So what does it mean to answer a call to follow Jesus?
Who is baptized? Who was baptized as an infant or a young child? I was baptized when I was 15 days old. I certainly did not choose to be baptized, but I am forever grateful that my parents chose to have me baptized, to be a member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church and of the family of God. My Godmother, Hazel Davey, is still living and is still the organist in my home church; we still share Christmas letters. My Godfather, her husband, died many years ago. She attended my marriage to Jon playing the organ and has followed by career and change in vocation with interest. Many of you will have similar stories from your baptism.
Some of you chose to be baptized as adults. That would be a very different experience. It is something you decided to do. You may even remember the service of baptism and what it felt like and meant to you. My sister Marsha and I were confirmed when we were 12 and 13 with several other young people. I definitely remember the confirmation classes. We read
CS Lewis’ book “Screwtape Letters”. I remember the final test where we had to answer questions about what we had learned and had to write out the Apostles’ Creed. I remember receiving a Bible. I remember Bishop Appleyard coming and laying his hands on our heads; I remember the veil we wore and the white chiffon dress with bell sleeves and a mauve ribbon that I wore. I wore it to my grade eight graduation as well. It was kind of a rite of passage from childhood to our teenage years and high school. Do you remember your confirmation? What details stand out for you?
But a call to discipleship, a call to follow Jesus is more than learning doctrine and being able to recite what you believe. It is a call to action. The disciples actually had to put down their fishing nets and climb out of their fishing boats and literally follow Jesus. For those of us who were baptized and confirmed as children these choices were mostly made by our families. So how do we make mature decisions to follow Jesus, to answer God’s call?
The answer will be different for each of us. First we need to stop and listen to hear the quiet voice of God. For some of us that may mean being knocked off our high horse like Paul and forced to listen.
A couple weeks ago the Adult Formation class watched a video by Rob Bell called “Noise”. We are surrounded by blaring TVs, radios, ringing phones, elevator music, traffic sounds; bombarded with Facebook, texts, emails, twitter, Instagram and the demands of a 21st century life. If we are to listen can we even hear God’s voice above the din and demands of our lives?
We may need to actively seek out the solitude of a walk in Whitehouse Nature Center or a paddle down the Kalamazoo River or a hot, steamy shower. Prayer or conversation with God does not actually need to involve words. It can mean just clearing your desk and your mind of the demands of your day and just being, open to whatever may come. Perhaps you may want to lay out a problem or question that you need help with. “O God, teach me how to be supportive through my son’s teenage years.” This may be something that you begin your time with God with for days or weeks or even years. You may find a spiritual guide or a prayer partner helpful. In last week’s Old Testament reading from First Samuel, Samuel does not yet know God. When God calls to him he believes it is Eli calling. Eventually Eli perceives that God is calling Samuel and Eli tells Samuel what to do. We may be a spiritual guide for our children or a friend.
We may also need to learn to trust God and what God is calling us to. We may need to learn to obey God and act on what God is calling us to. We may be like Jonah who heard God alright but did not want to take God’s message to the people of Nineveh. Jonah ran the opposite direction to what God asked of him. Jonah preferred to risk his life on the open sea and in the belly of a whale than going to Nineveh and warning the people that their city would be destroyed in 40 days. Jonah knew that God was a merciful God and that if the people of Nineveh repented and changed their ways then God would also change his mind and not destroy the city of Nineveh. And Jonah was right. The people did repent and God was merciful and did not destroy their city. Jonah was angry. Jonah could not accept that it was better for the people to be warned and allowed to repent and transform their lives than for the city of Nineveh and all living there to just be destroyed with no warning or opportunity for repentance.
It is hard to trust God to act in our best interests. It is easier to trust in our own strength and street smarts, our 401Ks and investments than to trust in God. It is easier to trust in horses and chariots, the US military and handguns, rifles and assault weapons than to trust in God. They are here and available now. We don’t really know when or how or even if God will respond. I am not saying it is bad to do things for ourselves. My parents taught me to be independent, to find solutions to my problems, to work hard and to save for a rainy day. This is good, but it is also important to learn to trust God and to trust our neighbors, to know who we can count on in a time of need.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul told them to live as if they were not part of this world. Paul believed that Jesus would return in Paul’s life time. Some two thousand years later we no longer believe in the imminent return of Jesus. We believe Jesus will return, that the Kingdom of Heaven will come, just not today. Yet this passage is still relevant for us in the 21st century. It is important for us not to get caught up in the cares of this world, to not fling ourselves out of windows when the stock market dives, but to live as if we believe that the Kingdom of God is imminent and that we can be instrumental in building the Kingdom now in how we live our lives today.
I implore you to consciously make time in your busy lives to be with God, to listen for his still voice; to learn to trust God and to be obedient to his word, so that when Jesus comes walking by unexpectedly one day and says “Follow me”, you can with Simon and Andrew, James and John, drop what you are working on and follow Jesus. Amen.
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Mother Darlene Kuhn
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