Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: The Call

Trinity 5
21 July 2019
10.30 Eucharist
Revd Nicholas Mercer

I sometimes say, in jest, that, of the ten best things that have happened to me in life, nine involve fishing

Even at the advanced age of 56, I still get an enormous thrill from catching a fish

It is not surprising therefore I find stories of Christ and fishermen particularly appealing

I used to say to my sons, when they were little, that the fishermen we met on the riverbank were in fact disciples

This is something that would always make them pause and think

But the calling of the first disciples is a remarkable story

As it says in the reading “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him”.

Can you imagine coming home to your husband or wife and saying “Honey, I have dropped everything and am now going to follow Christ!”

But over the past fortnight, call has been a repeated theme

Last Sunday at Evensong, we were reminded that God had selected both the Judges and Kings of Israel

Today we heard of the call of Elisha followed by the remarkable story of Jesus calling the fishermen

The summoning by God of people to tasks and roles – is continual from Genesis through to Revelation

Call is a major theme of the Bible 

In the secular world we are also continually calling individuals to posts in society 

We use the phrase – “call forward for interview” where we select for jobs

We take ourselves very seriously and we interview sometimes more than once and take up references

We have professionalised call, and with good cause, as we like to think, generally, we select the right man or woman for the job

However, call in the Bible is different

And it is worth reflecting on the nature of Biblical call to help us better understand /God and his kingdom/ and our life and work in the Church together

First, individuals are called “called” by God for particular tasks

It is a challenge for us all – to dedicate our lives to God, if we should be so called

But it is not just to the Godly life that God calls individuals but also to specific roles  

And I am always fascinated by the idea that we might be called to do just one thing in our lives

The examples are numerous but, just taking a couple of examples, can be illustrative of the point I am trying to make

First, Ananias who was called, at great personal risk to minister to St Paul in Damascus

As we all know, Paul was in imminent danger from the Jews who wanted to kill him

Ananias not only shelters Paul but also lays his hands on him so that his sight might be restored.

Finally, he helps him escape by lowering him out of the city in a basket

We hear nothing more about him in the Bible

Just one event, one moment in time and his work was done

Secondly, Rahab, whom, the story goes helped Israelite spies enter Jericho and take the city

Such was her contribution to the victory that she is referred to in the Letter of James as one of “The Righteous”

Again, just one moment in time

Although not strictly Biblical, the life of Oscar Schindler has always fascinated me

Here was an industrialist, a member of the Nazi party who saved 1,200 Jews from the death camps

But apart from this single chapter, the rest of his life was a disaster –

Failed relationships, failed businesses and bankruptcy

Nevertheless, here was a man who was also considered to one of “The Righteous” and is buried on the Mount of Olives

All these all these lives, in a sense, can be considered as “Godly lives”

But these are individuals who are called to specific tasks

Is it a life time or just the duration of a specific task to which we are called to do God’s work?

Secondly, God does not necessarily call those we would necessarily choose for his work

Two of the characters I have just mentioned are clear evidence of this point

Rahab and Oscar Schindler lead lives that, superficially, leave much to be desired

We would, no doubt judge them harshly, and probably would not call them for an interview at all

But God employs them both

The reading last week reminded us of King David and his call to be the first King of Israel

God said: “I have found David, Son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes”

He was described as “walking before God in loyalty, righteousness and integrity of heart”

We take this at face value but his life does not bear this out

He has an affair with Bathsheba and then arranges to have her husband killed in battle

The thought of arranging to have someone killed in battle fills me with horror

Yet, not only was he chosen by God

But described as “the most beloved” at the same time

I once had lunch with a lawyer who had been asked to sit on a disciplinary tribunal for a priest who was accused of conduct unbecoming a priest in Holy Orders

The priests’ marriage had collapsed and he had got himself into a terrible mess

We discussed the case in outline, anonymously, as lawyers often do

I reminded my colleague of the Book of Hosea and the fact that God called Hosea, who was also in a disastrous marriage, to be his mouthpiece in speaking to the Israelites

Indeed, it was because of his failings that Hosea was such an effective voice

I don’t know what the outcome was but I remember the principal at my Theological College once reflecting on the ordinands under his charge

Was this the dream team he would have assembled to safeguard the future of the Church

Or was he simply required to nurture those whom God had called uncertain as to why God had called them at all?

St Paul put it this way

My friends, think what sort of people you are, whom God has called. Few of you are wise by any human standard, few are powerful or of noble birth. Yet to shame the wise, God has chosen what the world counts folly, and to shame what is strong, God has chosen what the world counts weakness. God has chosen things without rank or standing in the world, mere nothings, to overthrow the existing order   1 Corinthians 1 26-28

Indeed this is what Jesus does with the fisherman

People without rank and standing go on to change the world forever

Peter put his finger on the nub of the issue it before he was even called

“Go away from me Lord for I am a sinful man” he said

Indeed he was, but that did not deter God from working his purpose out

The Fishermen were, like us at Bolton Priory, men and women who were human, flawed

But people, nevertheless, whom God knew he could call upon to work for the coming of his Kingdom

And so returning to the story of my children on the riverbank when they were young

I still love the idea that I could be encountering the disciples or future disciples when I meet fellow fishermen on the riverbank

But, like the disciples, I too once spent a day fishing by the sea

We had a bountiful catch but, as we were sitting on the bankside filleting the fish, my colleague suddenly asked me to explain my faith to him

Not only was it a profound moment in my ministry, but I now realise that, he might have been encountering a disciple himself

Someone as deeply flawed as the other disciples Someone, perhaps, who had just been called for one moment in his life