top of page

Worship Service Message

January 28, 2024
4th Sunday after Epiphany

Call and Answering

1st Samuel 3:1-10 & Mark 1:14-20

Rev. Dr. Jaegil Lee

Both last week’s and this week’s readings are concerned about the call. All three scriptures—1st Samuel 3:1-10, John 1:43-51, and Mark 1:14-20—are related to the call.

The Call is one of the most important themes in the Bible. Since the time of Abraham, God has constantly called people to God’s salvific mission. Religious and political leaders, prophets, and disciples were called to carry out given missional tasks. We Christians believe God is still calling us and guiding us to fulfill God’s mission in the world.

I decided to revisit the first reading from 1 Samuel, which was last week’s reading, for today. Upon reflecting on today’s Gospel lesson, I realize that Samuel’s calling story is both similar to and different from the disciples’ calling story. Also, Samuel’s story presents interesting aspects of the call that are not present in the Gospel reading. You will see what I mean by that soon.

How have you ended up here? How did you become part of St. Paul’s church community? Each of you may have a different answer.

However, the Greek word for “church,” that is, “ecclesia,” teaches us that we are all here with the same “how.” As “ecclesia” means “called out,” we are here and now because each of us has been “called out.” No matter how you found or were led to St. Paul’s church, you have been “called out” to the people of God by Christ.

You may feel like you have not been called out at all. You may say, “I have never heard God’s voice or Christ’s voice.” Is that how you feel? That is completely okay. 

Related to our being called, the previous week’s and today’s readings help us understand that we are called out in different ways. Last Sunday, we explored Nathaniel’s call story in the Gospel of John. He was not directly called by God or Jesus. Instead, he was invited by Philip to “come and see” what Jesus was doing. So, we can say that he was called out through an invitation from a friend.

What about the disciples who were called out in today’s Gospel lesson? They were directly called by Jesus. There was no confusion, question, or hesitation. Everything seemed clear for both parties—the caller and the receiver.

When it comes to Samuel’s call, there are interesting elements. As a young boy, he heard a direct voice from God but he was unable to identify the true source of the voice. He needed some help in realizing who was calling him. Eventually, with Eli’s help, he recognized and answered God’s call.

What is your story of being called, not only to come to St. Paul’s church, but more importantly, to become a disciple of Christ? Did you hear a direct divine call like the disciples? Were you rather led by a friend, family member, neighbor, or even stranger like Nathaniel? Or, were you more like Samuel who heard a direct voice of God but needed some help in recognizing its true source and what to do with that voice? It is also possible that your call story includes all of these aspects at different times in your life.  

Regardless of how you were called, what is important is that you have been “called out” by Christ. We are all here because we are “called out.”

Regarding the purpose of God’s call, we can find an interesting difference between Samuel’s call and the disciples’ call. Although it is not included in today’s reading, Samuel was called to be a religious and political leader. He was the last person in the history of Israel who was both a prophet and a political representative of Israel.

However, when Saul and David became kings, Samuel’s primary role shifted towards being a religious leader, commonly known as a prophet. He was to deliver God’s messages to Saul and David. In other words, his given task was to mediate between kings and God by delivering God’s message to them.

This role of Samuel was carried on by subsequent prophets. Called by God, they boldly confronted the kings’ injustices and evil deeds, challenged corrupt socioeconomic systems, and warned them of God’s imminent judgment on their regime. They did that to redirect Israel’s kings to the path of God.

Jesus was also a prophet. However, we recognize a significant change in the main purpose of Jesus’ calling the disciples. Although it is clear that Jesus’ message was political and upset so many political authorities who eventually persecuted him, his primary focus was not to mediate between them and God. As today’s Gospel lesson shows, rather he called out common folk like Peter, Andrew, John, and James, to create a community.

Unlike other prophets, he didn’t carry out his God-given mission alone, but with his disciples whom he had called out. For him, building a God-centered and mission-focused community was essential to establish God’s Kingdom or Kin-dom on earth.

From my perspective, unlike his predecessor prophets, Jesus didn’t devote all his energy to changing the minds and behaviors of political leaders. This seems to be because he did not believe that God’s Kingdom would be established by political leaders or through a political system. Rather, his primary focus was on forming a new community centered on God’s will.

Let us pay close attention to the fact that right after Jesus proclaimed the nearness of God’s Kingdom, he recruited Andrew, Peter, James, and John. This is not a coincidence in the Gospel of Mark. Rather, this specific order—Jesus’ proclamation of the arrival of God’s Kingdom followed by his calling of the first four disciples—underscores that the formation of God’s Kingdom begins with the creation of a new community—a community of ordinary people called out by Christ.

For Jesus, it is a new community, the people called out, not a king’s regime or a governmental system, that is or brings God’s Kingdom on earth. In this sense, God’s Kingdom is fundamentally a relational and communal entity of diverse people from different walk of life, not a system.

You are the church. You are called out to this community. You are the people whom Christ has called out to create and build a new community as part of God’s Kingdom. What we are doing in this small corner of the world is not insignificant. We are continuing what Jesus started with his disciples, and the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom depends on what we do in and through this community known as St. Paul’s.

God has placed God’s hope of establishing God’s Kingdom in us. The fulfillment of God’s Kingdom depends on us, not our governments. In other words, this community and what we do within and through this community is God’s message to our neighbors.

Therefore, let the actions and life of our community echo Jesus’ initial proclamation: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” May our neighbors’ hearts and lives be changed by what we do as a God’s community, as well as by how we carry out our actions as God’s community.

bottom of page