Sunday, July 5, 2015
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 5)
Luke 5:1-11; 1 Peter 3:8-15; 1 Kings 19:11-21
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Your vocation is your God-given calling, but it is not your job. For example, to be a father or a mother, a son or a daughter, a husband or a wife – that is your vocation. But to be a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker – that is your job. Further, your vocation is quite likely not what you like or want to do, or feel especially gifted, skilled, and equipped to do, but your vocation is simply what God has given you to do in service to others to the glory of His Name. As a result, your Christian vocation is not normally a call to do something, but it is a call to be someone. Your vocation is to be the Christian you have been baptized to be in all the places, and in all the relationships, in which God has placed you.
Elijah had the vocation of being a prophet of the LORD. Arguably, neither Elijah, nor any of the LORD’s prophets, wanted their vocation or believed themselves to be especially gifted, skilled, and equipped to be a prophet of the LORD. Moses, for example, made all sorts of excuses to get out of his vocation, claiming that he had a speech impediment and that he was ineloquent. Jonah fled the other direction when the LORD called him to go to Nineveh. Jeremiah protested that he was too young. Doubting his own abilities, Gideon put the LORD to the test, not once, but three times.
For, the truth is that the vocations the LORD calls you to often do not seem attractive, and often you do not feel up to the task. Yet, still it is the LORD’s call, it is your vocation, and you must do it, you must go. A Mother is still a mother even if she doesn’t enjoy it or want to be. Still she has a service to provide to her children and they depend upon her to do it. A husband is still a husband, even if he is tired and distracted, and would rather be playing golf. He still has a wife and a family to serve who depend upon him to do what the LORD has called him to do. Your vocation is selfless and sacrificial, just as your Lord Jesus sacrificed all to save you from sin and death. And, there is peace and joy in doing your vocation when you recognize and confess that the Lord has chosen and called you to this work. It is a needed work. It is a good work. And it is a holy work.
Vocation is sacrifice, period. When Elijah’s vocation as prophet had come to an end, the LORD called Elisha to be prophet after him. Elisha was out doing his job, plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. And so, to demonstrate in a powerful and visual way the unchangeable and sacrificial nature of his vocation, Elisha sacrificed his oxen and boiled their flesh with the yokes and served it to the people to eat. There was no going back from the LORD’s call and his vocation. Elijah wasn’t even permitted to return to his father and mother to say goodbye. And so, to reiterate, God’s calling, your vocation, is a calling you have whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not. And, yet, there is blessing in doing your vocation – blessing for both you and for those you are called to serve.
Similarly, Simon had just returned to shore after a long, hard, and disappointing day at sea, doing his job, catching fish. He had just finished cleaning and mending his nets and he was ready to go home to supper and to bed when the Lord Jesus called to him to go back out to sea and to let down his nets for a catch. Though he was tired and exhausted, though he thought it was foolish and he didn’t want to go, he submitted and he obeyed the word of the Lord and out he went and dropped his nets into the deep for a catch. And, what did he get for it? Such a great catch of fish that he was literally at risk of drowning! Other fishermen, James and John, came to help, and even their boats were beginning to sink! Exasperated and terrified, Simon thought, as you have likely thought before, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” He wanted to run. He wanted to hide. He wanted to be free from the danger of his vocation. He wanted to be anywhere other than there, and if that meant sending Jesus away, then that’s the way it had to be.
Often our vocations can be overwhelming. The responsibility can be terrifying. Simon was made acutely aware of his weakness and his frailty. His ship and his livelihood were sinking, the great catch of fish would be lost, and he himself was critically near death. His cry “Depart from me!” was not a confession of faith, but of unbelief. Simon knew his sin and his unworthiness, but he did not trust in his Lord’s providence, goodness, and mercy. Therefore, like Judas, he despaired and he prepared to die.
But, you can’t quit your vocation. To be sure, many try, but there are consequences in terms of guilt and fear and real-world ramifications – just think of Jonah attempting to shirk his vocation to preach to the Ninevites! The breadwinner of the family can change jobs, but she cannot quit working when her family depends upon her to bring home the bacon. A husband cannot morally quit fulfilling his marital vows to his wife, nor a father his fatherly responsibility to his children.
Therefore Jesus said to Simon, and Jesus says to you who are overwhelmed, fearful, and despairing at the responsibilities of your vocations, guilty in your failings and sins, and ready to chuck it all overboard, to give up and die – Jesus says to you, “Do not be afraid!” Jesus absolves you of your sin and guilt and He restores you. More than that, He blesses you and He equips you to do what He has called you to do. “From now on you will be catching men!” And, from that moment on, Simon and the others left everything behind. They left their boats and their nets and all the gear of their job, their profession, their livelihood. They left everything behind, just like Elisha, and they followed Jesus.
We all have vocations. We all have callings from God. Elisha was a plowshare, called to be the prophet of the LORD to succeed the prophet Elijah. Simon, James, and John were fishermen, called to be fishers of men. Matthew was a tax collector. Saul was a Pharisee. And, David was a shepherd. Still, a Christian’s calling is not normally a call to do something, but to be someone. Not all are called to be prophets, apostles, and pastors, but all Christians are called to be Christians in their various and numerous vocations. And, this can often seem an unbearable, unthankful, and a dauntless task. Therefore, St. Peter exhorts you, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” In your vocation, you were called to be a blessing. And, when you faithfully fulfill your calling – that is, when you do what you are called to do – you will be blessed in doing it. Quite often, when you help someone else, you will find that you also have been helped. But, do not do it in order to receive the blessing. Rather, do it because it is your vocation, your calling, and it is what you are supposed to be doing.
And, when you are doing what you are called to be doing, there is always the possibility that someone will notice. They might ask you, “Why are you being so kind to me? You don’t even know me,” or, “Why are you so kind to those who mock you and ridicule you for your faith?” or “How can you be so calm and at peace when everything seems to be falling apart?” Then you will have an opportunity to share with them the hope that you have in Jesus Christ. This is part of your Christian vocation as well.
Truly, our collect prayer today sums up vocation well: “O God, You have prepared for those who love You good things that surpass all understanding.” Here we acknowledge that God has called us to perform the works He has prepared for us to do before the foundation of the world. This is why your vocation, your calling, is holy and truly a good work, for it is the Lord’s calling and work that He has specially called you to perform. “Pour into our hearts such love toward You that we, loving You above all things, may obtain Your promises, which exceed all that we can desire.” Here we pray that the Lord would fill us with His love so that we might truly love our God-given vocations and serve our neighbors in love and joy and find that we are blessed in being a blessing, which is so much more than we could ever want or desire.
We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, who selflessly fulfilled His God-given vocation for the life of the world, laying down His own life in selfless, sacrificial service, even unto death, that we might live. Let us then, likewise, lay down our lives for others, knowing that in so doing we lose nothing, but all is gain. You are blessed to be a blessing. But, you can only fulfill your vocation if you trust in and receive Jesus. Therefore, your Lord Jesus comes to you, who are weak, weary, and burdened by the travails of this past week, fearful and anxious at what looms in the week ahead. Your Lord Jesus comes to you, to serve you with His very own precious and holy body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of this Blessed Sacrament. Your Lord Jesus comes to forgive you, to commune with you, to strengthen you, to equip you, and to send you. This is His God-given vocation.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.