Sermons 2006
Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Epiphany 2B 2005 John 1:43-51

I may have mentioned before that often when I am driving down Interstate-85 through that part of the South between Petersburg, Virginia and Durham, North Carolina, on my way to visit family in the Carolinas and Georgia -- when I am driving through that part of the South I find that on the radio classical music stations and Public Broadcasting stations are not easily found. So I began to listen to African American preachers who were a lot more interesting than anything else I could dial up on the radio.

Some of you know that I have on occasion been invited to preach in several of the African American Baptist churches nearby, particularly Shiloh, in Burgess. Or to speak as part of the long celebration of someone’s life in one of these lively churches as par of the rite of funeralizing, Some of you have even been there when this happened.

Just by absorption while listening to great African American preachers like Malcom Currie -- an Episcopal priest and now Bishop of North Carolina -- I learned a lot about what homiletics professors in Seminary call the Black Preaching Tradition. I learned about cadencing, pausing, inflection, and particularly call and response in rhythms and waves of participation by congregations attuned to the preacher, the sermon, and the Gospel. And I have to tell you that to step into an African American church pulpit is quite an experience.

Last week the Burial Office was read for Katharine Cochran here in this church. Most of us don’t know Katharine. She followed her husband Mckie out of the Episcopal Church about 17 years ago when one of my predecessor rectors insisted on introducing the “new” Prayer Book. Which book, by then, considering trial use, had been familiar to many if not most Episcopalians for thirty years and had been formally adopted by General Convention in 1979.

Three African American ladies came to the service. They gave a new meaning to call and response. Beginning with the scripture readings and continuing through the service they constituted an ever louder and enthusiastic “Amen Corner”.

My short homily, primarily scripturally based, stirred up even more their enthusiastic response. And I must admit that I slid easily into cadencing and pacing so that their Amens and Praise the Lord’s and Yes Jesuses, Yes Lords could be lifted to highest heaven. And lo and behold, we were able to continue doing this through the rest of the Prayer Book burial liturgy. This call and vigorous response pattern made the burial office something new, and gave profound meaning to turning sadness into joy.

At the graveside I thanked the three ladies for their joyful enthusiastic responses. One of them said this: “I praise my Lord and Savior wherever and whenever I can. If I can’t do that I will die inside.”

Call and response. Isn’t this the essence of Christian faith, being, and living? God calls us and we respond. God calls us in our baptism to become what we were meant to be from the moment of our birth. God calls us constantly all our days and we fail to respond sometimes, sometimes we delay, but when we fail to respond at all, it can be at our peril. We may die inside.

Any talk about call and response for me makes sense and is meaningful only when it is anecdotal, when it is story.

Some of us who hear, felt, a call needed to wait, delay, and grow up. I was once with a youth group from Pohick Church on a retreat at Shrinemont. This was in the middle 1970s, and both my children were part of that group. Our seminarian was the retreat leader. He was also a marvelous guitarist.

The one campfire song that I remember from that weekend was one that had this phrase in it: “I heard the Lord call my name; ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.” It still rings through my memory.

So the next week I went to see my rector to talk about the still small voice that had been nagging me for a number of years. I believed that it meant seminary and the priesthood. He was encouraging and I returned to Shrinemont shortly afterward for interviews with the Commission on ministry. A few weeks after that Bishop Hall talked top me in his office. “Not yet,” he said. “Finish your Army career and then come back and talk to us.” I took his advice even though I was personally disappointed. And it was very good advice indeed. And fifteen years later I had grown up enough so that I could give myself to the response to the call.

I have to be honest and say that there are people in the Army who knew me in those years are still surprised – some don’t even believe it yet. I get funny looks at reunions.

Our Old Testament and Gospel lections for today are all about call and response. There is the story of God’s call to the young Samuel. And Samuel finally responds, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

The psalm, 89, is passionate, almost overwhelming in the response of the psalmist to God’s call:
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water
For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; *
my lips shall give you praise.
So will I bless you as long as I live *
and lift up my hands in your Name.
…and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed, *
and meditate on you in the night watches.
For you have been my helper, *
and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
My soul clings to you; *
your right hand holds me fast.

The Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ call to Philip and Nathanael. Philip’s response at first is only physical. He simply follows when Jesus called him. But then he finds Nathanael to bring him to Jesus. And when Nathanael meets with Jesus, Nathanael responds with faith: “You are the Son of God!”

Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, must have had this or passages like it in mind when he noted that there are two kinds of believing. One kind of belief is to believe things about God. He said there are some things we can affirm about God that we can also say about the Turks, the devil, or hell. These are facts: encyclopedia knowledge. This is belief. Luther then talked about another kind of belief. Belief as faith. Not only do we believe in God, but we begin to put our trust in him. We bet our lives on the truth that there is a God. We even begin to give him our money because we really do believe this business. We surrender to him. We follow him. We respond to his call. We believe that he is with us, and nothing can separate us from his love. (1)

Brother Lawrence was a lay brother in an order of monks in France. Brother Lawrence, who came to the monastery relatively late in his life, found himself eventually assigned to the scullery, the room where kitchen pots and pans and dishes and utensils were kept and cleaned. He felt that he was being consigned for the rest of his life to the washing of the pots and pans and the other cooking utensils of the monastery. At first he was a little uncertain if he had done the right thing by coming to the monastery; washing dishes was not quite what he had in mind when he joined up. But he kept at it. And he found that the relatively mindless task of washing pots and pans gave him plenty of time to think, meditate, reflect, and pray. He became a very saintly person in the process, all his rebellion at being assigned to the kitchen scullery long gone.

As Brother Lawrence was near the end of his life, his abbot came to sit by the side of his bed and took notes on what the old monk had to say. When asked what was the secret to his saintliness, Brother Lawrence said that it was only this: he tried to do whatever task he was given to the glory and honor of God. And since his assigned task was the washing of pots and pans, he tried to wash them in the best way he could, all the time meditating and praying. And he had spent the best years of his life in this. And if it brought him any saintliness, he wasn’t sure. But he had given it his very best. (2) He had responded with all he had to God’s call.

Perhaps Hymn 549 says everything that still needs to be said about call and response today:

Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea,
day by day his clear voice soundeth,
saying, “Christian, follow me;”

as, of old, Saint Andrew heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and toil and kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store;
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, “Christian, love me more.”

In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love me more than these.”

Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,
Savior, make us hear thy call,
give our hearts to thine obedience,
serve and love thee best of all. (3)


1. eSermons illustrations for 15 January 2006
2. Daily Readings with Brother Lawrence, Templegate Publishers, n.d., p. 30 et passim.
3. The Hymnal 1982

Wicomico Parish Church
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Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579