This sermon was delivered at St. Paul United Church of Christ, Old Blue Rock Road, Cincinnati on Sunday, January 26, 2014 based on the Matthew 4:18-22 text.
Have you ever just left everything in your life behind, picked up, and started a new life where you believed God was calling you?
In 2007, I did just that. I resigned from my job in a non-profit to move 1000 miles back up north to complete my Master of Divinity so that I could eventually become an ordained pastor.
Yes, I doubted myself. Why did I give up a somewhat decent paying job to enter a full-time degree program? Will I find that this really isn’t my call? What happens if I don’t do well as I hadn’t been in a degree program since graduating college 12 years earlier? Will I make friends in my new location? But I knew that God said go, and so I went. It was crazy, or, as they say in 21st century slang “cray-cray.” Admittedly, I had months to prepare, pack and say goodbye.
And while it was much less risky, in 2011 I moved here to an entirely new area God was calling me. When you know little about an area and you move by yourself, there’s adventure. (Let’s face it: there’s always adventure when God calls us.) When God says move, sometimes there’s nothing else to do but leave what you know behind and move forward.
So as we really think about this text today, we might immediately think that they were also a bit “cray-cray.” When Jesus walked by Simon Peter and Andrew, then James and John, and stated “follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” they dropped everything without a word.
They just dropped EVERYTHING – the fishing nets and their tasks. Their homes and ways of life. Their relationships – James and John just left their father in the boat without even arranging for others to take their place. The text says “immediately.” So it wasn’t after hours of deliberation. It wasn’t after talking with their family or friends. It wasn’t agonizing whether or not they should do it. The call of God through Christ was so strong that dropping everything was their only option. The nets didn’t get mended. The fish didn’t get caught, but God’s call was answered.
And they didn’t set their affairs in order before accepting God’s call. For me, at the very least, I would find ways to pack a very large load of things including clothes for every type of weather condition, made sure I had a snack, gum, a couple of bottles of water, maybe a Diet Coke, my cell phone, its charger, my music and enough money on the way. Oh, and probably something to read. Or three books. And my iPad. I would make sure my family knew where to contact me. And while I’ve left my life in one area to follow the call by God, I still had time to prepare for my experience. They didn’t have that preparation time. They just left everything in that very moment and walked with Jesus.
Making sure everything is in place is the way it’s supposed to happen in our world, right? We’re supposed to have everything figured out before moving on from our secure lives. But that’s not necessarily the way God works, which makes life extremely scary.
Sometimes, the people we love will drop their rational lives to follow their seemingly absurd dreams. And in our “logical” thinking we dismiss viewing the situation as God sees it. In our logical world, following our gut is very much not considered mature. What we forget is that maybe they are just following the call of God in their hearts.
We think maturity comes with creating six month, one year and five year plans or having arrangements to fall back on. In that case, Jesus wouldn’t be mature. He traveled with nothing and spoke things that would make those in power very angry. In fact, he also encouraged others to give up their planned, thought-out lives just to follow him and the Spirit of God. His disciples gave up their “normal” lives in order to pursue a higher vocation. They lived on the generosity of others. Some may consider the lives of Jesus and his followers irresponsible, but they were being responsible to the only one that mattered: God.
Maybe it’s time for us to stop judging how others our living. Maybe it’s time for us to just focus on where God is calling us today.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what your age or ability is. Jesus didn’t stand around overanalyzing them on their ages, abilities, life or relationship structures. Instead, on behalf of God, Jesus just called. Likewise, God’s going to be calling all of us until our dying day – and then our calling may still continue on the other side of heaven. No matter what our gifts, God will continue to use them, transcending each of our lives past imperfections and mistakes. It might be a simple call, one that doesn’t require us to change our lives drastically, but maybe change our way of thinking a bit. And some will be called to make a huge change in our lives – sometimes at 30 or 40 and sometimes at 70 or 80. Yet when God calls, God is completely present as God asks us to make changes in our live or head in a new direction. God never leaves us in the midst of anything, let alone our callings. As I’ve heard along the way “God never calls the equipped, God equips the called.” Even if you don’t feel like you have all of the answers to where God is calling you or all of the skills, it may be wise and interesting to go, to drive on this unknown road to see where this God nudging.
Right now, I have a friend who is called by God to make a major change in her life. So in closing, here’s something I wrote not only for them, but hopefully a note that will inspire you to follow God’s crazy call in your life, even if that means dropping everything.
Through what you tell me, God has been nudging you, calling you to drop everything and make your way to a new location to answer this call.
Soon, you’ll be heading to a new location. This call may seem like it’s the last minute, but for some reason, you are moving completely across the country to fulfill your dream. You are brave. Not all of us can drop everything to see where the voice of God is calling us. Most of us cling to the familiar in order to keep comfortable, to stay in safe areas. Sometimes, that’s not a bad thing unless God’s call is truly pursing you.
It’s scary to do this. Everything you’ve known in your recent location is left behind. Don’t look back. Savor those moments and relationships of the past and keep driving. You’ll see things along the way that will interest you, distract you and inspire you. Fill your tank with the things that interest you and take mental pictures of the things that inspire you. And may God erase the images of anything that distracts you from your mind.
Embrace that this is what God wanted you to do. Accept that nothing is guaranteed in life. Let your past be something you learn from but not something that will hold you back. Let your journey be one of picking yourself up after mistakes, turning to God in your fears and loving each and every minute.
Being made in the image of God, you deserve to be called. You deserve this fresh new start. Your past does not dictate where God is calling you. Stop fishing like Peter and Andrew. Drop your nets like James and John. Say a brief goodbye and look west towards your future. For God is with you each step your foot takes, each mile your car drive and each moment that you breathe.
Blessings to all who discern God’s call in their lives.