Answering the Call

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Father Thomas and me at my ordination

This post is nearly a decade in the making.  Truth be told, it is probably better suited on January 24th, when I will celebrate the 10th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, but given the bookends of today, it seems appropriate to move things up a week.  As I noted in Monday’s post, today two Colleges of Presbyters will gather.  First, in Mobile, Alabama, the clergy of the Central Gulf Coast will gather at the altar of All Saints’ Church to give thanks to God for the life and ministry of the Rev. Cn. Maurice Branscomb. Then, this evening, priests from around the church will join with those of us in the Diocese of Kentucky to lay hands on the Rev. Becca Kello as she is ordained to the sacred order of the priesthood.  All of that, coupled with the Collect for Epiphany 3 and my 10th on the horizon, I guess I can’t help but be a little nostalgic today.

Today, I have in mind all of those bishops, priests, and deacons who have had an impact on my ministry.  I’m reminded of Bishops like Creighton, Duncan, Kendrick, White, and Brewer; Priests like Bill, Cindy, Albert, and Keith; and Deacons like Patrick and Kellie.  My prayers are especially drawn to those who have entered into the joy of their master: Bishop Mark, Father Thomas (pictured above), Deacon John, Father B, Norm, and Mark come immediately to mind, but there are others.  I continue to hold in prayer those who are discerning calls to ordained ministry: John, Billy, and Ken.  As I think back on a decade of ordained ministry, I can’t help but recall how intense an experience it is to follow that call; how the Tempter always seems to be around the next corner, how the process is infuriating and deeply powerful, and how, in the end, it all makes sense.  I often still hear the voices of my lay discernment committee at St. Thomas, internship committee at St. John’s, and my field ed committee at St. James’, and I give thanks, daily, for the opportunity to develop an understanding of what call really feels like deep in my bones.

It would be easy to get lost in the idea of call exclusively as it pertains to ordained ministry, but that would betray the meaning of the Collect, and the reality that the ministers of Christ’s Church are, first and foremost, the laity.  Sure, we talk about call most often when it comes to ordination, but that is our failure, not God’s.  The truth of the matter is that every follower of Jesus is called.  Called to proclaim the Good News. Called to share in the restoration of all relationships.  Called to vocation.  You see, call isn’t just about the servanthood of a deacon or being pastor, priest, and teacher or, for a few poor souls, being made one with the apostles, but it is about being a bearer of the Kingdom of God no matter where one lives and moves and has their being.  Call is about being a witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ as a doctor, lawyer, grocery store clerk, small business owner, student, stay at home parent, or retiree.  Call is about sharing the love of God within one’s unique sphere of influence.  Call is about allowing the light of Christ to shine through us, so that the God’s good dream for creation can be seen.  Call is about each of us taking our part in the making Jesus Christ known.  If you are feeling a call, be it to ordination or to a deeper lay ministry, talk to someone.  You local clergy, having some experience with call, would love to walk that road with you.  In the meantime, here is one more prayer for all of us who are called to the service of our Lord, lay and ordained, alike.

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in the vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

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The Call to Follow

Why preach?  I don’t mean this existentially, although there are some who would ask this question that way.  Why, in a world that is increasingly skeptical of “experts” do preachers think they have the right to stand before their congregations and tell them anything?  That’s not the question I want to ask.  As a preacher, you’d assume that I am fairly well convinced of the power of the homiletical craft.  Rather, as one who preaches, I have to regularly ask myself, why?  Why is this sermon worth hearing?  Why this text?  Why these words?  More often than not, the why question comes down to asking myself, “what is the goal of the sermon?”

For many these days, the goal of a sermon is to offer a practical lesson from Scripture that is applicable for our lives.  This is a good goal, by and large.  Sermons that get stuck in the past – historical lessons on what was happening in the context in which Jesus lived – can be interesting, but won’t get much traction over time.  It is helpful to bring the story forward and to help our people and ourselves understand what this particular bit of holy writ has to do with life in 21st century America.  The downside, of course, is that we tend to over emphasize ourselves in the text.  Eisegesis and vapid moralization aren’t all that far away when the goal of the sermon is to make the text offer some lesson for our congregation today.

