On Sunday, January 21st our congregational acolyte, Matt Pace delivered a powerful message in worship. To listen to his sermon click on the audio player below:
To read his sermon click on “Continue reading” below.
Sermon based on Mark 1:14-20
Last week, Dave spoke to us about the calling of young Samuel. We heard about and read about the calling from God. Today we read in the Gospel lesson the calling, by Christ, to the disciples. More specifically, today we will talk about our calling by Christ. The question for us is this,” Will we answer His call?”, or will we say we do not recognize that number and decline the call?
I stand here today at the young age of 44 years and, yet I already can say how much I have seen the world change. I am exactly half of the age of my grandfather and I can only imagine how much it has changed for him. I’d like to begin today, by talking for a moment, about the amount of change that has taken place in the world of telecommunications. Now I know that may be a sore subject for Pastor Dave and Avis with the difficulties they have experienced as of late, but one that has without doubt, in my lifetime, gone through significant change.
One of my earliest childhood memories is with the old telephone. I remember being little, maybe four or five years old this one time when we were on vacation. If I remember correctly we were in Gatlinburg , Tennessee. The question arose, either my Mom or Dad asked what time it was. Without hesitation I quickly picked up the phone and made a call. My parents were like,” What is he doing?” Quickly they heard the following, “Thank you for calling Cloverdale Ford, the time of day is (such and such) and as I was listening for the weather report, I was being yelled at to hang up the phone. Little did I know, I was making a long-distance call from a hotel room which apparently was costly. But hey, I knew who to call if you wanted to know the time.
I remember, at that time, everybody had basically two types of phones back then. You either had a push button phone or an old rotary phone but almost everybody had a phone. As I grew to about 10 yrs. old, we advanced to the cordless phones. With the new cordless-phone you were enabled to walk around while using the phone without an attached cord. No more tangling of the cords. No more getting yelled at about twisting up the cords, no, now you would get yelled at for forgetting to put the phone back on the charger. Since the technology was still advancing, this form of communication was changing quickly. It didn’t take very long at all before we had phones that you could literally walk outside and remain on the phone without dropping a call. As I said before almost everybody had one of these and a lot of us still do. If you were unfortunate enough to not have a telephone, you could easily find a payphone on almost every corner or storefront in America.
Progress a little further and we began a telephone revolution with amenities like three-way calling, call waiting, *69, and even a call block. We had answering machines that would record messages should you miss a call. Boy we had it good compared to the olden days, and yet it wasn’t enough. Just as fast as all these changes were taking place the development of cell phones had begun. The next thing you know we have a “bag phone” that you plug into your car. So long as you were within a specified zone, you could make calls from your car.
Shortly after I was married we were blessed with the invention of pagers. People could page you with a number to return their call. Next technology would come from Nextel, instantaneous, push button abilities to call someone without the phone even ringing. This was almost immediately replaced by the cellular phone. The cell phone itself was changing quickly. There was the flip phone, the razor, the slide phone, the blackberry, to what we now call a smartphone that has all the afore mentioned amenities and internet all in one. Phewwww!!!!
All that has changed in my young 44 years, can you even begin to imagine the changes that have taken place in the way Jesus calls us? We are now at nearly 2,000 years since the calling of those first disciples. We see in todays scripture readings that Jesus calls his disciples by simply stating, “Follow me”. He tells them that He will make them fishers of men. It says in the scriptures that they dropped their nets and did indeed, immediately, follow Him. Does Jesus, still call us today, in the same simplistic way? Is it possible that we just don’t recognize Him when He calls? Is it possible that we have a missed call?
I had a good friend once named Mike. Mike and I were about as good of friends as friends can be. I knew the day I met him that we would be friends. Mike was 20 years older than I was, but he and I were like brothers from another mother, as they say.
I met Mike one day as I was working what is known as a split shift. A split shift is when you work for a few hours and then are off for 2-3 hrs. and then return to complete the shift. Another friend of mine, Carmello was also working the split shift that day. We didn’t want to go all the way home just to come right back so he suggested we drop by Mike’s to hang out.
Mike lived on Reynolda Rd across from Leinbach Machinery and that was only a mile or so from were we worked. We pulled up unannounced as this was before cell phones and Mike didn’t have a home phone. He didn’t seem to mind if we,” hung out” so we got out of the car and started to go inside when out of no where this little toddler nearly runs me over with her tricycle. I mean this little girl was making a b-line right for me and I just did get out of the way. I did a double take of this child and said,” Man that little girl looks just like my daughter.” Mike just laughed and said, “Well that’s because that is your daughter.” Wait a second, “What?” Turned out my wife got called into work and since I was working she had arranged for Mike’s wife to watch Ashlee for a couple hours and I had NO IDEA!! I had no idea Mike was Jackie’s husband. Small world sometimes huh?
That was the story on how Mike and I met but soon we would be in that same “babysitting” boat many times. Either Ashlee was staying at his house or Leah was staying at our house. The girls became best of friends and so no doubt Mike and I were together a lot. He and I had a lot in common. Mike was a painter that co-owned his own painting company. Mike played guitar. Mike loved to go fishing. Mike also was a really, good, grower of plants, specifically bonsai. He is the one responsible for my love of bonsai trees and he taught me a lot.
