Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

“…they left everything and followed him.”

I had the thought to begin this sermon with the story of the Little Red Hen. You know the story. It is about a hen who decides to bake a loaf of bread. Every step of the way she asks if anyone would like to help her. No one will. But then when the bread is ready – everyone wants to help her eat it. My fear was that it would be understood in the wrong way. So rather than approach it from a moral fairy tale – I will just put my point this way; discipleship is the invitation to work within and for the Kingdom of God. Jesus is a bit like the Little Red Hen – who will help me live for, and therefore build up, the Kingdom of God.

The difference between the Little Red Hen’s request for assistance and Jesus’ call to discipleship is that the Red Hen produces bread only for herself and those willing to help. The point of the Kingdom of God is to prepare a place for all of God’s creation. So those who hear the call of God and answer in faith don’t spend time grumbling or condemning those who have not responded. Those who hear the call of God get to work loving and caring for all.

The response to the call is given with a sense of joy, with the faith and the delight that comes with knowing that we who are called are given the privilege of loving others. This doesn’t mean that there is no hardship. Discipleship is full of suffering and difficult times in life.

I get so annoyed with all of the political junk floating around these days. Perhaps you have seen the reports coming from the so-called Tea Party Convention. One of the speakers spoke that it was time for Christians to get angry and mobilize against the government. The reason for mobilizing and anger was – as best as I could tell – the increased concern for the poor, for those without healthcare, and the government’s desire to rescue the economy as best they could. Agreeing or disagreeing with what the government is doing doesn’t matter for our purposes today, but the only purpose for mobilizing Christian disciples is to follow Jesus in love towards the neighbor and care for the poor. It is what we are called to do.

The poster I saw that seemed to highlight the convention was the one that said, “Born free and taxed to death.” The most carefree and comfortable life in the world and all many can seem to do is whine and complain.

LWR had 30,000 quilts and medicinal supplies loaded and ready to go to Sierra Leone before the earthquake hit Haiti. Sierra Leone is an extremely poor country on the West Coast of Africa. Over half of the government’s income comes from donations through the United Nations and other charitable nations. Poverty is extreme. LWR contacted the head of the Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone to ask if they would be willing to allow all of the supplies earmarked for them could go to Haiti. The Bishop responded something like this: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to care for the people of Haiti. We had nothing to give or send, but you have allowed us to be generous. Haiti would have blankets and medicine. The people of Sierra Leone would be left foraging again. Like the widow’s might, they gave everything they had. Discipleship isn’t the easy road.

We need to get past the notion that God is supposed to make things easier. In the context of the world we have extremely cushy and easy lives. Ever have to go more than a day without food? Ever have to forage as starvation approaches? Much of the world has, and does.

Look closely at the call of the disciples in our reading. First of all, they have already put in a full days work. The market place has come and gone. The trading and selling is over. They have no resources, they had caught no fish. It happens. Exhausted, tired, and without resource, Jesus tells them to put out into the lake in the growing heat of the day when others are off to siesta. They do it. They catch two boatloads of fish that they will not be able to sell because the farmers market is closed.

Doubly tired, no money, lots of fish but no place to sell them, the coming heat of the day and Jesus says “Let’s go.” They leave everything and go. How do you feel about being a called and chosen disciple? You are one, you know!

Given mission statements, internship programs, monthly charitable giving, and the like, we have focused a lot of attention over the last month or so on living out our faith. Underlying all of these conversations, decisions, and concerns is the central theme of discipleship. How do we live our lives as disciples, as a people who are called to a mission and a life of faith?

There is a saying that goes – our greatest fear is not that we might be inadequate, but rather that we might be adequate. If God calls, and we have no excuses, what happens now? Or as was stated at the Pastor’s study with some humor: “You can’t call me I am a wretched human being!” and God responds: “And your point is what?” What if God is calling Messiah to do what we are called to do with just us? Somehow I don’t think God cares if the church grows or shrinks. God says, “I have called you, don’t be afraid, get to it.” If we are adequate then much is expected of us! It is hard to be found adequate.

The powerful good news behind the call of the disciples like Peter, James, John, you and me is the confirmation of our deepest fear. We are adequate and we are called to share God’s love by caring for all. This is why Jesus tells Peter and the others to not be afraid. Their deepest fears are confirmed. They are adequate for the task at hand. How could 12 called disciples have created all of this?

Peter initially wants out. “Go away from me Lord for I am a sinner!” He can’t handle the success, the blessing, the call, or the nearness of God. It drives him to his knees in a pile of flopping fish. Isn’t that what most of us do in the face of God? You don’t want me! I will fail, I will make things worse! Or, I just want to do my job and live my life. I just want to come and go. I want to enjoy the worship service, the bazaar, the luncheon, the dinner; I don’t want to be asked to serve. If I help out people might depend on me. My life priorities might change. I, or others, might discover that I am adequate and more might be asked from me. I just want to relax and enjoy.

Peter, like Isaiah, is willing to take the initial steps, but is easily overwhelmed. I’ll say, “Here am I send me!” Or I will put the boat out into the deeper water. But then when the full nature of what God is asking hits home it tends to drive us to doubt, hesitation, and even reluctance. Think about it – what drives you to your knees? Even in the immensity of the catch I suspect that there is both wonder and anguish for Peter. Is it just the harder edges of life that drive us to our knees? Who of us wants to be called upon at all? From early on in school most of us don’t want the teacher to look our way do we? We don’t want to get called on. We might look foolish. What drives us to our knees here at Messiah? Is it the fear of not making our budget – or is it that we have been okay for another year? Do we say – we will make it work somehow, or, this is a set up for failure?

We are called. And much is expected. God declares you to be sufficient. God declares us to be sufficient for discipleship. These can be fearful words because it means that God is laying a load upon us and calling us to care for all. I suppose it is like the old joke: The good news is that God is calling us. The bad news is that God is calling us.

Doubly tired, no money, lots of fish but no place to sell them, the coming heat of the day and Jesus says “Let’s go.” They leave everything and go. How do you feel about being a disciple? I hope it is good news. I hope it is healing news. We are called and we are adequate, you are called and you are adequate. It is not, however, to a cushy life that we are called, it is not to sit back and enjoy that we are called. We are called to work for God’s kingdom; even if it means the terrible thought of leaving everything behind and following. Amen

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2010 at 12:05 pm and is filed under Sermons. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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