Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jesus Says "Follow Me." Are You Listening?

Waldorf College Chapel:  January 25, 2012
Jesus says “Follow Me”.  Are you Listening?

#793  “Be Thou My Vision”
#574  “Here I Am, Lord”

Scripture Readings:

Mark 1:16-20  16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen.  17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."  18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Mark 2:14   14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.
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Vocation & the Unknown
The very first time I spoke in chapel my topic was vocation and so I think that it is fitting that I am going to speak about vocation this final time.
Vocation is something that you hear a lot about at Waldorf, and it also is not necessarily an easy thing to figure out.  Listening to a call from God is not always obvious and takes a great deal of trust in Him.
And in the last few months, I have learned a lot about what it means to really trust God with my life.  I can’t say it has been easy, because it hasn’t been, but it has been very rewarding and as difficult as it can be, I would hope that everyone would be able to experience that reliance on God at some point in their lives. 
Having had to totally trust God in the last few months has not changed me in any obvious ways that I can describe well, but I do sense that it has changed me in smaller ways.  I feel more at peace with knowing that my life is not under my control and my desires, and that is something new for me; I like control and I want to do what I want to do. 
I have a book called The Coach’s Wife and in it, the author talks about submission and says that when we coaches wives choose to let our lives “be guided by his career and his plans” that we “will actually obtain more of what [we] want and need” and that “the earlier [we] agree to submit, the sooner [we’ll] get more of what [we] need” (17).  I don’t particularly like reading that, because when I do, the independent feminist part of me gets fairly worked up, offended, and irate.
However, as much as I hate to admit it, this advice has proven true in my life.  Having Greg follow his career has led me into places I would not have chosen for myself and has opened up opportunities—callings—that I would never have anticipated.  If you had told me six years ago that I would be leading worship services and giving sermons I would not have really believed you; after all, I was terrified of public speaking.  Yet, here I am, doing exactly that.
A couple of years ago I decided to take Steve’s “Senior Religion” class for fun and one of the topics that we discussed at one point was the idea of multiple vocations.  This idea that there isn’t necessarily one thing we are each meant to do in our lives really resonated with me, because there isn’t one thing, one particular job that I have done or have had a goal of doing (I’m a terrible goal-maker anyway so that doesn’t help).  I’ve had multiple callings in my life so far and am now waiting to find out what the next one is.
And, we see it with the disciples that Jesus called too. 
The fishermen were no longer fishermen after Jesus called them.  Levi the tax collector left his job.  They now had something new to do.  The vocation that they had always thought they’d be doing with their lives was now over and they were starting a new and unknown journey. 
The people that Jesus first called did not know what was ahead of them.  They just followed him when he called them.  It reminds me of God calling Abraham in Genesis 12, when it says
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.’” (Genesis 12:1, NRSV)

and Abraham does it, without question.  Now, there are also examples of people not wanting to do what God says right away, and I probably fall into that category more often than not, but right now I’m identifying with the people who just go
Abraham and Jesus’ disciples were both setting out to do something unknown.  We aren’t told how they felt about it, only that they did it.  We see that Jesus took ordinary people, out of their ordinary lives, just like you and me, and transformed them to do what he was calling them to do.
Jesus asks them to follow him, to fish for people, and to proclaim the message. 
And in Mark 3:14 we are told that they will be “sent out”, but, again, they don’t know where.
Not knowing what the future will bring and only relying on what is happening in the present is a very scary thing. 
But if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus; if we claim to be his followers, then I think we have to actually do it.  Even—or maybe especially—when it makes us uncomfortable. 
So.  Here I go.  I’m leaving the place that I have called home for the last 5 ½ years to follow God’s calling on both Greg’s and my lives and yet I have no idea what is in store for me.  Some days I am ok with that.  Some days I wonder what the heck I am doing and I want to have a tantrum about it and say I’m not going to go; I feel safe and content here.
Something that you hear at Waldorf is that vocation is where your passion meets the world’s needs.  The world may not be the entire earth; your world is the world in which you live each day—your dorm, your department on campus, the town in which you currently live or where you spend your college breaks.   Your Facebook and Twitter world.  Your Farmville world.  Your world is both limited and unlimited, and there are unlimited opportunities for you to discover what you are called to do in your world, whether it is a calling for a day or a calling for a year or a calling for a lifetime.
In my very first homily, I spoke about what I learned from a book by Os Guiness titled The Call (which Steve has finally promised to read this summer to see if he wants to use it in Senior Religion) and the main point that I took away from it was that our primary calling is that of being a disciple of Jesus.  That is what is first and foremost in our lives.  Everything else is secondary. 
Guinness says that “A sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career, and the main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be.  Instead of “You are what you do,” calling says “Do what you are.”  (45)
In this book, Guinness ends every chapter with “Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer his call.”  It is a beautiful repetition of words, quietly whispering a reminder to us to be all that God calls us to be.
When we “do what we are”, the world can open up for us in ways we may not have imagined—but God sees quite clearly. 
Willing to Listen
A lot of times we expect that God will speak in big, miraculous, audible ways.  But so often, it is the opposite:  He speaks to ordinary people in ordinary circumstances.  How many people heard Jesus’ voice calling to them in the sermon on the mount or when they were in a large crowd and were fed, or when they witnessed something that he did? 
Jesus often says “let anyone with hears to hear listen” so let’s be open to listening.  God can speak to us all he wants but if we are not willing to listen, what good will it do?  Listening might require silence, as it did for the prophet Elijah.  It might mean hearing something and then asking questions, as we see with the disciples asking questions about Jesus’ parables.  It might mean pondering Jesus’ question “who do you say that I am?” and coming to a realization of who he is.  But we have to be willing to listen.  If Jesus is calling us to something and we are standing there like a little child with our hands over our ears and our eyes shut, then we are missing out on what he has in store for us. 
It’s important for us to learn to listen, because the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the One that Jesus sent to guide us today, is like a breath—we can’t see it—yet we can know it’s presence. 
Take Home
For some people here today, it might be that it is the first time you have heard Jesus call to you to follow him.  For others, it might be that Jesus is calling you to follow him with a deeper commitment than you have been.  Whatever the call, I urge you to step out in faith and listen. 
Know that He will prepare you for the future.  Let Him be your vision.
Be open to where God is calling you.  Tell him “Here I am; I have heard you”
Trust Him. 

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.--Proverbs 3:5-6