All of us here know that God calls – we hear it over and over in scripture – we listened to two such stories last week – when God called Samuel – and when God called Phillip and Nathaniel – we heard it today when God called Peter and Andrew and of course – God’s call to Jonah – or rather what we heard was God’s second call to Jonah and the second part of that story…the one where Jonah listens, and goes and does what God wants – but Jonah’s story is a more complicated than that but we will get to that in a moment – to begin –I want us to know that there are so many ways that God calls and so many people that God calls to and it is not only a been there done that – thing – it is not only a scripture referencing event, and only happened to the people of the book – No, God’s call is a here and now event that is happening in our world to people just like us – and even –hear this part because it is the most important part – God call is even happening to us – God is calling us now…
This call thing is a big thing – a God thing and something that is profound and weighty and significant – it can change your life, transform your person, or move in you a direction that you never could of imagined because call – a call from God is as unique and individual as you are. And call comes in so many different ways, in so many different times in our life….
In the still small voice of the rain, in the soft gentle fall of the snow
in the wind of the lake, and the warmth of sun, or in the crispness of a winter day –
God calling through nature – saying…..
- “love my world”,
- “care for the creatures”,
- “protect the environment”,
- “don’t waste the resources”,
- “treat the planet with respect”,
- “clean up the mess”
- “there is enough to go around – share with each other” and
- “I love you” says God – you can see my love in the sunset and the frost on the trees and the billowy clouds in a blue, blue sky”
In the dreariness of a grey day, or vivid moment of the noon time sun
in the deep of night and as the sun rises or sets
in great expectation and when we least anticipate it, God calls.
God calls – God says our name, and speaks to us – loudly, clearly – whether we choose to understand or pretend not to listen – God calls.
Just like Jesus on the lakeshore – coming to Andrew and Simon – saying “come and follow me and I will make you fishers of people” – and they did Andrew – and Simon Peter lives were never the same again – the same for James and John – in the morning in the boat with their father catching fish for market and by evening, leaving everything they know behind them and following Jesus – four men heeding the call of God to change their lives and step out into the unknown to become more than they ever could have imagined.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the voice of God was so clear – a direct command – leave your nets and follow me…but I don’t know about you but the voice of God is not so easy for me to hear – and sometimes the noises that surround me make it all but impossible to hear.
Sometimes I think that we are so busy that we block out the hum of God’s voice. Get up, get dressed, cook breakfast, get the kids off to school, tasks to occupy each moment of the day so that time that may come where you have a moment to stop, and pay attention, find some silence where God voice could be heard and then another thought flits into focus – oh – feed the dog or sweep the kitchen floor.
Sometimes I think that we are so occupied with the matters that we give great importance to, that the voice of God becomes background noise that we can ignore, and treat like white noise.
Sometimes I think that God’s voice tells us something that we do not want to hear, like ‘it is time for you forgive’ or ‘you need to befriend the person that you most revile’ or ‘you need to let go of your anger’ or ‘it is time to move on, this is not working for you anymore and you need to change your circumstances’. All of these things, although simple in many ways are also the hardest things to do, forgive, befriend, let go, move on – and change even incremental change is hard, very hard, – and so we when the voice of God says forgive, befriend, let go, move on – we ignore it by doing other things, get ourselves busy with something else, put plenty of distractions in our life that just coping through the day to day – allows us not to move to that deeper place, not to have to listen to the voice within calling us to something, someway different.
Remember Jonah, he is a great example of not listening to the call of God…., what we heard this morning was his finally accepting and listening and responding to God’s call – yet what we are most familiar with in the Jonah story is when he said “no – not me – no way God – I’d rather not….you can just forget it – I am not going to listen to you.”
Remember what happened when God called Jonah the first time to go to Nineveh and let the people know that God was not happy with the way they were living their lives and therefore God was going to penalize them for their disobedience to God’s way. Jonah ran away from the call of God. Now do you blame him – would you want to go and proclaim to a small city that God was not happy with the choices they were making and that God was not going to ignore it any longer – well, I know that if this was me, running the other way – which is what Jonah did – looks like a better option. But God was not done with Jonah and running – albeit – sailing away on the sea to Tarshish, while may have seemed like a good idea at the time – was about to get Jonah into the biggest pickle of his life to date – that going to Nineveh would seem like a walk in the park – because you know and I know that Jonah gets to spend three days in the belly of giant fish because he thought that he could actually say no – and go and hide and not have to listen to the voice of God. And it is only when he agrees to listen to God that the fish coughs him up and leaves a slimy stinky Jonah on the shore – ready to go to Nineveh.
