The Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
5th Sunday in Trinity 2016
Our Gospel from St. Luke brings forth some interesting questions. How does God call us?
How do we know when God calls us? What is the nature of our call? Finally, how do we respond?
First of all, we know that God calls each of us in different ways and fashions. Each man and woman hears the call of God in a different, yet intensely personal way. Our Lord speaks to us all individually, if we are inclined to listen. What is fascinating is how He does it.
To His glory, God uses both unity in diversity and diversity in unity when calling us. What do we mean by that? Simply that Our Lord uses the same general means to call us, yet it is perceived and received in a myriad of ways.
God uses both a general call as well as an individualized one that all men are issued at some time in their life.
The general call of grace is one that was issued from the Cross. Christ, through His one- time Sacrifice, called all men unto Him. John 12:32 says: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”. There was, and is, a general outpouring of grace from this act. Some hear and are moved to respond. Their response may be a great commitment, a greater yearning, or even just a greater curiosity. At the same time, there are many who never listen to this general call of grace.
All people also receive an individual call from God as well. He calls all people, someway, sometime in their life. Many people are led to follow that call. These people are destined to grow in the faith to whatever degree God has willed for them. They are to enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit and of the Church. There are also many other people who are called, but do not answer. That is a profound mystery known only to God Himself.
Within the general call of mankind there is a special subset for those whose call is deeper and with a more persistent nature. These people respond with a stirring of the heart and of the spirit to God. These are those souls for whom the Spirit does not return empty. Rather, through the advocacy and facilitation of the Holy Spirit, there is a communication, a link, a response that says “yes” to Him.
The question is, how do we know when God call us and what is the nature of that call? This is difficult, and the answer may not be satisfactory to those who admire clear, crisp answers. The reason is that one can’t give a perfect answer, except that one will simply “know” when He calls us. Here is where the diversity in unity is apparent. While His Call is general, our perception of it is individual and specific. As a younger man, searching for God, it was frustrating trying to hear the voice of God, most probably because I was seeking the wrong things. God is heard more often in the quiet, small voice than in the babbling of many tongues.
Also, while “crash-boom” spiritual experiences are more dramatic, they are less common and may be less meaningful over time as well. How many of us have known someone who has had a remarkable conversion experience and has turned their life over to Christ, only to revert to their old, unsatisfactory ways some time afterward? Unfortunately, it happens, especially if one is looking for the quality of the experience, rather than the durable nature of a changed life.
Consider the” home-grown” conversion; one that is private, deep and meaningful, without the spiritual fireworks. In the quiet interior of our souls, we sense God’s call. This may begin as a “drawing towards”. Something in us simply wants something, although it is not always apparent what that is. It is also an unfortunate fact that a calling comes usually not from a sense of comfort, but discomfort. That is, only in answering the call will that soul find peace.
Despite what our call may have been, or how it was received, the last and most important question is: how do we respond to it? Let’s look to our Gospel selection for answers.
First, we recognize that Christ was simply following ancient Jewish tradition in gathering disciples to him. Jewish doctors of the law often recruited disciples to teach Torah. Yet Christ did this not by going to the Temple to select the “best and the brightest.” Instead, He went to the lake of Genessaret and taught the common crowds as they “pressed” upon him by the lake. They were hungry to hear him, for the people perceived the truth in what He was saying, as well as they way He delivered it. You’ll recall that one of the Gospels (Mat. 7:29) says, “For he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” In this case, as He was teaching by the Sea of Galilee, the people were actually “pressing” Him into the water!
Jesus needed a place to teach, so He enters into one of the fishing boats nearby and asks the fisherman to push off a little into the lake so He can address the crowd. After speaking for a while, he turns to the fisherman, Simon Peter, and tells him, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” Simon’s answer is instructive: he says, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. In other words, “we’ve worked all night, we’ve caught nothing and we’ve even cleaned our nets, but if you say so, we’ll let down the net.”
Jesus’ calm, commanding presence compels him to do so and his attitude changes dramatically. Why? The miraculous draft of fish is so great that the net begins to break and they fill both boats full to the point of sinking! Note Peter’s reaction.He recognizes the ultimate holiness there with him, and is terrified. Recall that an ancient Hebrew believed that if one were to come in contact with God’s holiness, the result would be instant destruction.
Jesus calms Simon and issues His call, saying “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” He calls Peter just as he is, where he is. This is exactly what God does for us. He calls us as we are and where we are. He calls us “To launch out into the deep and to let down our nets for a draught.”
We, like Peter, are often afraid, or resistant. Perhaps we too have “toiled all the night” in the deep, dark places of our souls “and have taken nothing.”
That is, until Christ calls us, our lives’ nets are empty until they are filled with the miraculous “catch” of His love. Certainly, one can seem to have it all: job, money, family, success. But without God, there comes a moment in everyone’s life when they realize they “have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.” You see, our lives’ nets are truly empty without Christ.
Luke 5:8 “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”