Everyone has a call. Your call is a holy one, whether or not you are in church work. Although I have a divine call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ at this congregation in this community, I also have a call to be a husband and a father, not to mention being a son and a brother. By virtue of my baptism I am also called to be a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian.
That’s the one call you and I have in common. There are other calls we have, but they vary. I can’t do everything. You can’t do everything. We are interconnected people with various gifts and talents who work together to make a world. One difference between Christians and people of the world is that Christians believe their call is a gift from a gracious God. God has called you to His kingdom and to His glory through the gospel according to the purpose of grace. The end of your call as a Christian is to meet eternal life with joyful hope.
Yet our call as Christians is not easy. Even your call to your various stations in life is not easy. Consider Simon the fisherman. He had returned from his most recent fishing expedition empty handed. Simon and his companions were washing and caring for their fishing nets when Jesus suddenly climbs into his boat and asks him to put out a little from the land. Simon is tired. He’s cleaning his nets, perhaps wanting nothing more than some breakfast and a few hours of shuteye. Now this Nazarene wants to charter his boat in order to speak to the crowd pressing in on Him from every side.
Simon does as Jesus requests. He’s heard Jesus speak before, but the call to be one of His disciples had not yet come. Nevertheless, Simon puts the boat back into the water and listens to Jesus preach. If he can’t catch fish today, he certainly can catch the preached Word and feed his soul. Man does not live by fish or bread alone. Everything, even his livelihood, is located in God’s blessings.
It may not seem a blessing to you to be burdened with your daily vocations. Raising children isn’t easy. Marriage is hard work. Being single has its challenges, too, especially if you’ve lost your spouse. You work at what you do. The more you work at it, the more you acquire the skill and knowledge to live out your callings. The same can be said for your heavenly calling. Simply being baptized and then cutting yourself off from God’s Word and the fellowship of the saints around the pulpit and the altar is starving yourself from your Lord and Master. The highest calling you have is “Christian”. As you learn your trade in the world, so you also keep close to Christ in His Word and Sacraments. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So many believe it, yet so few take it home and use it.
Simon is given an opportunity to take it home and use it when Jesus tells him, Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. Everything is working against our Savior’s words. Simon caught nothing the night before. Now it is daytime and no one fishes during the day. Simon worked the shoreline and caught nothing. Now Jesus says put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. There is hesitation in Simon’s response, but something else is there, too. Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.
At your word. It is for this very reason God often allows us to work in vain. He puts to shame our best attempts so that we do everything at His word. On the wall in my study I have these words from Martin Luther within my eyesight at all times. I commend his words to you today: “If you are a pastor engaged in preaching and teaching your people, and the response hasn’t been all that great, don’t be dismayed and diverted. Say to yourself: God has ordered me to proclaim His Word, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. If it doesn’t always prosper, God knows why; if my work does thrive, it pleases both Him and me.”
Granted we are not all pastors. But you can put any vocation in there and the meaning remains the same. God has put you where you are to do what you are given to do. You carry on doing what you do. God will provide the blessing in His time and in His way. At His Word you persevere. At His Word you are unrelenting. The Lord blesses what you are doing. He promises it, and He has never backed out of a promise.
So Simon casts the nets. The catch is so great that he must signal to James and John to help him bring the bursting nets into his boat. Immediately Simon falls to his knees saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. It’s only human to say and do what Simon says and does. No mortal man can provide like Jesus provides. Perhaps you have felt like doing the same thing when God blesses you in your vocations. All the hard work has finally paid off, yet unlike children of the world you know from Whom those blessings came. As Jesus once said to His disciples: when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”
Simon the unworthy servant of Jesus Christ no longer calls Him Master, but Lord. Now Simon sees the fount of every blessing. If only the world could see Him as Simon sees Him. If only you and I could see Him as Simon sees Him. Sin makes us proud and cocky in great blessings of earthly things. We start reading our own press clippings. While it is good to rejoice in how God has gifted you with particular talents, you also keep in mind the words of this humble fisherman later in his life: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” If anyone knew anything about humility, it was Simon Peter, the disciple most prone to catch open mouth-insert foot disease. Nevertheless, God used him in a mighty way to proclaim the Gospel.
God uses you in a mighty way to proclaim the Gospel. Granted you may not be able to sing like angels or preach like Saint Paul, as the hymn says. Sometimes it’s the little things, like saying “Jesus died for you” or “Jesus forgives you, and I forgive you, too”. This shows your neighbor that you, like Simon and his companions, have left everything behind to follow Christ.
That doesn’t necessarily mean to forsake everything and literally live as a beggar. It means you put the main thing first: Jesus Christ and His free, full righteousness that now clothes you. Drop everything to pray. Drop everything to read Holy Scripture. Drop everything for a while and rest in this pew to receive Jesus in Word and Sacraments. Jesus is here, ready to bless you. Jesus is in your home, your workplace, and wherever you go, ready to bless you. He has already done so by making you His precious child and given you gifts to love and serve Him and others. These are your callings. They are holy, for Jesus makes you holy in His saving death. Believe it for His sake.