Sermon thoughts: season of Epiphany

Looking over the Revised Common Lectionary texts for the season of Epiphany (time till Lent), I see several accounts of someone feeling called.  We have the call of little Samuel, the call of Jesus’ first disciples, the call of Elisha.

I see a few themes emerging as well:

— Some of these folks seem already primed to hear the call.

Hannah, the mother of Samuel, laid out his career before he could make that decision for himself.  She promised to dedicate him to God… so when he was still a small child, she apprenticed him to the priest Eli.  By the time Samuel hears God calling to him in the night, he has already left the home of his parents, and has made his home in the temple.  So in a way he is primed to hear the call.

What about the call of the first disciples, guys who were fishing for a living and working for their dad?  Family meant so much in ancient cultures – it still means a lot in some cultures today.  However, there’s one thing that primes these fishermen for a call to leave:  they are already landless.

In the foundational thoughts of the Hebrew Scriptures, so much is about land, and keeping land in the family, knowing which land belonged to your tribe, and so on.  But when we meet Mary and Joseph, they are already living in Nazareth, a different place than the “family land” of Bethlehem.  The fishermen who become disciples, presumably, do not have a family farm.  All the land is occupied by Rome and Roman puppet kings.

How we have already been primed to receive a call, to take the next step?  Infant baptism is a sign and seal of making us ready, like the mother Hannah dedicating her baby to God.  Our spiritual formation in worship, Christian education, and private devotion helps us live in God’s reality, while at the same time living in the reality of “powers” that control our land, our income, and so on.

— Sometimes the call meets with resistance.  

Elisha is upset that his master Elijah is going to leave.  He tries to stall the inevitable, accompanying Elijah on his last journey.  He asks (desperately?) for a double share of Elijah’s spirit.  Jonah resists his call to preach to Nineveh.  Nathaniel seems skeptical about the call at first:  “what good can come out of Nazareth?”

— How do we know a call is legitimate?  

Samuel’s teacher Eli realizes the boy is receiving  a call from God, after a voice has awoken the boy several times during the night.  Jesus demonstrates his call by teaching, healing, and freeing people from demonic forces.  (Of course Jesus’ demonstration of power leads to theme #2, resistance to his call.)  Jonah’s preaching is successful, but he doubts the efficacy of it, or still resents God calling him in the first place.

So a call from God may not appear to us to be rock solid or crystal clear.  Even if we clearly know the call is legitimate, we still have to implement it, in a world of ever-changing circumstances.

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