A sermon preached by Patrick H. Wrisley, January 24, 2021.
Last nightKelly and I sat on the back patio looking up at the sky while listening to music by Canadian pianist, Michael Jones. He has a beautiful, dancing light touch upon the keys and as I listened, the music took me outside of myself and I travelled back some thirty-seven years ago and ended up at Hunter’s Restaurant on a cold winter late Saturday morning in Highlands, North Carolina. Kelly and I lived down in the valley in Rabun Gap, Georgia at the time and the twenty-minute drive to Highlands was a nice escape. The day was very cold and gray and the warmth of this rustic restaurant with comfort food and hot coffee made for good visiting. Throughout our lunch, Michael Jones played. I will never forget that afternoon in Highlands because as we sat there talking and talking, refilling on hot coffee, we both came to the same conclusion about a life-changing decision. “Are you ready for this?” I asked her. She nodded asking me in turn, “Are you?” Swallowing hard, I meekly replied something about knowing it was what we were supposed to do but that I was scared. Our pastor’s words haunted me as he told me two weeks before, “Son, you don’t want to do this. It’ll break your heart.” Still, both of us knew what we had to do and that was quit our jobs and move to Decatur, Georgia and begin school at Columbia Theological Seminary. I gave my job notice and one week later discovered Kelly was pregnant with our first daughter. Every single time I hear Michael Jones I am transported back to that time when we responded to the call of Jesus to “follow me.”
So last night, looking at the stars listening to Michael’s Jones’ Pianoscapes, I reflected upon this morning’s scripture about answering the call. Hear the Word of the Lord!
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good newsof God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Mark outlines two different call stories in our brief text. One is a call to general discipleship. It’s a call to all who will hear that the Kingdom of God has come near and its very presence demands that we stop where we are, reset our priorities and life to these Kingdom goals, and follow the path Jesus is laying out for us. But there is another call story within our Story. Yes, there is a call to discipleship but there is a call for particular service. Jesus tells them, “I will make you fishers of men and women!”
What’s a call anyway? A call is that inner pulling confirmed by those outside of yourself that God is asking you to take a path or to step out in particular service. A call is a gift and invitation for new life; it’s also a demand that will not let you loose as Spirit compels you to transform your commitment to following Jesus into a dedication to intentionally love and serve others in his name. When Jesus calls, all of us are responding to two different calls. One is a call to follow and live like Jesus. The second is a call to serve in his name.
This morning, Jesus is calling out men and women from our congregation to answer a call. They were chosen by you, members of this great church, because they in their lives have indicated they have said, “YES!” to Jesus’ bidding to, “Follow me.” You have seen evidence in their lives of the gifts and graces Spirit has given them and so today, they listen to the call of Christ through you, the Church, to respond to the call of serving others in Jesus’ name.
Like Andrew, Simon Peter, and those Zebedee boys, the folks being set aside for ordination and installation into service today are just broken, fallible followers of Jesus like you and me. One teaches piano. Another is a professor. One is a travel agent and another is businesswoman who runs and international company. Still another is a recovering addict who devotes his life to helping people get sober. They are all ordinary people chosen by God through you to lead and nurture this Church and community in a call to service. If you were to ask any of them what they thought about their “worthiness” in answering this call to service, they each would say to a person, “I’m not qualified to be a deacon or elder but I place myself at the disposal of God’s beckoning Spirit.” The call of God and our response to that call are both acts of grace.
This morning as we receive our latest class of church officers, each of us is invited to reflect upon our own sense of call. Think, beloved, of the time when Jesus invited you to come and follow. How did you respond to that invitation? Have you responded to that invitation? Yet, friends, I also want you to reflect upon not only your call to follow Jesus but how you have been called out to serve Jesus in the world.
There are two calls in our Story today and both calls have to be responded to in order to live a full-life as a Christian man, woman, boy or girl. This morning, we celebrate those who are publicly responding to both! Pray with me.
© 2021 Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.