Sermon Jan. 21, 2018
Called to Vocation
Last Sunday, I mentioned the invisible force of attraction; how a lot of times it is difficult to pinpoint why we are drawn to the people or places that we are drawn to. Have you ever met someone who makes you think, “I simply MUST get to know this person”? What about discovering something that made you think, “I simply MUST possess this thing”. I remember going to the used book store in Marysville and thinking, “I belong here.” Now I’m one of the volunteers working there. I also remember, at the age of 12 ½, joining my church’s youth choir; I sang in that choir for 6 years and whenever I couldn’t sing with the choir because I missed the practice, I sat in the pew feeling so wrong inside my stomach. I think some of our choir members can relate to that. On the other hand, a couple of times in my life when I was forced into serving a group as the treasurer, it was immediately obvious that it was a wrong job for me. There’s a reason why we are good at some things and bad at others. There’s a reason why we enjoy some things and don’t enjoy others. There are certain things we are called to be or do.
Today, we read about Jesus calling his first disciples in the Gospel of Mark. Two Sundays ago, we learned that the baptism of Jesus was his initiation ceremony and the moment of decision and “coming out” as God’s chosen One. Now that he “came out”, he has to gather followers. The fact that he started gathering followers/ colleagues is not surprising or special; it’s a normal process when you start something new, a new movement or group. What we should pay attention to is whom he called to follow him, how he did it, and what they were doing when Jesus called them.
First, whom did Jesus call? These men were simple folks, mere fishermen. In the eyes of the social norm, there was nothing special about them that they were recruited. The details of this event are not recorded in the Bible anywhere, but we can be assured that this was not their first encounter and that Jesus didn’t just randomly pick them out. They had already been longing for the promised messiah who would bring a major change to their world. They had listened to Jesus’ teachings and felt something powerful inside them that gave them the conviction that Jesus was, or might be, the one they had been waiting for. Israelites had been already waiting for salvation for several hundred years when Jesus came along. They were probably getting tired of waiting in despair. They were thirsty. They were ready. Jesus also saw in them a special passion burning from inside when they listened to his teachings. He recognized the spark, the invisible and unexplainable force that connected them.
Second, what were these men doing when Jesus recruited them? They were not at one the preaching gatherings, which was common at the time. Jesus was not the only one who came out and preached to people. These men were working at their livelihood like on any other day. This reminds us how God can call us and meet with us anytime and anywhere, even in the most mundane places. We don’t have to be at church, in the sanctuary; it doesn’t have to be during worship or prayer meetings. We can encounter God while doing our jobs, chores, or even while watching TV or playing with children or grandchildren. We just have to be open to hear God at unlikely moments of our lives.
Third, how did Jesus call them? He simply said, “Follow me.” He said, “Follow me” and they left everything to follow him. This story only makes sense if we are conscious that these men have been seriously thirsty for the saviour of their people, have been actively seeking and searching, have already heard Jesus, and were convinced that he might be the One. As I mentioned last Sunday, the invitation into God’s mystery is not something that can be explained or debated; it is something that should be experienced first-hand by trusting and diving in. Jesus didn’t recruit them by saying “I have a theological system which I would like you to investigate; I have certain theories that I would like you to think over.” No. Just like Philip said to the doubting and skeptical Nathanael, “Come and see”, Jesus called his disciples by simply saying, “Follow me”.
God calls us to a new way of life and a new perspective. There is the element of turning around from our old life. Jonah the prophet was called to tell the people of Nineveh to repent and turn around from their sinful ways. Jonah did not want to go. He ran away and ended up in a whale’s stomach for 3 days. Then God turned him around and sent him to Nineveh. He preached, and to his surprise, they listened and repented. Do you think Jonah was happy that the Ninevites listened to his preaching and turned their life around? Surprisingly, he wasn’t. As a Jewish person, he didn’t think Gentiles were worthy of God’s forgiveness and salvation. This was a teaching moment for Jonah. He might have thrown a tamper tantrum protesting to God’s mercy towards the Gentiles, but God taught him. Ninevites were the ones who turned around from their sinful ways, but God also turned Jonah around from his Jewish prejudice.
As Jonah’s prejudice towards the Gentiles were challenged, God also challenges us into a new way and perspective in many aspects of our lives. It was the disciples’ vocation to follow Jesus and spread the kingdom of God. It was Jonah’s vocation to have his prejudice challenged and preach to the Ninevites. How is God calling us into our vocations? Vocation is a summons and a gift from God. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call”. God calls us into our vocations and equips us. If we follow our vocations, it feels right, just like how we feel when we are with people who are compatible with us. So what vocations are God calling us into? Discerning our vocations requires a lot of quiet listening, and also, trying out different things. During this Epiphany, let us prayerfully wait for God’s revelation. While we prepare for our Annual General Meeting where we will be nominating new members of our church committees, let us ask God to guide us to our vocations. God’s kingdom always needs workers. We are called to be a part of God’s kingdom. Let us prayerfully discern which parts of our ministry could be compatible with us. I pray that you will listen for God’s voice, God’s call, challenging us and turning us around to a life of service and toward our vocations. Ask God this week, “How do you want me to serve you?”
Rev. Sunny Kim