Many nights Mike and I would hang out by the fire and he would play his guitar and we had some really, long, deep conversations about life, God and family. He was extremely passionate about the few things in life he had, and he taught me more than he will ever know about the little things and their importance to who we are as humans. As the years would pass, our friendship grew to the point of brotherhood.
Mike faced many demons in life and some of them never let go. Mike carried a lot of pain with him. He not only battled addiction but also other things that he never could get passed. He shared with me one night some of the things he had to go through in Vietnam. It is no wonder that he carried so much pain inside. You never really know someone until you take the time to listen and be their friend.
As the years would pass Mike’s hardships would follow. He had faced several counts of DUI and eventually lost his driving privileges. This didn’t even begin to slow him down. I took him to court one day and when his case was called the judge said to him,” Now Mike I know that you know that you’re not supposed to drive. Why do you continue to come here?” Mike without missing a beat said to him,” I have to go to work to provide for my family, I would be more than happy to pay your fines and go to whatever program you send me too if it means I can get my license back. If you don’t than I’ll continue to drive.” The judge didn’t much care for that and denied his possibility to ever drive.
Slowly but surely Mike’s life began to fall apart. Soon his wife would leave him and start the divorce process. He was only able to see his daughter on occasions and this broke his heart. This broke him. He continued to drive and try to carry on, but the pain was too much to bear. One night while sitting around the fire talking through this stuff when he said to me,” Matt you are my friend. You are like nobody else. You are the only real Christian I know.” I said,” What does that mean? I am just a person.” He said, “That may be true, but you are different. I have known many people to call themselves “Christians” but they have no idea who Christ is. You truly carry Christ with you.” I was dumbfounded then and still am about what he meant. All I knew was my friend needed an ear to hear him so that’s what I did.
Not long after that Mike was driving home one day and came up on a license check. He obviously didn’t have one and it showed on his record. The officer impounded his truck and just like that Mike couldn’t drive anymore. Eventually his partner in the painting business would drop him and his whole world was crumbling.
He called me one Saturday afternoon, on my cell-phone, actually. I knew by the tone in his voice that things had gotten bad. He said,” I can’t live like this anymore. I would rather end it all and ease everybody’s pain of my existence.” I said to him,” Mike please don’t talk like that. I am in the middle of staining my deck, as soon as I finish I’ll come get you and I”ll take you wherever you need to go and we can talk. I shouldn’t be no more than two hours.” He said to me,” I don’t need anything from anywhere. I just rode my bike into town and bought me a beer with the last two dollars I had. I just need a friend”. I promised him I would come just as soon as I could.
Knowing he needed me, I hurried up the best I could. As soon as I finished staining my deck, I thought well I’ll go ahead and clean these brushes before I go. Brushes aren’t cheap and if I leave them to sit they will be useless. Just as soon as I did complete that, I headed out. I told Jenny about his phone call and that I had to go. I took off with haste. I was terrified as to what I was going say. I had no idea what to say. How can I make him see that even though he is struggling that God loves him and I loved him and his daughter loved him and we can get through this.
Mike lived about 5 miles from me at that time, on Spainhour Mill Rd. I was driving as fast as I could, “Please don’t be any cops,” I said to myself. I was literally shaking with fear as I sped around the final curve approaching his house. “Please God give me the words to say,” I begged and as I rounded the curve towards his house, I had to almost slam on the brakes because there was a sheriff standing in the middle of the road. My heart then racing was stopped suddenly as I notice the sheriff not only was in the road, he was at Mikes house, placing the yellow tape around his yard. I was too late. Mike had already taken his own life.
Now I want you to know that I do not in anyway blame myself for his death. There is no way to know if I could have stopped it or if I had gotten there sooner may have been the one to find him. I did however, clearly miss a call. I most certainly was asked by Christ to be there for my friend and I let him down. Just like the scripture reading today, Jesus asked me to drop my brush and follow Him. I chose to decline the call because I was too busy. Not only did I fail my friend, I failed my Savior.
At Mike’s funeral, I promised him and my Lord that I would never do that again. If I could only be the person Mike already thought I was. I made a vow that day to do just that. It is most likely that I will probably never receive a call quite like that again, but it is my prayer that if giving another chance that I will not react the same way.
If you do some studying you will see that today’s scripture isn’t the only time Jesus called Simon Peter, James and John. In the 5th chapter of Luke and again in John chapter 1 we can see two other times they were called. Sometimes Jesus’s message and calling doesn’t sink in right away. It is not as if Jesus abandons us if we don’t answer his call. Sometimes, we have to grow into the calling of Christ. Sometimes, we fail. What is important is that we continue to follow Him. What is important is that we answer His call and trust that He will be there for us.
You can see from the story I shared that 2,000 years later Christ indeed still calls us the same way. Jesus continues to call us right where we are. Jesus still asks us to abandon our boats. Jesus still quietly summons us and say’s “Follow Me” The question is, “Will you answer His call?”
January 21, 2018