CALL AND RESPONSE IN LOVE by Rev’d Jonathan Gale

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Acts 9: 1 – 20

Revelation 5: 11 – 14

John 21: 1 – 19

Have you ever been chosen for something and it made you feel special?

Little kids are hilarious like this. The teacher says, “Who wants to clean the white board?” and little hands go up, “Me! Me! Me!”

The other end of the spectrum is the national serviceman who knows that you NEVER volunteer for anything in the army. You get more of a response from a teenager than you do from someone in the middle of military basic training.

The Old Testament prophets were not always keen to be chosen for things, were they? Moses: “I’m slow of speech.” Jeremiah: “I’m too young.”

When you get chosen for something that involves more than cleaning the whiteboard, you need to know that the person who chooses you knows your interests and abilities. Otherwise you’re not going to be sure of success.

The difference, of course, when dealing with God, is that we need the faith to believe that in spite of our interests and abilities, God can make a success of whatever it is He asks us to help with. And that’s the crucial thing: God never asks us to do anything on our own. We are always co-workers with God.

Sometimes when God asks us to do something he knows that it is so different from what we want to do, that a drastic step is needed to change our minds.

Paul was like that. Our first reading this morning began with 9Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. Paul gets official permission to arrest Christians and drag them back to Jerusalem.

But God needs Paul’s help. He wants him to convert to Christianity and to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. That’s what I call a turnaround. How does God achieve that?

Well, he knocks Paul (at that stage still known as Saul) to the ground, blinds him and speaks to him aloud. That got his attention. God takes an ‘in your face’ approach: Paul heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Before Paul can rationalise anything, Jesus focusses him on where he wants him to go and what he wants him to do. His next words to Paul are: 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’

God surprised Paul, caught him off balance and while he was still in shock, directed him towards his life mission.

But I’d like us to consider what happened immediately after this. Not only was Paul baptised as a powerful symbol of his new identity, but we read straight after that: For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’

Paul didn’t hesitate to begin doing what God had called him to do. God called and he responded. There is great benefit in instant obedience, especially in telling other people what has happened to you.

In our Revelation reading we find that angels, living creatures and human beings in the form of elders, sing to God with full voice, but it is the elders who respond immediately and fall down and worship.

It is always those who are redeemed, those who have been saved by the blood of Lamb, in other words, human beings, who are most grateful to God as they are the ones needing salvation.

We are all called to worship – those who respond immediately are those who find themselves before the throne of God in heaven.

In our Gospel reading, after the resurrection, Peter and his companions are fishing when someone calls to them from the beach. John recognises Jesus and we read, 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake.

Peter doesn’t hesitate. He hears the call of the Lord and responds immediately. Forget the fish. It is Jesus who is important to him.

Now I want to make only two points in this sermon:

  • When God calls we should respond immediately, and secondly
  • God’s call will always stretch us, but if we respond in love, all will be well

We see this illustrated in the Peter incident where Jesus essentially gives him the responsibility of pastoring the twelve apostles. Peter takes on the job because he knows that Jesus will be with him in everything he is required to do, but I want to conclude with one observation.

When Jesus is calling Peter to lead the church he asks him one question three times. He doesn’t ask, “Peter are you prepared to take on the responsibility?”

Three times Jesus asks him, “Do you love me?”

We respond, not out of duty, or even out of obedience. We respond out of love. God’s challenge to us all this day as he asks us to respond to his call is this: “Do you love me?” It is one of the most searching questions of all.

So, from God to us this morning: “Do you love me?”