Epiphany 3 – Mark 1:14-20
Preacher: The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft, Curate
In 1985 Andrew and I went on a 28-day Camping Tour of Europe. 33 years later it is interesting to reflect on the memories that remain. My 24-year-old self wasn’t very interested in Vatican City, but I was fascinated by Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, just 5km away. I remember standing inside the church, before Michelangelo’s magnificent and very large statue of Moses. He seemed so life like but it was the accompanying tour guide’s story that has stayed with me:
There is an imperfection on Moses’ right knee. The tour guide told us that Michelangelo inflicted the damage himself. Apparently when he had finished his masterpiece, he smashed his hammer on Moses’ knee and cried, “Why won’t you speak to me Moses?”
Whether the story is true or not, perhaps it resonates with those of us who can identify with a time when we really wanted God to speak to us but we heard nothing. Some of us may even think that we have never heard God speak at all.
God speaks to us in many different ways and at many different times, but we need to learn to notice and to listen. We heard a good example of this in last week’s Old Testament reading from 1 Samuel 3:1-10 when God called the young Samuel while he was sleeping, but Samuel answered to Eli. It was Eli who helped Samuel to understand that it was God who was calling him. Discernment is a huge part of listening to God. If we believe that God is calling us to do something that conflicts with the Ten Commandments then we can guarantee it’s not God’s voice. When we are convinced that God is calling us to major things in our life, one of the many advantages of belonging to the Body of Christ, is the help we can receive to discern that we are hearing correctly. Church life can be incredibly social, but we will grow in our faith and understanding, and flourish best, with the support of a study or prayer group.
At last Sunday’s Evensong our Dean, Frank led a Lectio Divina reading of one of the readings. (You can do this easily at home with the help of a website called http://www.prayasyougo.org.) Lectio Divina is a method of reading a section of Scripture three times and meditating on what God may be saying to us after each reading, noticing what stands out or grabs our attention and praying from it. The word that stood out for me last Sunday night, was “chosen”. I was reminded of Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved. It’s a beautiful short story beginning with how we are each, God’s beloved and how we are each chosen by God. The disciples in today’s Gospel were chosen to be Jesus’ disciples.
The thing that has troubled me in my very slow journey to ordination is the word “immediately”. Mark uses the word immediately some 40 times in his Gospel and twice in the 6 short verses we heard today, emphasising the importance of each event.
My experience is that many of us hear God’s call to grow, to serve, and/or to give, but we may take a while to respond, if at all. We may need to declutter our lives in order to study, or rearrange our finances in order to give, or prioritise our time in order to serve. We may be called to surrender our will to God’s will for our lives.
Today’s Gospel reading invites us all to truly hear Jesus say to each one of us “Follow Me”. The big question is, “how will we each respond and when”?
Another important thing to notice about today’s Gospel is that Jesus is not only asking the disciples to follow him, he is inviting them to BECOME something new. He will teach them to become fishers of people.
God calls us to all manners of different tasks. Some are big tasks like becoming a parent, a teacher, a counsellor, a carer etc.. God also calls us to everyday tasks. Do we notice when God calls us to contact a friend or family member? Do we recognise a call for help as a call from God? As the saying goes: “God has no feet but ours, no hands but ours.”
Most of us have stories of times when God has spoken to us. We may notice it in scripture, the wise words of another person, or hear a voice in our head, or notice the quickening of the Holy Spirit within us, or feel it in our bones or when the hair on our body stands on end or when we are unexpectedly called to a particular place and time.
I’d like to share one such experience of mine:
Early last year I randomly dreamed of a girl I went to high school with. I hadn’t seen her for at least three years, and I hadn’t seen her for about 30 years before that. That same morning, my daughter had to cancel a massage. She asked me if I would take her appointment
so that she didn’t have to pay the cancellation fee. I agreed and off I went for to an unexpected place and time. There in the reception area was the same school friend. It was as though God had taken me off course for a reason. I marvelled to her that I had dreamed about her that morning. We agreed that we must have been brought together for a reason and met the next week for lunch to work out why. I learned that she was a lapsed Christian, aware of God calling her back to faith but struggling to identify as a Christian. I invited her to walk over here and pray together in the Lady Chapel. As we walked across the parkland, we both commented that our hearts were burning within us.
I am still encouraging her to keep responding to God’s call.
I wonder if Simon and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John were good at telling stories like fishermen today – usually about the one that got away. I’ve got some good fishing stories myself, like the one about the time I saw a manta ray off the Pt Broughton Jetty.
I’d really like to encourage us to regularly tell our stories of hearing God’s voice. Tell stories about how we are responding to God’s call in our lives and about who we are becoming in Christ.
Perhaps a Lenten Study or Pilgrim Course, or EFM Study or study at St Barnabas or the Retreat at Sevenhill could help. They are not beginning “immediately” but they will in just a few short weeks. Most of the details are in your service booklets.
Do you hear or sense Jesus calling you, saying “follow me”? How will you respond, and when?