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January 23, 2005 (Epiphany III)

Intern Pastor Katy Grindberg

Matthew 4:12-23

Brothers and sisters, grace and peace to you from God our loving creator and from Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. Amen.

Last Sunday in his sermon, Pastor David said something that has stuck with me all week. He was talking about the difference between "vocation" and "vacation." He said that you take a vacation, but a vocation takes you. In today's gospel, Jesus traveling, calls his first four disciples, and in a very real way, Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John experienced were taken up by their new vocation, when Jesus looked them in the eye and said "Follow me."

Have you ever felt a call on your life? I would like to share my call story with your. It happened in the early 90's in Kansas. I went there for graduate school, and upon arrival in Lawrence I joined one of the ELCA churches in town, and then promptly became inactive. I hadn't gone to church much in college, and was still continuing to discern my own identity--spiritually, vocationally, personally. Eventually, there was a little voice in the back of my head encouraging me to attend church more often, and I did. Then, the little voice changed tactics--about the time I started attending church regularly, an appeal went out for Sunday School teachers--and the little voice said, "Do it, volunteer to teach Sunday School." I was able to ignore that voice for a while, but as in most churches, they were not overrun with volunteers, so the pleas continuedŠand so did the persistence of the little voice in my head. Eventually, I gave in, and made the phone call and volunteered to teach. At that point, I had another decision to make, when the teacher's coordinator asked, "Which age group?" Well, I was afraid of the little ones, and the pastor always taught the adults, I knew I didn't want to deal with Jr. High students--so I went with the only one left--high school. I didn't know it at the time, but I was going to end up being a sponsor with the youth group for 9 years, nurturing relationships with teens, walking with them as they navigated Junior and Senior high school, college and beyond. Because some of them have told me, I know that I had a significant impact on many of their lives, and they certainly affected me deeply.

When I said I was going to tell my call story, were you expecting to hear the story of my call to ministry? That, too, is a good story, but I think that by limiting the idea of "call" as something that is restricted to ministry is too narrow a definition of "call." There have been many moments in my life where God has called me, and my call to the ministry is only one of them.

Matthew says that Andrew, Peter, James and John "immediately" followed Jesus. I wonder if that isn't a case of creative editing on Matthew's part. It's a big decision--they were being called away from their life's work--away from their familiesŠso I wonder if they immediately did anything. For many of us, I think it is more like my story--we resist and we rationalize and we make excuses, "I'm not right for that; I don't have time; I have a life here; God can't want me to do that." Many people lift up the call of the disciples as an example of what it means to follow Jesus, but I would like to share some other biblical figures who followed God's call, but not immediately. Remember that Moses stuttered; David's armor didn't fit; Jacob was a liar; David had an affair; Solomon was too rich; Jesus was too poor; Abraham was too old; David was too young; Peter was afraid of death; Lazarus was dead; Naomi was a widow; Paul and Moses were murderers; Jonah ran from God; Elijah was burned out; Martha was a worry-wart; Mary may have been lazy; and Moses, Peter, Paul and many others had a short fuse.

Matthew quotes from the book of Isaiah, continuing the theme of light and darkness in epiphany, and says "the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." I had a classmate remind me this week, that when light dawns, it is a slow process. The sun doesn't just appear straight above, bright as noonday but it gradually emerges as the horizon lowers. As the light diffuses out and the world gets brighter, things gradually become more recognizable and distinguishable from the darkness and from each other.

So it is for us, as we sit in the darkness of our doubts, prejudices, fears, our perception of our limitations, our expectations or the expectations of others. Perhaps our hopes and dreams of how we thought our life was going to be, and in the emerging light we discover that God is calling us to something different. Sure, there are lots of reasons why God shouldn't have called you--but God did. God names and claims you as God's own; in the waters of baptism; at the table when you eat the bread and wine; and in the gathering of this community of faith and in all communities that gather together under the banner of God's love.

I've asked this question before, and I ask it again--what is God calling you to? It doesn't havet to be a big, life changing call, but it may be a call to reach out your hand to someone in need, to lend an ear or a shoulder. Or, it may be a bigger call--to a change of career or location. I know that it can be difficult to discern on your own, so how do you do it? You listen--to God in prayer and to others in conversation. I encourage you to talk to other people, find out what the see in you and in your life, you may be surprised. It is important to acknowledge your fear, your uncertainty and ask God and others for help, strength and support. When Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses didn't immediately say "Yes!" He said, "I'm a bad public speaker." So God provided Moses a partner, in Aaron, who spoke the words that God gave him to speak, since Moses wasn't able.

Because, God will use you in spite of who you are, where you've been, or what you look like, or what you perceive your limitations to be. I pray that you will step out of your limitations into the illimitable nature of who God is. Then your passion for God and your passion to communicate with God will make mince-meat of your limitations.

May the light of the world, Jesus Christ, bring you light today and every day. Amen.

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