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A Unique Call

April 14, 2013

Sunday Misericordias Domini (2nd Sunday after Easter)San Pedro2

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

John 21:15-19

 

In this passage, Jesus is calling Peter, one of the major apostles. He was one of the most well-known apostles, at least from what we know of him from the Bible and also from many other external references to the Bible. Peter’s call became so highlighted that his figure was institutionalized as the head of the church. We Lutherans do not share in his succession because we believe that Jesus called only Peter in person and did not intend to institutionalize any special kind of power succession. We know that all of us who are called by God to be pastors still remain as sheep in the eyes of Jesus Christ. In any case, we could be called “bellwethers”; those sheep which are fitted with cowbells to guide the others. We are not pastors as such. The only shepherd is Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the most important thing here is the manner of this call to Peter, one of his main apostles.

People who take up the pastoral ministry do so mainly because they feel they were called to this by God. This is something that often cannot be logically explained. A calling is something that has to do with the spiritual part of a person. It is impossible to compare a professional vocation with God’s call. They are two different things, although some want to compare them. A desired vocation is to be inclined to want to perform and work in certain areas of endeavor. That is, to have the desire to engage in certain areas of interest, often where people have natural qualities for that activity. The call of God, however, can mean two things: the vocation as previously mentioned, but more importantly, the necessity to perform an activity in God’s service. It is closely linked to a life of prayer and a close relationship with God. A call, as the word says, is to feel with spiritual certainty that God has called or is calling us to a certain activity. The person who receives the call receives it through their prayer life. It is impossible to say that a person is called to be a pastor, for example, if they do not have a relationship with God and a daily prayer life with God. We should not confuse a vocation that anyone can have, even non-Christians, with God’s call to a task in the church.

There is a very suitable Christian proverb that says: “God does not call trained people, He trains the people he calls.”

And on this, I would like to take a moment to reflect. In the church, we often believe that we only have to deal with the parameters of the world. It is true, we are living in the world and we are human beings and we have to deal with the world. But in the church we must be careful not to put worldly parameters first. In this case, we mean that when we want to undertake any activity in the church, we must consider God and His word first. Every time we start a service task in the church, we must leave space for the Holy Spirit to intervene in the institution and in the lives of people. Every time we choose a person for a given position, the first thing we have avoid doing is being like the world when it scrutinizes to see the capacities that a person has for a task or position. Rather:

1)    We need begin by praying. We need to pray to God so that he leads us to choose the right person, according to His wish.

2)    We must choose from the people who already live a very good Christian life according to what God asks. These people should display the fruits of the Spirit and give testimony of God in their own lives.

3)    We do have to then consider the skills and abilities of the candidates. But if a candidate is lacking in the skills needed, they are not necessarily excluded if they meet the previous conditions.

4)    We need to know that if we acted in accordance with the first two points above, the person appointed for the work will have the favor and blessing of God. Therefore, God will, firstly, train them spiritually but also in the other areas.

Many congregations have committed harmful blunders in a Church’s life, when they have not ruled by these Christian parameters for designating people for the mission of the church. When I speak about the ‘mission,’ I am referring the whole work of the church. Let us remember that for a Church’s work, we essentially need Christians. That is to say, we need people that are converted, committed to God and His church, and then lastly, we can evaluate human capabilities. I would also like to make it clear that we do not ignore the issue of training and instruction for people who work in the church. That would be a mistake too. But a serious mistake would also be to choose people for important responsibilities and leadership in the church if they are not obedient to God. In the church, everyone is accepted, including non-Christians. But that does not mean that everyone is equal when it comes to assuming positions of responsibility and leadership. We must not lose sight of this aspect.

When the first apostles began to put the church in order, they were faced with the decision of choosing accountable people for management. Let us study the case of the successor of Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Thus it came in the early church: “So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:23 ff). That was the way they handled it in the early church: choose from those who are wise and full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3), pray and use a system of choice, mostly letting the Spirit of God and not human judgment choose. What a blessing and spiritual progress could be achieved in many churches if we could handle matters in this way today!

You can of course follow their example, but for that you need to live a life of real and authentic prayer so that the Spirit of God, who is our supreme authority, moves at the appointed time in the church. Praying to God is very important. Surely many of us pray, but we also have to put our trust in God when we proceed, as the early Christians did. In this way, we eliminate the unfortunate human factor that can give rise to corruption or favoritism, for example.

A call is very important. Peter’s call was very important. His came from Jesus himself as God made man, who called in his own words to Peter and did so three times according to this gospel. Why three times? For two very clear reasons. The first was so that Peter was aware that he had denied Jesus three times during the night before his death. Jesus had said that before the rooster crows he would deny him three times. Jesus did not want to shame him but he did it for Peter so that he would realize that he had denied him and that Jesus wanted Peter to take back completely what he had said. And, secondly, to show Peter and to also show us today that Jesus forgives. Jesus cleans up totally. Jesus wants us to forget and to always give new opportunities. For many, Peter was and still remains a hero of faith. However, he also sinned, denied and betrayed Christ. But Jesus forgave him and made him speak out loudly three times so that he would wash out those three denials.

Jesus invites us and calls every one of us every day to work for him in his church. You might say: ‘I have no intellectual skills to do this or that.’ But if you really have a calling from God, do not refuse because he is waiting for you and he will supply what you are lacking. Perhaps, indeed, there are many who in the physical plane cannot do too much. In any case, as always in the church, we say: Yes, there is an activity that can be done. And that is prayer. –Prayer does not replace any action, but prayer is an action that cannot be replaced by anything else–. We desperately need people with the call to prayer. Prayer can change many things that cannot be modified by any other action.

Also, today, Jesus is calling us. Perhaps you have also sinned before God. He forgives you. He wants to restore you. He offers for you to follow Him. Do not be afraid if you do not have the capacity as the world demands. But truly, if you have a real relationship with God and receive a call from God, He will supply what you are lacking to serve him properly. Today’s message for every one of us, including pastors, is that if God has called you, it’s because he expects you to do your best. He has enabled you, and he will train you, even in human knowledge, but first you have to commit to him in spirit, with your work and your words. Amen.

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