Third Sunday After Epiphany

Date: 21st January 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Lectionary Reading: Jonah 3:1-10, Psalm 62:5-12, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20

Last week I spoke briefly about two things:  about spending time to sit and be still and listen for God’s voice and about Jesus invitation to ‘come and see’.

I suggested we need to find time to have at least 10minutes a day (longer if you can) to find a favourite, safe place and quiet our minds.   It’s only if we do this, will we not only stay more able to cope with what life brings us, but also we will listen to God and understand our individual calling.

What is God saying to you? What action are you going to take? In other words, this is prayer which is central to what we do as Christians. We have a rhythm in our lives of beginning and ending our day in prayer… but we are not always good at it! (Some folk pray a lot more times during the day.)  Can I encourage you to make time… it’s like cleaning your teeth morning and night… part of the discipline/routine of life. I find when I take time to have quiet space with God in prayer; I understand more about myself and who is God for me and clearer with my calling in this life.

The second point I mentioned last Sunday was about the invitation to ‘come and see’ which was from the passage of scripture from John’s gospel. This was the calling of the first disciples. The words ‘come and see’ came from Jesus’ lips to two of John the Baptists’ disciples and then from Philip’s lips to Nathanael. “Come and see”. We are invited again and again to come and see and to move to a deeper awareness of our loving God.

Today we heard from Mark’s gospel of the calling of the four fishermen: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John.  We don’t know the exact sequence of these two texts from John’s gospel and Mark’s, but the theme is the same. It’s about calling…come and follow me. Come and see!

There was something about Jesus that caused people to follow him… that drew people to him.

We certainly have the opposite of calling with Jonah! Jonah heard God’s call to proclaim a message to the people of Ninevah “Get up”, said God, and go to Nineveh… and Jonah got up and ran away towards Tarshish, as far as he could (as he thought, in the opposite direction) from the presence of the Lord”

There was no way that Jonah was going to follow this calling.. so he jumps into the first boat he sees, hides down in the hold of the ship, hoping God wouldn’t notice. I think we know the rest of the story where he got thrown overboard and swallowed up by a big fish and was then spat out. He eventually walks into the city of Nineveh and preached as he walked along…a very short sermon! But one with a response that was absolutely amazing as the whole people, plus animals fasted and repented to God! And Jonah wasn’t impressed.

Here is a fellow who heard the call and did the opposite to what we have heard from the disciples who in Mark’s account ‘immediately’ left everything and followed Jesus.

I think we can probably relate to Jonah and to the disciples. At times we don’t want to hear what God is saying (maybe that’s why we don’t sit in silence to pray). We will continue doing what we are doing even if dissatisfied or anxious or unfulfilled.  I wonder if you know this feeling. It’s not unusual and depending on what is being asked, may mean quite a lot of change in your life. So that can be quite scary.

At other times we may have heard God speak and have taken up the call and followed wherever that path led. We may not have done it immediately but have sought wisdom from those we trust.  It’s important to note that God’s call is not just to the ordained ministry.  My calling has been different and several at the same time. I was a nurse. I am a wife, mother, a priest, a sister, a daughter, aunt, a friend etc.  All these are vocations or callings. The Latin vocatio, means calling… so it is interchangeable.

It’s good to remind ourselves that our calling or vocation is for everyone and to use those God-given gifts in music, painting, engineering, IT, teaching, administration, gardening, being an at-home parent, in pastoral care, in volunteer work or in allied health etc. We all have been given gifts which I hope we use for the betterment of our world… starting in our families and it flows out from there.

Next Friday is Australia day.  It is good to ponder on this country we love with all its foibles.  Australian landscape is changing as the urban spread creeps out to the countryside. Australian peoples are changing as we welcome so many more people with different cultures, religions. I remember at primary school a girl named Diane Jacob… her full surname was Jacoblavich but that was too hard for us back then! You just have to listen to the tennis and hear all the different surnames and we are saying them without much difficulty, most of the time!

We, in Australia are slowly understanding reconciliation as we listen to the first peoples of this ancient land, of understanding others who have different ideologies to us and even understanding our own story and reconciling ourselves to ourselves.

As Christians, Jesus has called us, each of us to follow him.

Brendan Byrne in his reflections on this passage says: “To follow him as disciples will not mean a static gathering around a teacher but a journey to a future as yet unclear.”

No matter who you are, you are called and loved and have a role to play in bringing about peace, justice and love to our families, neighbourhood and world, without knowing how that will work out.

The Psalmist said:

“Nevertheless, my soul, wait in silence for God:

for from him comes my hope.

He only is my rock and my salvation:

my strong tower, so that I shall not be moved.”  62:5, 6

This could be a lovely mantra to repeat over and over!

Make time to listen to what God is calling you to do and be and trust God.

Listen not only to God, but to each other. That is how we learn about God, about ourselves as human beings here in Australia and our place on this fragile planet.

Jesus says “come and see”. Implicit in this is the call not only to ‘see’, but also to reflect on what we observe in conversation with God’ which is prayer.

Jesus says “come and see’. What is he asking of you and of this community of faith of St Pauls?

Food for thought as we enter a new year together as followers of Jesus Christ.

The Lord be with you.