Sermons 2006

Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20

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 3B 2006 Mark 1:14-20

The Gospel for last Sunday and the Gospel for this Sunday present us with two contrasting views of call and response. As you may recall, in last week’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint John, Phillip is called but there is not a sense or immediacy, of immediately springing up and leaving all behind and following Jesus. Rather, Phillip goes to Nathanael and they begin to argue about who Jesus really is. Nathanael asks Phillip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And when Jesus calls Nathanael, Nathanael at first challenges Jesus: “Where did you get to know me?” There is even less immediacy in Nathanael’s response, at least at first.

But in the reading for today from the Gospel according to Saint Mark, we get that sense of pell mell urgency that is the tone and tenor of Mark’s Gospel.

Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee when he saw Simon Peter and his brother Andrew fishing. And he called to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

It feels. Looks, sounds, tastes as though they dropped everything even before Jesus finished speaking. They instantly leaped up, leaving work, family, and friends without hesitation, without a good bye or backward look. And immediately they followed him.

I think we can and often do respond to God’s call with that sense of immediacy. But not always. And the Church is appropriately cautious about certain claims of being called to God’s work and service.

Once upon a time in a parish of my experience a couple showed up from a neighboring parish and asked to join because, they said, they couldn’t abide their parish priest. They had indeed been involved in troubles in that other parish. One person said that whenever there was trouble, you would always find this pair at the bottom of it.

And it was a very short time, as these things go, just before vestry elections when the husband announced to their new rector, that his wife wanted to be on the vestry. The rector responded that it was the custom in their new parish to spend a significant amount of time paying your dues – that is, demonstrating your good will and intent – before being elected to the vestry. It wasn’t too long after the vestry election, for which neither one of the pair had been nominated – that they announced their desire to be transferred out. Their tendency to be at the bottom of troubles continued in their next parishes.

And the church tends to be very careful in its assessment of those who wish to be ordained. To those who are not involved in the process toward ordination, it can seem mysterious. It is a rigorous process. I am a member of the Commission on Ministry of our diocese and very intimately involved with the process.

Traditionally and now by canon law, there are five formal stages that someone passes through before being ordained priest. In theory and usually in practice, it works this way:

Whenever people feel they have a call they confer with the parish priest and if, after an interview with a member of the Commission on Ministry, the judgement is that they are responding to a call from God, they becomes aspirants and submit a lengthy formal written application to the bishop.

A parish discernment committee is formed to examine the aspirant more thoroughly and to reach a conclusion about whether that call is for ordained ministry, lay ministry, or that there is no call at all. The discernment committee submits its report to the parish vestry at the conclusion of their work for approval and recommendation to the bishop.

Aspirants then present themselves to the full Commission on Ministry for three hours of intensive formal interviews for postulancy. While the Commission considers about nine stated criteria for postulancy, all of us are most interested in whether or not we can discern and affirm their call from God for the ordained ministry. Many parish discernment committees and vestries are hesitant to say no to one of their members during that early part of the process.

There are several outcomes of these interviews, all as recommendations to the bishop. Most recommendations are for postulancy. Some are recommendations for not now – do some more work, praying, thinking, and listening to God, and then come back to us. About one recommendation in ten is NO. These are extremely difficult decisions for all concerned.

Once aspirants are accepted as postulants and enter seminary, they belong to the Commission on Ministry. We monitor their spiritual, intellectual, and academic progress; prescribes special programs if necessary; and stay in frequent contact.

Almost all postulants are approved for candidacy, then for the diaconate. Priesthood is almost automatic after a year.

But the return to the call question: we are interested in hearing aspirants articulate their call. We want to know how it sounds, feels, and tastes to them. Is it like the description in Mark, a call absolutely so compelling that they don’t even have to think about it but just jump up immediately and begin the process. Or is it more like Nathanael in John’s gospel, a challenging conversation with God, perhaps along the lines of “Who, me? Nobody in their right mind would want to do this -- why do you want me?” Moses responded to God’s call to lead Israel by trying to get out of it. Young Samuel in last week’s lections did not know who was calling him and had to be told. And most of the called prophets of ancient Israel entered into a more or less lengthy debate with God until they gave up and obeyed. Some were compelled by a still small voice.

The God who loves us all has an infinite number of ways of calling us into his service, whether as leaders, priests, prophets, or disciples and followers. If you were to be asked how God’s call to you sounded, felt, and tasted to you, how would you answer?


Wicomico Parish Church
PO Box 70
Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579