“Everyone Is Called!!”
Matthew 4:17-23 (4:17) – January 22, 2023
I have had a calling from God since I was is undergraduate school. For forty years, if not more! I have felt the Holy Spirit nudging me all those years, and for many of those years I followed the Spirit’s nudging. Sometimes, over those forty years, God would directly point me towards something I knew I ought to do or get involved in. Ministry as a layperson in music, art, Sunday school and youth, mission, bible study. Yes, I was a layperson for thirty of those years, and God called me for all that time. (And, I was not officially ordained until 2015, almost eight years ago, right here in this sanctuary.)
Let’s take a closer look at this reading from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. “17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
Our Lord Jesus makes a statement at the very beginning of His public life. A summary statement. A headline, to encapsulate why He was there, why He came into the world. All of history is on a continuum, and the earthly Jesus was a part of that. All earthly events “move in tune with God’s redemptive activity. And, indeed, Jesus proclaims the coming kingdom of God and invites those listening to turn around (repent) to receive this kingdom.” 
Jesus’s words are compelling. For years, even still now, I wanted to hear and understand! I dearly desired to hearken to Jesus’ own call to the crowds, to perceive and become a part of God’s in-breaking kingdom.
Let us see what Jesus did next, the absolute next thing, after He made this proclamation. “18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
Jesus calls each of us! He calls the clergy among believers, and Jesus calls lay people as well. In other words, Jesus calls everyone – each and every one of us – to follow Him. Do you feel called? Has Jesus picked you out from the crowd, given you a purpose, and given you a new name? (like Peter?) Some churchgoers do feel called by Jesus! However, some do not.
One bible commentator I respect, Dr. David Lose, has this to say: “Some years ago, as part of a Lilly Endowment sponsored grant on vocation, the research team I worked with discovered that while most of the graduates of our seminaries identified “vocation” and “calling” as important theological concepts that were at the center of their preaching and teaching, very few of their parishioners actually felt called. Very few of them, that is, believed that what they did with most of their time mattered to God and the church or made a particular difference in the world.” 
I wonder why? God calls everyone! Taps everyone on the shoulder! Each believer!
Dear Lord, why is this? There are people who attend churches all over the country, even all over the world. Where are all of the people who believe in Jesus, and who claim the name of Jesus, and call themselves believers, even Christians? Yet, I do not see many church folk who consider themselves called of God in this particular way.
Let us consider Peter, Andrew, James and John. The first four disciples. What did the new Rabbi Jesus do? He called these four people to follow Him, the first ones to take part in the kingdom of God that starts our Scripture reading today!
What were Peter, Andrew, James and John doing when Jesus called them to follow Him? They were fishing. Actual fishermen. You remember: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.” These people had nets, boats, and all other equipment used for fishing. They walked away from all that.
We can see how Jesus made His proclamation that “the kingdom of God is near!” And He called helpers, people to come alongside and do the work of fishing for people. Maybe we are coming at this sideways? What if – what if Jesus calling of the disciples was something unexpected? What if – what if the disciples’ calling and our calling is exactly the same?
What kinds of equipment might we use for “fishing for people?” What kinds of equipment might Jesus have had in mind? The world today is a bit different from the first century, but some equipment people might use today include a Meals On Wheels cooler (to reach people by bringing them food), or extra clothes, coats or shoes (to give out to people in need), or even musical instruments or art supplies (to reach people with the arts). Plus, it’s always appropriate to reach out to others with friendly visits, caring cards, or phone calls or texts. Plus, as our Pastoral Prayer said today, we can also be readers to little children, bandagers of bruised hears, lovers of the forsaken, and pilgrims who show the way to others – with God’s help.
What if – what if God’s calling is actually plain and simple? “Think about it for a moment: God’s call isn’t simply to do something, but rather to be something, a child of God…. if we can first focus on being – just being – God’s beloved children, and let that grace-filled identify seep into the deepest parts of ourselves.” 
Yes, our call is to follow Jesus! Our call is to offer God’s words of mercy, grace, hope and love, because we are God’s beloved children. I know I often say “Go and do that. Follow God” at the end of my sermons. I’ll add today, “Go and be that. Be that beloved child of God.” Alleluia, amen.