Summary: The journey of following Jesus, who calls us...
Responding to the Call
Epiphany 3 – January 22
† In the Name of Jesus †
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Call of Bishop Cowther
That day, as the slaves were packed into the Portuguese slave ship, they probably did not know that they would be free within a few hours. Even as they were freed by the captain of the British frigate, I don’t think anyone knew the incredible long range results. One of the slaves freed that day, would have an incredible journey in that freedom. He would go to school in Sierra Leone, where a lady would teach him to read and to write, despite his being outside the normal age for the school. He did well, very well, and eventually began to teach in school there. He would, in that school, become a believer. He then moved on from being a teacher to assist a pastor, and later become a pastor himself. Not just any pastor – but a missionary called to bring the gospel back to His people.
This young man, enslaved at 21, illiterate at the age of 22, had a future of serving God. Despite those things that held him back in his early life, he would earn a Doctor of Divinity from Oxford University in England. Prior to that, he had preached Christ throughout West Africa and baptize thousands. Such results, that the Queen of England would play a major role in his becoming the first African Bishop in the Church of England.
At Samuel Cowther’s installation as a bishop in the ancient cathedral at Canterbury, sat the captain who freed him, and the teacher who taught him to read were able to be present, to witness the incredible thing that God does, through those He called. How they must have worshipped that day, as they were able to see God’s handiwork so present in their lives.
In our gospel today, we see 4 men, respond to a call from a radical young itinerant prophet, who people claimed was the Messiah. They were, of course, correct. The same man that Cowther, 1800 years later, would be called to serve. 150 years later, we too proclaim that same Messiah, and trust in His work, for us. The four men would journey as well; a journey that was as fascinating as Cowthers, as these men would travel the world, speaking of Christ, telling people about the love of Jesus, and His death on the cross for them – the same message that Bishop Cowther declared.
You and I probably will never preach to thousands, we may not ever see thousands standing in line to be baptized. Yet, in this reading about the call of Peter and Andrew, James and John, we see the incredible blessing that comes, as we realize the gospel of Jesus Christ, and its call on our lives. A call to each of us, to be part of His Kingdom, a call to follow Christ, to be, as scripture describes, to be made to become….
1. The Kingdom Calls
a. It approaches
Imagine being in the hold of a slave ship, with barely enough room to sit against the bulkhead wall if your lucky. If not, you sat back to back with another slave, with barely room to stretch out your legs. If the captain was in a good mood that day, loaves of bread and cups of water would be passed down the seemingly endless rows, barely enough that you could get a few bites, and maybe a sip or two. Back then, a ship where 50% of the “cargo” made it to their destination was considered a good trip. Just a few hours into the sailing trip, you hear the crew act worried, the small cannons creek across the deck above you, as you hear swords and guns are readied. Then a man appears, and orders your chains released, food and water to be broken out in abundance, and announces to you, that you are free, liberated by the King of England.
Can you imagine the feeling, the relief, the peace that you would know?
The illustration suits us well today, for though Peter and his fellow fisherman were not slaves to their fathers, they were slaves to sin. Just as we were. Two months before, in the Jordan river valley, they had heard John the Baptist proclaim that this Jesus was the Son of God, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.
Undoubtedly, the fisherman had heard that John is now imprisoned in Herod’s jail, and that the message that he had preached about the kingdom of God being near, is replaced by Jesus message, that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Or as another translation phrases it, it has approached. Like the stately British frigate coming upon the slave ship, the Kingdom of God has come to the world, to free those enslaved by sin, the sin that so easily ensnared us! WE are free, freed not by the King of England, but by the King of Kings.