These questions and concerns came to mind this morning as I read the short Gospel passage appointed for this week.  It is the familiar story of Jesus calling Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John from their family fishing boats to become “fishers of people.”  My initial reaction was to think about what was happening in the hearts and minds of the four newest Disciples that would allow them to drop everything and follow Jesus.  I wondered about the reactions of their families.  I worried for their livelihoods.  I pondered what it might take for each of us to respond immediately when Jesus says, “Follow me.”  While I think these are all worthwhile questions and would make for a decent sermon on the text, I found myself wanting something more.

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It can’t just be about me.  The goal of the sermon ought not just be about giving the congregation something they can hold on to or motivating them to change their lives in some way.  Rather than another sermon admonishing them to drop everything and follow Jesus (which isn’t really a thing for 21st century Christians), what if the sermon focused instead on the call to follow in and of itself?  What if, instead of focusing on the response, the sermon looked deeply into the one who does the calling?  Isn’t that what grace is all about?  Not about how I can get myself over the hump to follow Jesus, but how by God’s grace, Jesus brings me into the kingdom.

The text doesn’t give us much to work with, but I think there is something there.  The one who is preaching that the Kingdom of God has come near beckons.  The one who is called the Son of God calls us by name.  The one who is the Good News invites us to share in it.  There is more to dig into here, and time will tell if I can find a sermon that doesn’t devolve into “will you follow Jesus?” but for today, I’m adjusting the goal of my sermon; not to motivate us to follow, for that is God’s job, but rather, to focus on a deepening relationship with the one who calls.

Not just hearing, but listening

I have always loved the story of God calling Samuel.  It makes for great theater.  There is the subtle dig at the faithfulness of God’s chosen people in the note that “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.”  There is the mentor relationship of the old man, Eli, and the young prophet, Samuel.  There is the prophecy of the destruction of the house of Eli, with words that make the ears of all who where them tingle (such a great line).  What I find most appealing in the story, however, is the call itself.

Because of the strained relationship between God and Eli, Samuel hasn’t had much opportunity to experience the prophetic word.  In fact, the author tells us that he “did not yet know the Lord and the word of the Lord was not yet known to him.”  So, when Samuel, laying down in the Temple near the Ark of the Covenant, heard a voice calling him by name, he assumed it was Eli.  Three times this happened, until Eli, with his eyes dim both literally and spiritually, realized what was going on.  He sent him back, hopeful that Samuel might get a fourth chance to hear the voice of God.  Eli’s advice is as simple as it is profound, “Say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'”

There is, as we all know well, a distinct difference between hearing and listening.  This is true in interpersonal relationships, as well as in our relationship with God.  In teaching about prayer, it is often said that we need to move beyond talking at God so that we can hear God’s voice.  If we stop at simply hearing, we haven’t gone far enough.  Samuel heard, but did not understand.  It is only when we begin to listen, actively and carefully, that we can really begin to discern the will of God for our lives.

Listening isn’t easy.  It requires us to give time and full attention to the one who is speaking, and in a world full of distractions and schedules full of commitments, it can be hard to move beyond a cursory hearing and into deep listening.  I know this is true in my life, and I’m sure it is in yours as well.  I also know that when I take the time to really listen, I am blessed.  Even when the news is hard to hear, like it was for Samuel, it can be a blessing.  So today, amidst of the fog of another late-night football game, I’m reminded to slow down, to move beyond hearing, and to listen for God.

Called to Go, but where?

You can listen to this sermon on the Christ Church website, or read it below.


My former Bishop once shared with me that every call story has two parts: the call to leave and the call to where.  At the time, I didn’t really understand what he was talking about.  It was the fall of 2015, I had just finished a sabbatical, and the Pankey family was quite happy in Foley, Alabama, thank you very much.  Soon after those words, Keith and I had one of our quartly-ish planning days wherein we would leave the office behind, take our Bibles and our Prayer Books, and spend several hours listening for the Spirit.  As the day unfolded, we began to realize that God was calling us to try something new.  It was time for me to stretch my leadership wings a bit.  Just a few days earlier, I had heard that the Vicar of a small mission church up the road was going to give up driving an hour each way on Sunday morning as a gift to himself for his ninetieth birthday.  We prepared a plan to present to the bishop in which I would continue to serve Saint Paul’s three-quarter time and be named Vicar at Saint John’s for the other quarter.  Bishop Kendrick was excited about the possibility, but by the time he could check out the details, St. John’s had already invited another retired priest to fill their Sunday void.

