For What are We Listening?

Epiphany 3

Year A
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

It’s still Epiphany… and Jesus is still calling disciples… but first… there’s a story about a farmer from a rural part of the country… and this farmer comes to visit a relative in the big city… and they’re walking down a busy… noisy main street… amidst the clamor… and confusion… and traffic… and general hubbub of the city at rush hour… and just then… a fire truck goes by… siren blazing… and the farmer says… Listen: I hear a cricket over there… the relative… the carefully conditioned city-dweller replies… How can you possibly hear a cricket in the middle of all this?!…

The chirp of a cricket… in the very core of a buzzing city… we can’t hear that, right… but the farmer… unfazed… says… I figure you hear what you’re listening for… and with that… he takes the spare change from his pants pocket… and drops it on the ground… and at the similarly… almost-imperceptible sound of a few coins hitting the sidewalk… people stop in their tracks… heads turn… notice is taken… I figure you hear what you’re listening for… he said again… and that’s a powerful statement for us as Christian community…

The Rev. Dr. J. Barrington Bates… writes… in last week’s Gospel… Jesus said it another way… What are you looking for?… and this is the challenge before us today… what are we looking for… who and what are we listening to… what do we value most… in our family life… our Two Churches’ life… and our national life…

These questions charge us to consider our past… assess our present… but mostly… inspire us to look toward our future… Rev. Bates writes… the past is clear and simple… Jesus says it this way… Repent… for we are all sinners… we have individually [ and I think perhaps more importantly… ] collectively failed to live up to our true calling embodied in our baptismal vows… we have made mistakes and fallen down… but Jesus says… Get up and try again… turn around at the quiet sound of a cricket… and try again to hear God’s voice…

Second… the kingdom of heaven has come near… Jesus lived among us… not to predict some future and yet-unachieved utopia… but to proclaim that God’s mercy… justice… and love are already here… manifest… in this place… now… so close we can touch… taste… smell… see… and hear it… if … that’s what we’re listening for…

And for the future… Jesus says… Follow me… and I will make you fish for people… we are called to bring the Light of Lights into the world… to proclaim to all people the Good News of salvation… to make the glory of God’s marvelous works known… our calling as Christian community is not to repair the roof… or balance the books… or print up the bulletin… these things are important… essential in some ways… but these things are not our mission… they are not what Jesus calls us to listen to… they are not what God commands us to value… ]

Planting… shepherding… and fishing may have been more familiar to those in Jesus’ time… they may not be among our everyday professions… but when we follow… Jesus makes us fishers of women and men… ambassadors of Christ… and turns us into… that awkward word… evangelists…

We just ended the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity… we just ended days of testimony in an impeachment trial… and we must ask ourselves… what kind of unity do we seek… for what… and to whose voice do we listen… are we able to listen for the cricket’s voice amidst the rhetoric… the truth amidst the city’s din… and what do we minimize or dismiss… is there anything we hope others will take care of… so we don’t have to…

Some people think that the only ones who are called… are bishops… pastors… and deacons… but to be called comes from the Latin word vocare… from which we get vocation… so while to be called… seems to be reserved for those who are ordained… but the truth of the matter… is that if you’ve been baptized… and I would imagine that even if you haven’t been… you are called… you have a vocation…

Jennifer Moland-Kovash… co-pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in Palatine, Illinois… affirms… certainly the call to discipleship is not exclusively… or even primarily… a call to professional ministry… the life of discipleship is one for all people… ordinary folks serving and following Jesus in the midst of lives as project managers… administrators… retirees… thrift-store managers… technical support people… musicians… photographers… care-givers… publishers… cooks… and more… being a disciple means seeing Jesus as the Light of the World that scatters the shadows… it means striving to be unified by rejecting division… because diversity was never intended to be divisive… as it has sometimes become…

It is possible… of course… Pastor Jennifer continues… that we might have a boat we need to leave behind… or some kind of metaphorical anchor in our lives… but Jesus’ call seems to be less about what we leave behind… and more about our eager response to follow him in our families… in our churches… and in our nation… so the question I think we need to ask ourselves… and ask ourselves every day… is what do we want to hear… do we hear what we’re listening for… do we hear God’s quiet voice amidst the din of our lives… even when it means leaving behind what’s comfortable or familiar…

When this service is over… and after a very short break… we’ll conduct our annual meeting… Hannah and Chuck will be cycling off of Vestry… and Angela will be cycling on… Rich will be cycling off Council… as Kevin remains on for a second term and Polly cycles on… and we thank all of them for responding to God’s call… but let’s try to remember… that the reports that have been compiled… and the budget that’s been prepared… are simply the tools God provides to do the work we have been called to do… to look at where we’ve been… to see where we are… and to bring the Light of Lights into the world… so let’s continue to proclaim God’s mercy… justice… and love… as we do it…

Mike+

About the author: The Rev. Mike Wernick

The Rev. Mike Wernick is a second-career Episcopal priest who grew up in a Reform Jewish family, and who believes that diversity was never intended to be divisive. He serves as the Ecumenical and Inter-religious Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan and the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan, and on the ELCA's North/West Lower Michigan Synod’s Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, "Open Hearts, Open Church."