Calling of Peter, Jame and John
Growing up in a bilingual country we learned French from the age of 5. Of course, it’s easier to learn a language when you start earlier. In year 5, when I was about 9, we had to do a public speaking project, where we wrote a 5 minute speech and delivered it in French. 5 or so students from each form were then selected to participate in a whole school competition. I was chosen and I remember being absolutely petrified. I was sure the teacher was making a mistake, even thinking of it now I can feel the sleeves of the jacket I was wearing on my arms and I can feel the butterflies in my stomach. Of course, I had no choice. We were alowed to have the speech written out on speech cards and I went over it again and again. For all the memories of the nerves, I have no memory of actually doing the speech. Even the memory of standing in the middle of the hall to give the speech to assembled parents feels muddled with the memory of the imagined horror of them all laughing at me – which I’m sure they can’t have done.
We all have those moments when we feel wholly unprepared, or unworthy, for the thing we are about to do. Those moments when we start doing something new in our life or our job – answering the phone for the first time in a new role, or the first time we must talk to a potential customer about what they are looking for. Perhaps it’s that first time having to speak in front of others, standing up to read during a service for the first time. I think for lots of people there is a sense that somehow they aren’t worthy to come through these doors. That this place is only for real Christians, because we all know real Christians never get angry, they never make any mistakes, they have an undoubting faith in God, never questioning why people suffer, they are saintly, praying night and day without end.
I don’t really belong in there, somebody might remember the things I’ve done and point out my mistakes to somebody else – what happens if the priest has to ask me to leave because I stand at the wrong time or don’t say the right words.
We had two examples in our readings this morning of those who didn’t feel like they were worthy. First Isaiah, a prophet of great importance, but nonetheless aware of the failings of the people to whom he prophesied, not to mention his own failures. But he is given this vision of the power and majesty of God. He is panicked – how can you show me this when I am a sinful man who lives in a sinful community. But his sins are absolved and when God asks who can we send with this message he puts his hand up and says: ‘here I am’.
Then in the Gospel we have Jesus commandeering a boat to preach from. The boat belongs to Simon, who we know better as Peter. Once he’s finished teaching Jesus gets hungry, or maybe he realises those listening to him are hungry, and he orders Simon Peter to go further out to fish. Of course Simon objects because he’s been fishing all night with no luck, but agrees to do whatever Jesus tells him. When the nets are drawn up they are filled with a superabundance, so many fish that one gets the feeling if Jesus wasn’t there the nets actually would have broken. And Simon falls on his knees telling Jesus to go away from him because he, like Isaiah, like each of us was a sinful man. Seeing his faithfulness, and his doubt, Jesus tells Simon Peter that he will follow him and that he will be catching people – the infamous fisher of men. This seems like an absurd response. Why would this be the person Jesus asks to follow him? And yet, of course this is this person. Somebody who can see who he is. Somebody who has the humility to know that they aren’t good enough. But then who is good enough.
I remember struggling with this very question when I put myself forward for training to become a priest. The process is, as you might imagine, complex. There were various meetings with an advisor for which I had to write short reflections. There were interviews and I had to make presentations. And in all that I remember feeling completely inadequate. Yes, inadequate to get through the process, but also inadequate to fill the roll. And a deep concern I’d find I was heretical. I’d never studied theology,
I had a sense of what I believed, but it wasn’t thought through, it was experience. What would happen if I got to training and started going to lectures and realised I had the completely wrong end of the stick, what would I do then –
maybe I wasn’t really Christian, would my faith and my doubts survive? Of course I learned new things, and my views evolved, but the God I knew, the Jesus I had experienced in prayers and in the Eucharist was the same.
We are each called, like Simon and James and John. To follow Christ, to a Christian vocation, for some it is a full time roll, for some it is a calling to teach people, or to care for them, to offer healing, for some it is a calling to listen, or to counsel, for some it is to maintain a voice for justice and the forgotten in their workplace. For some it is to build community and infrastructure. Sometimes it is a calling to stop doing what we know, so that we can start doing something new, and possibly terrifying. We each feel inadequate, like we are a fraud being called forward. But we are each called to love God in these ways because of who we are and because God loves us. Because in him we can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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