As spring rolled around, Keith and I went back to the drawing board.  We were still praying for what God had in store for us next, and for the first time in nine years, there was nothing.  We decided to keep listening.  In mid-April, while attending a Gathering of Leaders conference, I received my answer.  It was time to go.  I had no idea where I would end up, but I knew that the time had come.  I also knew that I wanted to have complete control over the where question.  I began to scour the Office of Transition Ministry website for neat places to live.  The South Carolina coast sounded nice.  The Mississippi Gulf Coast wouldn’t be bad.  I might have even settled for the mountains of Colorado, when in June while at Sewanee for my last set of summer classes, fellow DMin student and friend, Paul Canady, the Rector of Christ Church, New Bern, where our own Cortney Dale serves as the Associate, sent me a Facebook message with a link to your parish profile that read, “I’m just going to put this right here for you… it’s got some good things going for it. Downside, of course, is that’s it’s not near the ocean.”  I clicked the link, read for a minute and decided that moving from the Gulf Coast to Bowling Green was not in my plans.  Less than 24 hours later, Elise Johnstone, Canon to the Ordinary across the border in Lexington approached me in the hall of the School of Theology and said, “It isn’t in my diocese, but there is a great church in Bowling Green, Kentucky that you should take a look at.  Solid budget, University town, and Amy speaks highly of the people.”

The Holy Spirit has her ways, and getting the point across that I am not in charge of either the when or the where was made abundantly clear to me during 2016.  I am not the first person to learn this lesson.  In fact, the call to go without having an answer to the where question has been a part of God’s plan for salvation since Adam and Even first ate of the forbidden tree.  In our Old Testament lesson for this morning we heard one of the many call stories in scripture that involve God inviting someone to go without a final destination.  As my friend Nurya Love Parish paraphrased the story, “God says to Abram, ‘Leave behind everything familiar, and go to the land I will show you.’ Not the land God has shown Abram.  Abram has to leave before he knows where he is headed.”[1]  All of salvation history hinges on Abram’s willingness to leave everything he knows behind and begin a journey to some unknown land that God has promised.

Abraham was faithful and “it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”  Abraham’s faithfulness to the call of God to go without an answer to the where is, to Paul’s mind, the premier example of the life of faith.  Moreover, the promise of God that is fulfilled in Abraham’s willingness to leave everything he knows behind is a promise to bless not just Abraham and his family, but the whole world.  Indeed, all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham.  Again and again, disciples are called to go.  Sometimes, like in my case, it is the call of God to a professional minister to pick up and move, but more often, the call to go without knowing where it will lead comes to the average Christian sitting in the pews on a Sunday morning.  These are the calls of regular disciples to go out and be a blessing to the world.  Whether it is local work with the homeless, the outcast, or those in prison; or international service to bring clean water, education, or healthcare to those in need, God has a call to go for every disciple.  God has a plan to bless the world one person at a time through each of us who call Jesus Christ Lord.  If we are willing to listen, and more so, willing to take the risk and GO, each of us can experience the blessing of Abraham; the blessing of following God’s call to go and be a blessing to someone else.

This is easier said than done, to be sure, which is why the story of Nicodemus is paired up with Abraham.  Nicodemus wants to be faithful to the call of God to follow Jesus.  He feels a pull to this Rabbi who is “from God,” but he just can’t commit.  He can’t give up all the comforts that come with his position of power as a Pharisee and leader of the Jews to follow the call to go without having some idea as to where it is all headed.  And so, he finds Jesus under the safety of darkness.  In the shadows of doubt and fear, Nicodemus knows he can meet Jesus on his own terms.  In the safety of the night, he can get his questions answered without his fellow Pharisees finding out.  Nicodemus wants to follow Jesus, but he wants total control over how it’ll take place.

Jesus’ answers to Nicodemus’ questions seem like a series of non sequiturs, but in reality, they are a continuation of the call of Abraham.  God is calling Nicodemus to give up all control, to leave everything he knows behind and follow Jesus to an unknown destination.  “You must be born again,” Jesus says, “the birth you have is one of power, prestige, and privilege, but you have to give all that up to follow me.  You have to get out of the darkness and into the light.  You have to be willing to risk everything to be my disciple.  You have to be comfortable riding the wind of the Spirit that goes wherever she chooses.”  Nicodemus couldn’t do it, at least not yet.  Later on in John’s Gospel, we’ll hear stories of his growing faith.  He stands up for Jesus, albeit somewhat tepidly, when the Pharisees begin to plot for his arrest.  After Jesus’ death, it is Nicodemus who helps Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus’ body; bringing with him nearly one-hundred pounds of spices.

