January 26, 2015


Sermon for Year B, Third Sunday After Epiphany
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
January 25, 2015
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Jesus calls Simon and Andrew and James and John to follow him;
 They do so, right away, putting up no arguments --
 And their lives are just as complicated, in many ways, as our own.
When God calls, you have to drop what you’re doing and deal with it.
That’s how the Christian life works.
Sure, sometimes what you’re doing is absolutely vital and needs tending right now,
 But as soon as the patient has been sewn up, as it were, it’s time to heed the call.

For far too long, The Episcopal Church --
 And I suspect many of the other arms and legs of the Body of Christ --
 Episcopalians and others have talked about the call of God, and following the call of God,
   As something really only meant for those
   Who think they’re destined to become ordained clergy.
I know I’ve suffered under the same delusion myself.
That’s balderdash, of course.
We are excellent at doing discernment for those interested in holy orders,
 Which is how you end up with deacons, priests, and bishops.
Some of you may remember sitting on a discernment committee for just that purpose --
 For Linda Mansfield, here at St. Thomas,
   Or in my case, for a guy named Curtis; in Jacquie’s case, a guy named Steve.
We learn when we do this that we have books and trainings and many rich skills in this area.
We need these kinds of ministers in the church.
But we are terrible at deploying all those resources for the greater -- the much greater good.
What a waste this is.
We need to give some serious thought to how we are using these tools.

If we have these tools and all this collected wisdom, let’s put them to work on a broad basis.
For instance, how many people are there right now in this city this morning
 Who are wondering if they are in the right job,
 Or if they should reconnect with some old love interest,
   Or whether they should call their parents after twenty years of estrangement?
Without getting specific, I would guess quite a few.
And they might never stop to think that answers to such burning life-questions
 Could be found within the walls of a church.
Yet this is precisely the kind of thing that Episcopalians of Siouxland should offer the world.
Everyone’s calling needs to be discerned, listened to, and followed through.
If we think we have a knack for doing a valuable public service,
 Perhaps we had ought to be more up front about it.

Because here are the facts:
 God has vested you with certain gifts and talents, and interests,
   And God wants to see you using those out in the world to make the world better,
     In the name of Christ.
We all have a calling in this life -- even if it’s seen very dimly right now.
Can we all agree on this?

Would you kindly turn to someone and say what you think you’ve been given? --
 A gift, a talent, an interest that you have?
Please, do that now ...
Thank you.

Can we agree that each of us has a calling in this life?
A calling -- the calling of God -- God tugging, pulling, cajoling us:
 Come on -- come on and use your gifts already. The world needs it.
It doesn’t have to be high and mighty;
 It’s just a question of what is already there -- naming it, following it, discerning it.

For five short years, Jacquie and I worshipped at an Episcopal church in Castle Rock, Colorado.
To describe it in any depth I would have to write you a book.
I’ll just say it was transformational.
And on many a Sunday, we would go up and take the bread and wine,
 Or stand at some other moment to sing a hymn,
   And these words written by James Kilbane would fall out of us as we sang loudly, all as one:

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.
I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them, They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My word to them.
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.
I, the Lord of wind and flame
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them,
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them,
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

It’s a story about hearing the call, understanding the work to be done,
 And responding -- Yes, Lord, I will go, -- and this is the key -- if you lead me.
Be assured.

And how will you know you’re on the right path?
Frederick Buechner says,
 “The place God calls you to is the place
   Where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”
I just think that’s worth hearing again --
 “The place God calls you to is the place
   Where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”
One last thing.
Our church, like many, has a lot of retirees and folks over the age of 65.
I want to say that I recognize this is a very special time of life.
The family begins expanding; there are grandkids and great-grandkids to love on.
Opportunities to serve in a volunteer capacity start expanding.
It’s a chance to travel, to read and keep learning,
 To keep the body moving.
For some, there’s still a need to keep working
 In order to ensure that things like medical and grocery bills can be tended to.

Recognize this:
 Your great calling in this life was not just to do something for a living,
   Then be rid of it at retirement.
That’s called a job.
No, every day we are alive there is some kind of calling --
 Some kind of God-ordained calling -- on our lives.

What you do matters so much.
Even and especially right now, later in the second half of life,
 Listen for the call of God and follow it.
That’s the place of vitality, meaning, and purpose.

I guess in the end, that’s about all any of us really wants:
 A life of vitality, meaning, purpose, and faithfulness to God.
I don’t know what exactly Simon, Andrew, James, and John were thinking
 When they left their work to follow Jesus,
 And I can’t imagine they had any sense of how important it was that they do that,
   How much was riding on their response.
But boy am I glad they did it.
Their found energy and a sense of meaning and purpose for their lives
 By following the one life most especially given for us --
   That of their master and Lord, our master and Lord, Jesus.

So listen, pray, discern, and follow Jesus.

That can be the great pattern of our lives.

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