Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Your Life's Call

The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle - November 29, 2017 (transferred)

Usually, when I call my father, it is early in the evening as I am leaving the office or just getting home from work. I figure that he's finished with his day, and it's a good time for both of us to check in. Sometimes, though, I have an opportunity to call him in the middle of a work day, and those calls often catch him by surprise. "Hey!" he says warmly as soon as he picks up. But he almost always follows those words with an immediate "Is everything ok?"

Do you know that sinking feeling that comes when your phone rings at an odd time or the caller-ID displays the name of a distant family member and your mind right away begins to imagine what terrible thing has happened? Usually, they turn out to be nothing, but the power of fear in that moment is profound. Sometimes, when I'm at work or out of town, I get little glimpses of what it would take for me to drop everything and leave. If I were preparing to preach on a Sunday morning, what sort of phone call would it take for me to abandon my post, ask Seth to do his best at the last minute, and get in my car to go?  If I were on a Disney cruise with my family or in Europe with Elizabeth, whose funeral would have me booking a one-way flight to hurry back?

Today, as we remember St. Andrew the Apostle, whom the Orthodox call "Πρωτόκλητος," which means "first-called," I want to take that image of dropping everything to answer a call and flip it on its head from a moment of tragedy to a moment of pure joy. What would it take for you to drop everything in your life--your job, your house, your family--to answer the Lord when he calls?

In Matthew 4, we hear of Andrew and his brother Simon, fishing in their boat in the shallows of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walked up to them and called out, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people." As the Contemporary English Version puts it, "I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish!" And, as soon as they heard it, they dropped their nets and went with him. There's something dramatic and final about literally, physically dropping the net that represents your livelihood to follow Jesus. What was it about that call? What was it about Jesus? What was it about Andrew that gave him the courage and the confidence and the faith he needed to leave everything behind and follow this itinerant preacher?

Come and I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish. What happens when God himself reveals to us that we are the one he has chosen to do God's work--not our neighbor, not our spouse, not that really committed churchgoer who always seems to volunteer for everything, but us? What happens when we discover that every day of our life, like a thread that stretches all the way back to our birth, has led us to this moment when God opens our eyes and lets us see where that divine thread stretches out ahead of us? What happens when Jesus walks along beside us, shows us that he has good news of God's uncontainable, saving love to share with the world, and tells us that we are the one he is asking to help him share it? What happens when we feel deep in our bones that answering that call is the only way our life will ever find its true meaning? Can we afford not to drop everything and say yes?

But first we have to hear that call. We have to see it. We have to know it as more than an invitation but as the very calling that God has placed upon our life. How do we know that? How do we, like Andrew, recognize it when it finds us? We pray. We make ourselves available to God every day of our lives through prayer. How will we hear our Lord's call if we do not spend time in his presence? How will we recognize the one who speaks to us if our hearts are not looking for him? Jesus is not waiting somewhere far away for us to go and find him. The Word of God is very near to us, even on our lips and in our heart. He has come beside us. He is calling us--not simply to do the work of ministry but to complete the deepest longing of our lives. May God give us the grace to hear that call, to recognize the one who calls us, and to follow him wherever he leads us.

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