While it never does seem like Nicodemus can fully commit to following God’s call to go, we can take some solace in his struggle.  None of us is the perfect disciple.  None of us is always able to drop everything and go.  Each of us, from time to time, will want to have our say in how the when and where questions gets answered.  We all go astray from the will of God occasionally, but God’s grace is strong enough to overcome our doubts.  God didn’t give up on Nicodemus when he disappeared back into the night.  God continued to call him, continued to challenge him to give up control, continued to try to pour out blessings through him, and God does the same for each of us.  Every time we go astray, God beckons us to return.  Every time we cling to safety, God calls us to go.  Every time our faith fails, God forgives, and invites us to try again.  And when we do answer the call to go, God makes us to be his blessing in the world.  Every call has two parts: the call to go and the call to where: righteousness is found in our willingness to leave the safety of what we know to go to what we don’t know in order to be God’s blessing to a world that desperately needs it.  Amen.

[1] https://www.christiancentury.org/article/march-12-second-sunday-lent

The Call to Go

Tomorrow night, the people of Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky will gather with our Bishop and other clergy from the Diocese of Kentucky at a service called The Celebration of New Ministry.  Our preacher will be none other than my former Rector, TKT, who will bring a word that the service itself really struggles to convey.  As glad as I am that the service has changed from the Institution of a Rector in 1928 to the Celebration of New Ministry in the 1979 Prayer Book, the service itself really lacks that reality.  It is, by and large, still all about me, the 25th Rector of Christ Episcopal Church  (Yes, I know there is a service in EOW, but like most everything else EOW attempts, the SCLM tried to fix too many things and as a result, created far too many problems).

I’ve not read TKT’s sermon, mostly because it probably won’t actually be written on a piece of paper, but I can still be sure that it will not be about Steve Pankey, the guy who’s work it is to be in the tent of meeting.  Instead, he will tell the story of Eldad and Medad from Numbers 11.  Depending on how you read the story, Eldad and Medad were either two of the 70 who didn’t go to the tent, or two in addition to the 70 who were gifted with the Spirit by God to do the work of ministry.  No matter how they ended up back in the village, the reality is that God chose to pour out the Spirit upon them and not just those who made their way to the tent of meeting.  It is a story about how God does the work of the Kingdom through all God’s servants, not just those who wear fancy collars, have calligraphic certificates on their walls, and draw stipends from the gifts of the faithful.

While the sermon will be important, what is more important to me is the effort TKT and his wife are going through to be here.  Not that I thought it would be any other way, but the process of leaving one church and taking a call at another is always a difficult one.  After 9.5 years of working together, there came an end, and rather than being bitter or frustrated, TKT has been affirming and supportive every step of the way.  That’s because we both took seriously the reality that God doesn’t just call people to a place, but there comes a time that God also calls people to Go.  As we both listened for the Spirit last year, it became clear to both of us that our work together was coming to an end, that I was being called to Go, and that both of our ministries would be fruitful if we were faithful to that call.

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In our Old Testament lesson for Sunday, we will hear Abraham’s call to go.  While the promise of God to Abraham is more than I could ever hope for, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” the hard truth is that God often calls his servant’s to go in order to bless others.  Sometimes, like in my case, it was the call of a professional minister to serve a new congregation, but more often, it is the call of a regular disciple to go out into the world in service.  Whether it is local work with the homeless, the outcast, or those in prison; or international service to bring clean water, education, or healthcare to those in need, God has a call to go for every disciple.  God has a plan to bless the world one person at a time through each of us who call Jesus Christ Lord.  If we are willing to listen, and more so, willing to take the risk and GO, we can all experience the blessing of Abraham; the blessing of following God’s call to go and be a blessing to someone else.

