Third Sunday after Epiphany


Several years ago I was working with a construction company in Clarence, and I happened to hire, as a subcontractor, the company I am now with, to help build a Rite Aid in Niagara County.  Through this relationship, this other company got to know me well and I got to know them.  The project ended successfully and I thought that perhaps that was that . . . until about two years later the vice president called and asked if I would someday consider working for them in Niagara Falls because he was retiring.  They would eventually offer me enough money to make the move and so I did about a year later.  By the time I came on board in Niagara Falls, I knew just about everyone there and I knew exactly what was expected of me.  There were no real surprises about the work and I have been there ever since.  In my experience, this is generally the way people get hired, through relationships.  We generally want to be able to know someone’s ‘ins and outs’ before making a commitment to them.  It’s a very human thing and it is the way it is for us in selecting jobs, in selecting our friends, in our love life, and in all the many other relationships and connections that envelope our lives . . . except of course . . . our families . . . it seems that God chooses to pick them for us.

It has always seemed to have been the contention of the church that the fisherman in today’s gospel, Peter, James, Andrew and John dropped everything at the calling of Jesus and then just got up and left.  To me this story seems to lack some reality, especially if you figure Peter was married and had a family. How many of us sitting here today, given a great opportunity, would be able to leave ‘right now’ on an adventure of a lifetime?  I know I would need to make a lot of arrangements for the care of my pets and property and I would certainly need to be able to explain it to my wife.  Actually, I remember explaining my desire to enter the ministry to her many years back and getting a blank stare when she realized I would be doing something that would take me away from home every week. Actually, thirty-some years later, I still get those blank stares every so often.

So what about the disciples?  Do you think it is logical to presume that they all left at Jesus’ calling at the drop of a hat, or do you think there might be more to the story?

Since there is no proof recorded either way, it would seem logical to assume that Jesus had previously selected these men for a mission.  I believe they knew Jesus as well as Jesus knew them and that they were waiting for the call that would change their lives.  I think the call may have come when John the Baptist was arrested.  This is more in keeping with the way God operates.  I can’t think of anyone (except perhaps the rich young ruler in the gospels) that wasn’t given an opportunity to make a choice based on some kind of foreknowledge of the risks and the rewards.

If we presume for the moment that Jesus knew these guys, (who were by the way, the inner circle of his group), why do you suppose Jesus picked them?  And just as importantly, why did Jesus pick us?

There was Peter and his brother Andrew, James the son of Zebedee and John . . . .  all of them fisherman by trade, they obviously were hardworking men.  It was Peter though, who owned his own business.  Now, if any of you knows about business owners, you know that nearly all of them (at least the ones I know) work 60-70 hours a week.  They are there when no one else is around, in the early morning and late into the night.  Why? . . . You might think it is to make money, but I would tell you that they do it because they love what they do.  Don’t get me wrong, they like the money, but it isn’t what drives them.  They love the game, the people, but especially the excitement of the risk.  And that’s the key, business people thrive on risk.  They risk there time, their fortunes and sometimes their health because they are enticed by the prize in the end, the prize of success.  I believe that to convince someone like that to drop everything and move on would take a little more than a one liner . . . even if it was from Jesus.  And that is why I think they knew each other well beforehand and were able to get up and leave everything behind.  They were already prepared, packed and ready to go.

And what about us?  The Bible is forever warning us to be prepared.  We are to be prepared because we don’t know when the ‘bridegroom’ will appear.  We are to be prepared because we don’t know when the ‘end’ will come.  We are to be prepared because we don’t know what hour that our ‘soul will be required’.  Hopefully, those of us sitting here today are as well prepared as we can be to face this unknown challenge.  It is important to realize that the earthquake that devastated Japan’s nuclear plant just three years ago next month could just as well have occurred right here on the Niagara Frontier.  We too, live near a giant fault line in the earth. Fortunately for us, it has been inactive for 60,000 thousand years.  But, 60,000 year ago it created the Niagara escarpment along with Niagara Falls and separated Lake Ontario from Lake Erie in one cataclysmic movement.

The Bible tells us that all have been called, but only a few have been chosen.  How do we know that we have been chosen?  We know when we come to realize through our relationship with him, just as the disciples did, that God is the most important thing in our life and that doing his will becomes a risk worth taking.

We also know that we have been chosen because we know God knows us as well as we knows ourselves.

The psalmist wrote of this personal relationship when he wrote Psalm 139 which reads:

1       Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

2       You trace my journeys and my resting‑places *

and are acquainted with all my ways.

3       Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *

but you, O Lord, know it altogether.

4       You press upon me behind and before *

and lay your hand upon me.

5       Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6       Where can I go then from your Spirit? *

where can I flee from your presence?

7       If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8       If I take the wings of the morning *

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9       Even there your hand will lead me *

and your right hand hold me fast.

10     If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, *

and the light around me turn to night,”

11     Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; * darkness and light to you are both alike.

12     For you yourself created my inmost parts; *

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13     I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14     My body was not hidden from you, * while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.

15     Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; *

they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them.

16     How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *

how great is the sum of them!

17     If I were to count them, they would be more in number

than the sand; * to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

After reading this psalm, can we not tell that you have been chosen? That you are well known by our creator and that you are loved?  But the bigger question is . . . Why Me?  Why was I chosen?  Why you?  Why were you chosen?

The disciples were chosen because Jesus knew that they could be trusted with the greatest of missions.  They were hard working people with great courage and great honor.  But the most important thing for us to realize is that, the disciples had faults and they had weaknesses, but Jesus saw past them, just as we see past the faults of our own friends.  Jesus was able to use these men with all there vulnerabilities just as he is able to use us with all of ours.  What separates us most from Jesus are just those kinds of things, i.e. feelings of unworthiness, feelings of lust, greed, laziness, and fear . . . feelings we all have within us to some degree or another; but God uses us for his purposes despite our faults.

And that is the great mystery of His relationship with us.  Amen.


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