calling Us – Are We Even Listening?

He doesn’t know it, but Bill Cosby helped me understand two things: what it’s like to have children and the concept of obedience. And I doubt very seriously if he realized then, or now nearly thirty years later, that both concepts are theological truths. One bit he used to do was called “The Come Here” bit which included yelling, “come here… come here… come here… here here here here here here here here…etc” to his children before they would obey him and come. I have a friend though who has learned how to combat this reality in children. Since his daughter was just a toddler he would call her to come to him. She would come and clean up a mess she had made but sometimes it was just because he needed someone to share ice cream with. The daughter learned that by hearing her father’s call and obeying his call she might get ice cream just as easily as she might have to clean the kitchen. That is one family that has proven Bill Cosby wrong…at least some of the time when their daughter hears and obeys.

At certain times in our lives we all have the opportunity and blessing to obey someone’s call. It may be our parents when we are children or it may be our commanding officer in the military. But one thing is clear; we cannot obey that which we do not hear. That is what made Bill Cosby so funny, not the pain of disobedience so much as the humor of getting his children to hear him in the first place.

In this morning’s Gospel we hear Jesus Christ calling His first Disciples. “Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” (Matthew 4.19) Peter and Andrew were hard at work fishing when Jesus called to them from the shore. Think of the image for a moment: they were on the water “casting a net into the sea.” (Matthew 4.18) I doubt they were expecting someone to call from the shore and but I’m sure they expected what happened next: “They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” (Matthew 4.20)

Peter and Andrew were disciples of John the Baptist so they were prepared for the Messiah. They were well versed in the Scriptures (Old Testament) to recognize the Lord when He appeared and called to them. They were prepared to drop everything and obey God, and immediately God made good on His promise. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria.” (Matthew 4.23-24)

John the Baptist was a preacher of repentance and high moral living. His disciples were called to a life dedicated to austere spiritual preparation to receive the Messiah. John the Baptist preached “Repent! Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.” (Matthew 3.3 quoting Isaiah 40.3) When Peter and Andrew heard the voice of the Messiah coming from the shore they dropped everything and followed Him. We can be sure that they didn’t expect ice cream but a life of spiritual discipline and obedience to God.

And their obedience to God was rewarded just like my friend’s daughter is rewarded when she obeys her father. “I will make you fishers of men.” If they obeyed the Lord then they would gather people as plentiful as they used to gather fish in their nets. The Gospel tells us, “Great multitudes followed Him – from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.” (Matthew 4.25) In fact, as we just celebrated two weeks ago on Pentecost, it was Peter who spoke to the multitudes. “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2.40-41)

My brothers and sisters, the same call goes out to us to be saved from this perverse generation and follow the Lord. Any cursory reading of the daily newspaper reveals a society that has lost its way. Our society has turned away from humility and embraced self-serving pride; turned away from chastity and embraced sexual immorality; turned away from modesty and embraced opulence. It makes one wonder if Jesus were to return today if the newspapers would even run the story for fear the story wouldn’t sell enough newspapers.

Jesus is calling us today to follow Him. Whether we are restaurateurs or lawyers or bankers or teachers or priests, no matter what profession we are, the Lord is calling us today to follow Him and He is expecting us to obey Him. And when we do He will reward us with eternal life. Remember what we heard in the Gospel last week: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundred fold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19.29)

After the Lord called Peter and Andrew, He called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, “and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” (Matthew 4.22) James and John left not only their fishing business like Peter and Andrew; they left their father behind. They were willing to be totally vulnerable, without any business to “fall back on” just to be near the Lord and follow Him. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10.37) James and John loved the Lord more than their fishing business and their father and they were blessed by God for their obedience to follow Him.

Jesus is calling us today my dear brothers and sisters and He will bless us when we obey Him and follow Him. He will bless us like He blessed the Saints we remembered last week for the Feast of All Saints. He will bless us like He blessed Peter and Andrew, James and John. He will bless us when we obey Him so let’s get going.

The time has come for us to drop our fishing nets and follow Jesus Christ to the kingdom and we will become fishers of men and women who will “gladly receive His word” and embrace the Church and a life dedicated to God above all else. Let’s face it; God has already blessed us in our Community. In our Community we have successful business owners, teachers, nurses, bankers, landlords, developers, the list goes on…and that’s just the material blessings. He has blessed us with many healthy, dedicated and loving families who support each other through hard times and sing and dance with each other during joyous times. But He wants more for us. He wants us to welcome Him into our lives gladly and full of love. He wants us to truly live in communion with Him.

He desires for us to know Him intimately through Holy Communion but during the summer there will be many distractions and temptations that will try to draw us away from God. We MUST be willing to follow God and put God FIRST in our lives during the fun-filled summer months. Maybe the words of Saint John Chrysostom will inspire us this morning. He says, “Because such is the obedience which Christ seeks of us, as that we delay not even a moment of time though something absolutely most needful should vehemently press on us.” (Homily XIV on Matthew)

Peter, Andrew, James and John all had VERY IMPORTANT things to do when Jesus called them but they chose to hear and obey His call and immediately followed Him and they were blessed by God. Today the Lord has called us. Will we hear and obey Him or will we make Him call and call and call. Something tells me it won’t be as funny as Bill Cosby’s comedy act and this isn’t for ice cream….it’s for real.

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