By Matt Marino
If you wanted to make me squirm as a young man all you needed to do was ask me, “What do you want to do with your life?” I changed answers on the daily: a writer, a biology teacher, an architect, a range manager. (You want to watch Jewish and Italian kids laugh, tell them you want to ride around on a horse fixing spreader dams in the woods.) And it wasn’t for lack of trying. In those days kids still got jobs. By the time I hit college I had been a paper boy, done phone sales, sold retail clothes, worked construction, delivered Domino’s Pizzas, worked the line at Taco Bell, and was left-hand window guy at a car wash. They all bored me. But the problem wasn’t the jobs. The problem was me.
I was even bored in the world’s greatest high school job of all time: Locker room ball boy for the Phoenix Suns. Get this, I was paid to sit courtside, throw towels to players, get them Gatorade, and tape their ankles in the locker room.
But everything was boring. I had no sense of vocation — “vocation” that comes from the Latin word “vocare” “to call.” I needed a calling.
Maybe you have been in that spot. Maybe you are there now … pondering your purpose … Considering your calling. Do you lack passion for what you put your hands to?
Take a look with me in your Bibles, where we see what happens when Jesus shows up and starts calling.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God (This is Luke’s unique way of referring to either Jesus’ preaching or to the apostles preaching about Jesus. When Jesus talks, it is God talking).
Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret (One of the many ways that we know that Luke was writing to a Greek audience is that he uses the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Kinneret, (which means Harp) instead of calling it the Sea Galilee, and (Jesus) saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.(Jesus’ preaching was so amazing that the crowd is pressing in on him so much that he) Gets into one of the boats, Simon’s.
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (This isn’t the standard word for a fish net, it is the word for the large casting nets they would use at night. They were white and they had just been cleaned. This is a super-weird request. The fish can see the white net during the day. It was a nighttime net, and the fishing was bad. They would have to reclean the nets. Jesus is a preacher, not a fisherman, but) v6 when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat. And they filled both the boats, the boats began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees (in the fish) saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”(This is what happens when someone encounters God. The Old Testament reading for today is Isaiah 6, when Isaiah is in the throne room of God. Isaiah sees God and says, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips” and the angel touches his lips with the coal and purifies him. Then God says, “Whom shall I send, who will go for us?” Isaiah says, “Here am I, send me.” God’s call demands a response.)
… and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were Simon’s partners, James and John. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
God’s call is a fascinating thing. Jesus doesn’t call Peter and then send him to a three-year seminary program. God uses who Peter is, where Peter is.
God’s call (Phone call 1: “You’re kidding.” Scam likely. Turn off ringer.)
God’s usually calls us who we are, where we are. Jesus’ call is most often our vocation repurposed: You were a fisherman; now fish for men. You were a mechanic; repair people. You were a finance guy; bring ROI in human capital. You were an oil entrepreneur; discover what is beneath the surface of human hearts. My friend David Lasater is a forensic accountant; he figures out what your company is really worth. As a Christian, he finds the hidden value in others.
You and I are called. It is a missionary call. But most of us aren’t used against type, as Paul was. We are tasked with introducing others to the goodness of God in Jesus, cleverly disguised as a fisherman, or finance guys or forensic accountants.
(Call 2: I don’t know how that’s possible. I’m putting this in airplane mode)
Most of us are undercover, God’s secret agents for grace. Grace given through the cross and resurrection: Grace, given according to the Scriptures. But even there it is hidden. There is no single Old Testament passage that says the messiah will suffer, die, and in three days be raised. It is all over the Old Testament, though, good news hidden in plain sight.
God uses who we are, where we are hidden in plain sight. But God loves us far too much to leave us as we are.
God wants to use your vocation and location, who you are and where you are, but God never leaves us as he finds us. He takes us and then the Holy Spirit begins to work in us to change us into Jesus’ image, to make us all he has destined us to be. As we embark on that journey, God uses us to invite others to join and come along. Your gifts, competencies, and relationships are not something to be dropped for the kingdom. They are God’s in to your relational circles. They are usually part of your high and holy calling.
You are a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ, cleverly disguised as a fisherman, firefighter, finance guy, freelance artist, or forensic accountant. God uses who you are, where you are. The question is, Will you respond to Jesus’ call? Are you willing to leave your boats? Are you willing to say, “Here am I. Send me”?
Now that’s just impossible. Hello? Oh, we were just talking about you. Yes, I told them about how you called Peter. And I told them how you want to use them, who we are, where we are. Uhm, no I didn’t tell them you are not a cell subscriber so don’t expect a phone call, that we actually have to do the hard work of listening to you through our brothers and sisters in the church, through our lives, and, mostly through your unchanging Word, the Scriptures. Well, Amen to that.
And Amen to you guys too. I’m going take this one.
The Rev. Matt Marino is rector of Trinity Parish, St. Augustine, Florida.