How much do we act like Jonah when we too would like to drown out the voice of God by hoping on a ship in Joppa and sailing the other way. We have many, many distractions available to us today that we don’t even need to leave home to find them. We can do this by getting our minds, our bodies occupied with things to divert us, to take our attention away from God – the television is a good distracter or the computer or food, or alcohol or drugs – things that take our mind to other places so that the voice of God is silenced or drowned out by noise of others, sometimes it is so loud we can ignore .
The bible does not really let us know just why Jonah ran the other way – why he felt that he could not go to Nineveh in the first place – I wonder what held him back – could it have been fear – fear that he was not up to the task or fear that he would be made fun of, or maybe fear that no one would listen to him. Was what caused Jonah to run from God maybe it was disbelief – Jonah couldn’t believe that God was really talking to him. Maybe Jonah convinced himself that God was not really asking him – cause who was he just a regular ordinary guy – why would God centre him out for this task? Or maybe Jonah did not believe God really wanted him to do this – maybe he questioned the task itself – go to Nineveh? and to ‘cry out against it’s wickedness’?, why would a city of people listen to him? Or why would God even care about a city whose reputation was questionable …. But really when all is said and done – whether it was fear or low self-esteem or disbelief – God did call Jonah and called and called even when Jonah wasn’t listening. God kept calling until Jonah was ready to listen even when the voice was muffled in layers of fish belly.
When was the last time you sat still and listened. When was the last time you opened yourself up to the possibility that the voice within calling you to forgiveness, or change or go in another direction was God’s voice not some weird part of you trying to convince you to be someone who your not. The voice of God is not the voice that leads you to harm yourself or others. The voice of God never asks you to do something which you do not have the ability to do. The voice of God calls from the place of love asking you to be more of who you are, love more, care more, share more – be more of the beloved child of God you were born to be. More often than not when God calls it is so that we can become someone amazing, and able to do things only dreamed of. What if the fear of who we could be is what is holding us back from heading the call of God. What if it is simply that we don’t think we know how to answer a call, how to follow Jesus.
David Lose writes: “There are any number of distinct ways that we can follow Jesus. And, indeed, follow him immediately – here and now, in the world and time in which we live. What seems at the heart of the matter is that we can follow Jesus in all of these different situations and circumstances precisely by trying to imitate him – by trying, that is, to treat others with the same regard, love and patience that he did, including all manner of people but especially those who were overlooked by society. This, I think, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian: to try to live and treat others as Jesus did, embracing the values of inclusiveness, love, forgiveness, and healing that he radiated in word and deed.”
Surely God is always near, right here, or, over there.
Calling to us, by name, saying: ‘Heather, pay attention, I have something to say to you, your life has purpose and meaning and is deeply connected to mine – and I have a plan for you.
- When you go out into your day, look around, see my people, see all my people, not only the ones that great you and you know and are familiar with, but see all my people, and see then in their needs and see then in their struggles and see them in their joys and sorrows.
- And sometimes God says: Heather, I am not done with you yet, what has become familiar and comfortable needs to change, and here is new path, a different way, another part of the journey for you to go on.”
- And sometimes God says: Stop! Heather! Wait – listen, and listen some more, and listen more deeply – and wait for my voice….listen
- And sometimes God says – Heather, you know that hard stuff you have been avoiding – well now is the time to deal with it.
- And sometimes God says – it is time forgive – the one who hurt you –you need to let it go and stop giving it so much of your energy and the only way forward is to forgive
- And sometimes God says – you need to face your fear and step out in faith and move in a direction trusting that I am with you every step of the way
- And sometimes God says – well done you
- And sometimes…….God calls and says …..what is God saying ……listen – God is calling you
So I invite you as you go into this week to listen to the voices around you seeking to hear the Divine, and maybe anticipate times and places and occasions where we might try to follow Jesus by treating others as Jesus did, and making choices with that in mind and if you hear a still small voice or a roaring thunderous voice – take heed – and trust – and be bold….for the call of God can make your life more than you can ever imagine.
 David Lose: In the Meantime: http://www.davidlose.net/2015/01/epiphany-3-b-following-jesus-today/