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Focus Readings:    Jonah 3:1-5, 10 – Jonah gets a second chance to go to Ninevah.

                                  Mark 1:14-20 – Call of fishermen to become “fishers of men.”

Sermon:         A tongue-in-cheek version of an old gospel song:          

“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, Dear Lord;

Real service is what I desire.

I'll do what you want me to do, dear Lord;

But don't make me sing in the choir!

I'll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;

I long for your will to come true.

But don't make me speak from the pulpit, dear Lord, . . .

I'd rather just stay in my pew.

I'll do what you want me to do, dear Lord;

I yearn for your Kingdom to thrive.

I'll give you my loonies and toonies, dear Lord,

But please, God, don't ask me to tithe!

I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord;

I'll say what you want me to say,

I'm busy just now with my own life, dear Lord, . . .

I'll help you, . . . but some other day."

Jonah didn’t want to go where God wanted him to go, so he set out in the opposite direction. Why? Because the people of Ninevah were the traditional enemies of the Israelites & Jonah knew that to go and prophesy to them was the same as warning them that God was angry with them. And Jonah, a patriotic Israelite, did not want the enemy to be warned.

            Sometimes, the path that God seems to be choosing for us feels like exactly the opposite direction to where we want to go! It’s not always easy to answer God’s call!

            And yet in Mark’s story we hear how surprisingly easy it was for 4 of the disciples who “left everything” to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow him! Was that really how it was? Were they too young and brash to understand the risks? Did they have such dead-end jobs that there was nothing to lose by trying a different path? Were they so financially secure that they could leave their business in the hands of their employees and trust that their interests would be well guarded while they went off on an adventure? What must it have felt like for the fathers of Simon & Andrew, and James & John? Did they feel abandoned by their sons at a time in life when they might have been hoping to take things a bit easier because the boys would soon take over the business? Would these 4 young men have been so quick to go off after Jesus if they had known where following Jesus would lead them?

(Tradition tells us that only John died of old age; the other 3 were tortured and executed as criminal leaders of the subversive Jesus Movement.)

“Follow me??” Most of us, like Jonah, would say, “You’ve got to be kidding!” And then we’d head as fast as we could in the opposite direction!

            A few years back I watched a movie called Life or Something Like It. It was the story of a young career woman named Carrie with a drive to succeed at all costs. One day she encountered "Prophet Jake," a strange street character who seemed to have the ability to see into the future. Prophet Jake told her that she had one week left to live. Suddenly her whole, carefully-crafted life plan unraveled. If she only had one week left to live, did any of the things she was working so hard to achieve any longer have any meaning? One of her friends suggested that maybe Prophet Jake was only seeing what would happen if she continued on her present path, and maybe she could change the future if she were to suddenly veer off her present path and chart an entirely new course for her life.

            Carrie's response was painful and very real: "But I've worked so hard to get this one. How can I just toss it all away and start over?"

            Can you relate to that dilemma? I certainly can! A year ago Mary and I agreed that it was time for me to give my notice to retire at the end of June from my role as Supervising Minister and Minister of Pastoral Care here at Wesley. We wanted the freedom of no commitments or responsibilities, to be able to visit family, take an occasional trip, to spontaneously head off on an adventure, or just to chill out on the back deck. WE had big ideas about what we might do with our “Freedom 75!”

            Instead, we find our days and weeks consumed by chemotherapy appointments, medications, and the roller coaster of emotions that accompany the uncertain future that we face. We didn’t choose this! This was not our idea of retirement bliss! And it’s hard to see how this could be a path that God (any god, much less the God of love we know and trust!) would choose for us. But here we are, “walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death” and trying to “fear no evil” and to remind our selves of the divine “rod and staff that comforts us.”

            It’s easy for us to understand how Jesus would cry out in the last stages of his life: ”Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?)” But it’s also important to remind ourselves that what seems like a cry of doubt and despair from Jesus is really the first line of Psalm 22 which ends with the great assurance: “For God does not despise nor abhor the plight of the poor; and God does not turn away from human suffering. But when we cry out, God hears!” (vs.25)

            So what does it mean to say we are ”called by God”? Not, I think, that God chooses our fate, consigning some of us to good paths and others to tragic ones. I do NOT believe that there’s a Cosmic puppet master who controls our every move and sets us up for tragedy or fortune, depending upon God’s current mood.

            But I DO believe that God will be with us whether the path be easy or hard, and that our “call” is to stay in touch with that cosmic force field of love and let it strengthen us in our journey and shine through us so that, whether it be the best of times or the worst of times, the love and light of the divine shines through us to all we meet.  

            As our Statement of Faith declares:

               “We are called:

                        to be the Church (i.e. as supportive community)                                   

                        to celebrate God’s presence (celebrate!)                                    

                        to live with respect in Creation (It’s ALL holy!)                         

                        to love and serve others (BE the divine love!)

                        to seek justice & resist evil (work for God’s Kingdom)                         

                        to proclaim Jesus (measure our call by life of Jesus)

We live, and breathe, and walk our path through life within the context and love of God.

“We are not alone; God is with us.”

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Wesley is situated in the historic civic square in downtown Galt, adjacent to the Cambridge Farmer’s Market, the historic City Hall, and the new City Administration building.
Wesley is part of the United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in our country. The United Church of Canada prides itself on welcoming everyone the way Jesus did, regardless of age, race, class, gender, orientation, or physical ability.

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Wesley United Church

6 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, ON
N1R 3R6

Office Hours
Tuesday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

Phone

519-621-6060

Sunday Services

Beginning at 10:30am

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