Epiphany 2A January 19, 2020
Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
The first Sunday in Epiphany is always about the Baptism of Jesus. The Second Sunday is devoted to the calling of disciples.
Last week Jesus was baptized and the the Holy Spriit Descended upon him like a dove. We renewed our baptismal vows and reminded ourselves that we are anointed as God’s own for ever.
Today we move from being anointed to being called.
We should not forget the marvelous, prophetic voice of Isaiah that says: 6I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people,* a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
God calls us, and takes us by the hand and holds us close that we may be a light to the nations to open the eyes of the blind- to be a light to those who sit in darkness. And now, in today’s reading from Isaiah, we have similar imagery. Once again the prophet proclaims to us that God, has called us forth even before we were born. And once again, makes us a light to the nations.
God says, “I have called you.…” That fits right in with this section of John’s Gospel, where we hear that evangelist’s account of the call of the first few disciples.
John the Baptist points to Jesus and says of him, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Two of the Baptist’s disciples hear this, stop following John, and are called by Jesus to follow him. They hear that Jesus is the promised one, and they are called by him to follow. So off they go. Matthew and Luke share similar stories of the calling of the first disciples and in fact we will hear this story next Sunday. Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee and says to Peter and James, as well as to Simon and Andrew- “Come and follow me.” And we are told that they leave their father and their nets and go- following Jesus.
What is it you think of when I say the word, “Calling”?
Now this business of “being called” is a tricky and important thing. It is easy to get confused about it, especially the way we use it these days. The word “called” as we know it is part of that “churchy” language we have and we tend to equate being called with doing some specific thing—usually a pretty major thing. We talk of being called to be ordained, or being called to a special—perhaps a full-time and professional—form of service.
And that is about all we do with being called. So, on the one hand, most of us can listen to the call of these disciples and neatly separate what happened to them from what is going on with us. “After all, they were called—we’re just ordinary people.”
These two to whom Jesus said, “come and see,” were called exactly as we are called. They were called to be disciples—as we are called to be disciples. Whether we are supposed to be ordained or not, when we are called by God, as we are each called in our Baptism, we are, like those first two, called to be disciples. In them and in their call, we can see, the call of Christ to each of us, and to all of us. From the very beginning, Jesus called, not individuals alone, but he called individuals with the purpose of forming a community, and the idea of a call makes no sense, from a Christian perspective, apart from a community.
And Jesus does not first, or primarily, call us to do a particular job, or to fill a particular role. Our call as Christians is not a call to “work” It wasn’t for Andrew and the other disciple.
Jesus’ call, instead, is a call to relationship. In calling us, Jesus does not say, “do this,” he says, “come and see,” or “follow me.” And when we do follow, when we engage our relationship with God, when we embrace our anointing in baptism, what God would have us DO comes into focus.
The Protestant Work Ethic that invades our society, insists that for something to be valuable, it has to produce, we start looking for what we are called to do. But that’s the thing, we do, and we do, and we do, and if we do it too much or we are the ONLY ones doing it, the words of Isaiah ring true:, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity…”
Those first disciples were not called to go somewhere in particular—they were called to go anywhere Jesus might lead. They were not called to renounce this thing or that thing, but to be able to walk away from anything and everything, for only then would they be free—only then would their lives fully belong to Jesus.
As they followed Jesus, they stayed close to him for a while. They learned what they could and got to know him a little. Then, long before they thought they were ready, Jesus gave them jobs to do. For some, these jobs were dramatic, for others they were quiet and invisible.
But the call to Jesus will always, in one form or another, find expression in ministry. But before the ministry, comes the call. The call comes first. There can be no real, abiding, and sustaining ministry without relationship with Christ, without obedience to him as he calls us to himself.
2020 approaches 50 years of being on this property. Who are we called to be? In the end, this is the question we must ask ourselves. But rather than jump to the place of what it is we are called to do, it’s more of a question of what kind of community does Jesus want us to be?
So what kind of community does Jesus want us to be? When those who come to our doors to for worship arrive, who or what will they find? Think for a moment why it is YOU come to church? I can assure you, it’s not for the coffee. I am willing to bet that one of those reasons has to do with relationships. And when I say that we might think about the relationships and friendships we have among our prayer groups, ministry groups, work groups, and fellowship.
Jesus comes to us and says, “follow me.” He calls us first to himself—to a relationship with him and shared life. The early disciples of Jesus followed him and established their relationship with our Lord. They would be empowered with forgiveness and grace. They would be filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and take the message of God’s Dream and the good news of God’s love with others.
We are called to be disciples. The Lamb of God calls us to follow him. We are empowered with forgiveness and grace. We are filled with the Holy Spirit in baptism taking the message of God’s Dream and the Good News of God’s love- extending our relationships beyond these walls and beyond our campus. And when we do that, we do not labor in vain.
The Rev. Daniel L. Leatherman is priest in charge of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church.