Epiphany 3: “Follow Me”

Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, Co-Rector, January 21, 2018, Epiphany 3, Year B, Mark 1:14-20

In the name of the God our Creator, God our Redeemer, God our Guide.

Over the past two days, your newly constituted vestry has been meeting, on retreat, to have focussed and intentional discussions about what it means to be the elected body of leaders in this parish.

We talked, at length, about how we wanted to work together, commonly referred to as “Group Norms”.

We asked ourselves questions about the way in which we wanted to be together, what we, as individuals had to offer, and what God’s dreams were for this place.

The focus of the retreat was around what it means for us today to be disciples of Jesus, to head Jesus’ invitation to “Follow” him, to live into our vocation.

Now, many of us tend to think of discipleship as something reserved for those few men thousands of years ago… like the ones introduced to us in this morning’s Gospel. The ones who “immediately” dropped what they were doing when they heard Jesus and who absorbed every word he spoke from that point until his death.

But what if discipleship didn’t stop with those three men, and indeed was never the full picture of Jesus’ message on earth…to proclaim the good news to all the earth?

I was issued a challenge, as a preacher, by a professor of mine whom I really respect. She said,
“That all the protagonists in this story are male: Jesus, brothers, father, and hired men presents an interpretive challenge for those who preach in a congregation in which women are among the hearers and receivers of this word.
The call of male disciples justified the exclusion of women from leadership in the church in many Christian bodies.

That is what some call a preaching lion-pit. The hearer needs to be careful not to fall into it.

So, I’m going to give a homiletical nod to my professor and say to each of you that if you ever want to chat about this over coffee, or other arbitrary beverage…my email and phone number are in your bulletins and I would LOVE to chat 1:1 about this and hear what you have to say!

But…The work for us today, I believe, is to talk about the role of vocation. Vocation as Christians, as Disciples, as Followers of Jesus.

This weekend, as the vestry met and talked and prayed and ate…we did holy work together. Work that will carry us through this year, which has been built upon from the previous years, which is a continuation and expansion of the legacy that we have all inherited.

We shared experiences of when we were a part of group or team and felt like our contribution mattered… A time when our voice was important… a time when we contributed something.

We also shared about times when we were a part of something and felt very much excluded from participating.

We talked about what it means to be a Vestry, where even the word “Vestry” comes from, and how we can create an environment where everyone is heard, everyone feels safe to share, and where mutual respect for one another is honored.

We also found out what it would take to make an ideal vestry happen and what would get in the way of that from happening.

But that was just part of what we did!

We also processed what our particular and individual senses of vocation are and what the vocation of this parish seems to be.

We talked about the committed relationships we find ourselves in as individuals and as a parish and how they shape and, in some ways, dictate, how we function.

For example: Our physical location is one that is sandwiched between a highway and golf course, a dead church up the hill that has been turned into a local business and the cloud of witnesses buried behind the altar in the memorial garden, Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan both nearby and the four counties from which our people come here to worship and pray and learn and grow and be.

We talked about the two types of churches that co-exist here and often butt up against with unspoken norms: the founding church which operated on a shoestring budget and fund-raised for the Rector’s salary, to the present day one with a sustainable endowment that exists to ensure this place will be here for future generations!

We talked about the challenges and blessings of both realities and then began to dream about what we could, as a parish, work on and BE better at; with one another and in the world.

Our congregation is a beautiful conglomeration of mixed political leanings and socio-economic statuses, educational levels, and past-time pursuits. We have hunters and knitters and bakers and bankers, we have anglers and teachers and entrepreneurs, and artists. We have visitors and 2nd home guests, exchange students, and multi-generational members.

This legacy of place and ritual and shared experience is what shapes the type of follower of Jesus and what gives us the courage to be those disciples in our circles of influence. The prayers we pray, the songs we sing, the bread we break and the wine we drink are all offerings of service, of sacrifice, of thanksgiving.

Our parish is peculiar and wonderful and ordinary and filled with humanity and divinity just like any other church on the planet. But what makes us unique is also what makes us challenging.

The call to discipleship, turns out, isn’t for everyone, is it?
The vocation of discipleship involves intentionality and attentiveness. It involves humility and sacrifice and gratitude. Even in the face of difficulty.

It involves taking our turn on the councils of the church, offering our gifts and talents as contributions to the life of the church as well as in the world, introspection about how we live and move and have our being, and…

It involves this…

It involves us coming to this table, God’s table, no matter how many questions we have or how old or young we are, how many times we come to church or how many times we don’t.

Eucharist, my friends, is the one voluntary act of thanksgiving that unites us from all the various occupations, political leanings, and denominational upbringings.

It collects all of our messy offerings of self and money and time and transforms it into the body of Christ, called out of our comfort to be agents of reconciliation and forgiveness in a world that groans for belonging in a place. We are that body called to carry on the work of healing.

Eucharist is what unites us to Christ and one another and to the throngs of saints who’ve gone before.

Jesus, my friends, is still calling from the shores of our lives, “Follow Me.”