EPIPHANY 2, January 14th, 2024 In the Name…
A young fellow was having trouble choosing a career. He focused on being a photographer, but nothing ever developed. He got a job at Minute Maid, but was squeezed out because he couldn’t concentrate. He thought about being a musician, but it didn’t strike the right note. Finally, he settled on being a historian, until he discovered there was no future in it.
In 1908, a seven-year-old Australian girl named Doris Taylor fell and hit her back on a brick garden edging. This caused injury to her spine that left her seriously disabled. She was confined to a wheelchair and needed constant care for the rest of her life. But even so, as she grew older, she developed a concern for others who were disadvantaged. As an adult, she became involved in politics and campaigned for improvements to social services, but still felt she should do more than promote legislation. So, in 1953, she began organizing the making and delivery of hot midday meals for the aged and chronically ill. And, that was the beginning of what we call today, Meals on Wheels, which, by the time she died in 1968, had spread around the world.
There are many similar stories about people who hear God's call to do something special. We heard two in our readings today. From the Old Testament we heard how a young boy named Samuel was fast asleep one night when he heard a voice giving him an important message. And, we know what a significant role he went on to play as an adult in the lives of the first two kings of Israel – Saul and David.
Then, in the Gospel reading, we saw how Jesus called Phillip, and then Nathaniel, to become his disciples and apostles, telling people about the Saviour whom God had sent into the world.
There are many such stories because our God is a calling God. Throughout all time, we find God calling people to carry out specific tasks. The wealthy and settled Abraham was called to leave everything and go to a land he had never seen before; the brilliant musician and theologian, Albert Schweitzer, was called to leave his academic ivory tower and serve lepers in Africa. The reluctant Moses was called to lead the people of Israel to freedom; the equally reluctant Martin Luther King was called to lead a nation to free itself from its past. The Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, who organized arrests of Christians, was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles; the KGB agent Sergei Kourdakov, who organized arrests of Christians, was called to join Mission Without Borders.
And, one thing that strikes me in all these examples is that the people whom God calls to do his work are ordinary people like you and me. People with weaknesses and disadvantages; people with their fair share of personal and family problems; people who don’t have much going for them - from a human point of view.
In fact, it often seems as if God is always calling the wrong people for the wrong jobs at the wrong time and place. But God knows what he is doing.
In every case, God is fully aware of their lack of confidence and skills. No doubt, he knew very well that what he was asking them to do was dangerous and would severely test their courage and commitment. That’s probably why his final words to his disciples were, "I will be with you always to the close of the age."
God hasn’t changed one bit. He is as real today as he was to Samuel and the disciples. He still does crazy things and challenges us; he still confronts us and tests us. And, he still calls you and me to do his work in this world, even though we can think of a million reasons why he has chosen the wrong person or why this is not the right time or place.
By the way, during our first lesson, I couldn’t get out of my head the image of the Verizon ad— “Can you hear me, now?” Oh, come on, admit it— a few of you were thinking the same thing. And, even if you weren’t thinking it, you not only know the commercial, you’ve experienced it.
I knew of a priest, Fr. Ken Roberts, who was much in demand as a speaker. He was once at a large Christian Education conference and, as he addressed a morning session with hundreds of people in the audience, he suddenly felt a word of knowledge and announced that he was aware of a young lady present who was struggling with an issue of vocation and he would be available to meet with her after his presentation.
Well, the session ended and Fr. Roberts waited as the crowd dispersed for lunch, and out of all those hundreds of people, one, and only one, young lady came up to him. When he asked how he could be of help, she told him that she felt God was calling her to be a missionary in the Middle East. Wow. So, Fr. Roberts asked her if she had ever been to the Middle East. No, she replied. Okay. Did she speak Arabic? No, she replied, but she could speak Spanish. Okay. He asked if she had a job and she replied she taught religion at a church day school. Hm, um. I see.
Well, Fr. Roberts is a nice guy, so rather than bluntly tell her to forget it, he suggested she go to the prayer room that was set up for the conference, meditate there for an hour and ask God for guidance. So, off she went, and for the rest of the week he thought nothing more about this encounter. But as he was checking out of the hotel, the young woman came up to him and thanked him profusely for all he had done for her.
Fr. Roberts was completely confused until she explained that she had gone to the prayer room, but as is often the case at hotel conventions, it was anything but meditative. With all the noise from the hallway and the adjacent partitioned areas, the door opening and closing, she thought she'd just go back to her own room and pray quietly there instead, but something told her to wait the full hour. She did, but no message came from God. Then, as she was leaving the room, she was stopped in the hallway by a gentleman who asked directions to one of the sessions.
He explained to her that he had been visiting a friend in the city, seen a story about the conference in the newspaper, and thought he might show up for one of the programmes.
And he was a pastor who needed a Christian Education director for a mission in Spanish Morocco.
Fr. Roberts says he felt one-inch-tall at that moment. God indeed had a call for this young woman and he, the gifted talker, hadn't recognized the voice prompting in the background.
"Can you hear me, now?” Our God is a talker. The question is, are we listeners? Do we make the time to get to know his voice? We should. He's got things for us to hear.
In the Name…