“God is Calling”
Luke 5: 1-11 February 6th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel account according to Luke, chapter five, verses one thru eleven.”
1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
“Having listen to this ancient account of Jesus with Simon Peter at the fishing boats and what occurred there that day, let us consider our relationship with the man Jesus.”
“God is Calling”
What is meant by the phrase “God is calling?” Throughout my life people have called to me. My mom would call out to us “Come and get it – it’s time to eat!” When mom addressed me personally – I listened carefully. “Timothy” she would say. “Come here this instant!” That was more of a command than a simple call. If it was my turn to do a chore mom would Simple call out “Tim, come get the trash, it’s your turn to take it out.” On Sundays she often called tome “Tim, it is time to get off to Sunday School. It is a beautiful day you can walk with your sister. The calls from mother were very compelling. I dared not refuse her invitations as to say no had consequences. When God calls, it is different, yet God’s Spirit can be very compelling. In my heart, I have always known there would be consequences if I did not answer God’s bidding; as something God wanted me to do or someone God wanted me to interact with, would not get done.
Yes, it is true, most of us pastors, pastors like me, we feel a special calling to formal ministry, much like Simon Peter was called from his life as a fisherman that day referenced in our scripture today. There are many formal ‘calling’ accounts that Ordained Clergy reference a keen understanding of. This is true, no denying this. And I could go on and on speaking of this and I am sure you each would be pleased for me and the church that I was called and have accepted God’s calling. If this were not true, I suspect the search committee would not have invited me to be your pastor. Be that as it may, God calls out to all, in one manner or another. No, we are not all called to formal pastoral ministry, nor are we all called to be preachers. In the same manner we are not all called to the same vocations, careers, or professions. Thank God we have folks that have been called to be doctors and nurses, firefighters and EMT, Emergency Medical Technicians! Some of us are terrible bookkeepers but others are called to balance the ledgers and books of our churches and a vast array of businesses. Some of us are called to be gourmet cooks while others find their calling to tend to the upbringing of the children, and the simplicity of a Peanut Butter sandwich with a glass of whole milk! No, we are not all called to be religious leaders, yet we are all called to serve the needs of God and the needs of others!
The importance of today’s scripture lesson is compounded infinity as it is meant for all who seek to have a relationship with God! The intensity of our call from God is varied and covers a multitude of possible ways in which we, as individuals (and as institutions and faith communities) hear and respond to God’s bidding. Some speak of a sudden white light experience as they speak of their encounter with God. Most however, find a gradual awakening to their deepening awareness of God’s leading and influence over one’s day to day life. This could be over a course of days, weeks, months and very possibly over a span of years. It is always important to acknowledge, that even a pastor who perhaps has felt aware of God’s presence numerous times, still confers with someone, perhaps a Spiritual guide or another clergy person to be sure their latest revelation is not a case of too much coffee or lack of sleep. The point being, we all need to be grounded in the realities or human life in the here and now.
Each one of us, who have sought God’s guidance and feel a true sense of peace about our choices thus far, more than likely are on the right pathway. Odds are, you did not meet God in a fishing boat and your dramatic catch of fish did not almost capsize your boat, as it was for Simon Peter and the others that day. Yet, you may have found a deep sense of awareness of God watching the sun set or a spectacular sunrise, even on a brisk February morning in Florida, which caused you to realize the power, the love, and a new sense of God’s will for your journey of faith. Remember, even a small shift in one’s attitude or direction can and frequently does dramatically change who we touch or how we cross paths with someone this very day. There are countless stories of a seemingly chance encounter with a stranger that we later hear or learn, changed the others life dramatically. If we open our hearts, wide open, we shall become intuitively aware of God’s bidding, if we are willing to trust the Spirit of the Holy One moving in our lives.
We, me, and you, live in a complex time in history. We each might describe what is transpiring in our lives and in the lives of others, which we encounter or become aware of in a multitude of ways. How we respond to the stimulus all around us, depends on several things. One is our attitude. Are you viewing this through the lens of the optimist who sees a half a glass of water as half full or is it half empty? This truly is a big deal. Imagine what Simon Peter’s role in history might have been had he seen the miracle of Jesus from a different lens. Rather than a miracle as written, what if Peter had seen Jesus as an intruder, who just happened to come along at the same moment a large school of fish decided to jump into Peter’s fishing nets, simply because Peter had cast out his net just one more time. Clearly this was not the case. Simon Peter’s heart, mind and spirit were open to the compelling invitation coming from Jesus. Because Peter was open to the possibility that God was reaching out to him – a whole new reality was initiated as his life was to influence many – because he answered the call of God through the man Jesus.
What of that quiet church member who had yet to get directly involved in the working of his or her life? Had the influence of God’s call been causing him to do the will of God, in a multitude of ways, seemingly hidden from the view of other members of that same church? Perhaps the influence of the Spirit of God, reached out to this man through an experience he had at the church. Something a pastor said or a few inspiring words from another sitting near him one Sunday, just before or after the service, touched his heart and moved him in a special direction. I am aware of such a case, several times over. It happens. God’s spirit moves in mysterious ways. A professor in seminary spoke of a poor sermon, in his opinion, which he preached one summer. Then several months later he encountered a man who shared how his life had been transformed, because of what he heard in that sermon. Truly, we never know what God might do with our successes or with our seeming failures.
At the same time, we must be conscious of the bad attitude of some, that negative influence of others, or the unintentionally misplaced or misspoken comment or emotional outburst of words that knocks another off their pace; perhaps interrupting a seemingly important opportunity for God’s work to be done through them. We are all called by God to be mindful of the needs of others. Sometimes, if we are careless or simply being arrogant or too ‘I’ or ‘me’ focused – we miss an important moment. Perhaps a chance moment to positively influence another. But rather it becomes a missed opportunity. It is hard enough to get the work of God’s will ‘accomplished’ in a sometimes seemingly tough situation; how unfortunate when misplaced focuses on jealousy, prestige or fear, cause people to block the sunlight of new ideas. It is just sad when we carelessly squash the inspiration and energy coming from those around us. Therefore, we need to be conscious of our ability to miss the will of God, the bidding of God seeking to shift our focus left or right or possibly to slow us down as we recklessly continue down a wrong pathway.
Being beckoned, asked, or called by the likes of Jesus to use our God given ability to be of real service to God’s work, in the world we live in, is just something we dare not ignore. It is sad when we do miss a chance to be of service. Yet, our God is a forgiving God, willing to give us many opportunities to get it right. We also know, from the scriptures, that those who came before us, like Simon Peter, even after choosing to follow Jesus often had to be redirected as he learned to follow the lead of his teacher. There are always new opportunities to answer the call, to be of service to God. Sometimes it is easier than other times. Often, we are unable to accomplish what we believe God is calling us to do. Sometimes, we just need to adjust our thinking, after spending time in prayer, asking for further guidance on a new or perceived task.
It is important for us to recognize that the act of accepting the opportunity, the challenge to do the bidding, the request we believe is from God, we will need to be willing. Our eagerness to follow a new pathway, a new idea is a great start. Tenacity, however, may be the attribute that will carry us forward when the going gets rough. Nowhere does it say the journey is always easy. Yet, when we journey hand in hand with the teachings of Christ and the Spirit of God, we shall overcome many obstacles. Furthermore, we shall see the sunlight of newfound hope for God inspired initiatives. Who then, is willing to follow the calling of God? Can you allow the words to form in your minds and in your hearts? Can you answer God’s Calling?
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be (Gathering People – rather’) than catching fish.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. /Luke 5: 10b&11/