Our Call Story – a sermon

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”  Wouldn’t it be great if every call from God was so very clear?  My own call story ends up with one of those “aha!” moments, but the reality is that it took quite a while for me to get there.  As I mentioned last week, thanks to Jeanne Ritter’s evangelistic efforts, I grew up in the church.  In middle school, I joined the youth group, but when I was in eighth grade, the youth leader ran off with the proceeds of our fundraisers for the year, so began to I look elsewhere.  Throughout high school I was active in Young Life and the youth group at the local Christian Missionary Alliance church.  I can’t find it anymore, but there was a day when I pulled over on the side of Manheim Pike after a Friday morning Bible Study and wrote in my Bible the moment I decided to make Jesus my Lord and Savior, as if he hadn’t already been for years.  The best part about having that moment marked for posterity was that I never had to think about it again.  So, without so much as a thought about asking God what he might want me to do with the rest of my life, I applied to only one school, the University of Pittsburgh, and set off to become a civil engineer.

God has a funny way of using our plans and various bad ideas for good.  Even though I hated almost every moment of the two semesters I spent I Pitt, the friends I made there were the reason I met Cassie.  We’re not there yet, though.  I transferred to Millersville University after my freshman year, and upon realizing they didn’t actually offer an engineering degree, I changed my major to meteorology for three weeks before settling on business administration.  For three years, I worked hard to graduate on time so that I could get money and buy stuff.  I had even planned how to spend my first million: a Benz with a personalized license plate that read “MIL TKT.”   Yet again, God had different plans.  Once back in Lancaster, the rector of my childhood church invited me to serve as a part-time youth minister.  I found myself leading Bible studies, prayer meetings, See You at the Pole events, and giving all sorts of talks and homilies.  I didn’t know it at the time, but God was preparing me for a different sort of future.

For Spring Break my sophomore year, I initially planned to go to Germany to visit a friend studying abroad, but when that didn’t pan out, I went to Pittsburgh to visit old friends and attend the Jubilee Conference for Christian college students.  It was there that Cassie and I first met.  A year later, I returned to Jubilee ready to propose.  I barely remember the big day. I couldn’t pay any attention as the speakers made their presentations; I was too afraid of the diamond ring in my jacket pocket.  The afternoon was spent in small groups based on your major.  I went through the motions, so as not be suspicious, and attended the one for business students.  As the first half ended before a short break, the leader asked a question that changed my life forever.  “Are you studying business to further God’s Kingdom in some way, or just to get money and buy stuff?”

After years of trying to get my attention, God finally resorted to a “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” type moment.  I was quite content to “get money and buy stuff” until that very second.  Despite what God had been doing through the youth ministry at Saint Thomas, I had successfully ignored any sense of call in the name of crushing fingers on the corporate ladder.  Suddenly the comfortable façade I had created came crashing down.  Get money and buy stuff was no longer an acceptable answer, and now, hours before I asked Cassie to be my wife, I had to figure out what God was inviting me to do with my life.

The two-by-four across the back of the head is often the last option God uses to get our attention, but some of us are thicker than others.  For Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the call was much easier.  With no more than a few words, they are ready to drop everything and leave family and career, in order to follow Jesus.  It is always dangerous to compare one Gospel story with another, but because Matthew is careful to tell us that Simon was called Peter, one gets the sense that this might not be the first time Jesus has met these men.  As we heard last week, Andrew and Simon Peter met Jesus down by the Jordan River, and some think that John the Baptist’s unnamed disciple was John.  No matter how you parse it, unlike my three years working for Saint Thomas, these men were paying attention when God came calling.  They were ready to follow Jesus no matter where he was headed.

Too often, call stories are reserved for the professional minsters among us.  It is probably because we had to tell the story approximately three million times during the discernment process, but the reality is that God calls every disciple to ministry: through the church, through other volunteer efforts, and even through whatever job you might have at any given moment.  As the Christian Vocation Project puts it, “The call to be a priest, monk, or nun, however sacred, is, in and of itself, not superior to the call of an architect designing a house, a mechanic repairing a car, or a nurse caring for the sick.  It is our faithfulness to God and not our station in life that honors a call.”[1]  Take, for example, the call of Andrew and Simon Peter.  Read at face value, this story can be used to suggest that being commercial fishermen was not their true calling, and only after Jesus comes and calls them to be “fishers of people” do they really have a vocation.  Instead, I believe that the many years they spent working hard as fishermen were preparing them to become successful apostles.

Think about their work for a minute.  In the first century, as it is today, the life of on commercial fishing boat was difficult.  Fishermen studied the water, learning its ebbs and flows; the right time to fish, and those days when it would just be a waste of time.  Even when the waters were favorable, they often worked long hours, sometimes overnight, to bring in enough fish to make a decent wage.  There were days when the conditions were perfect, when the fish should be biting and the nets should be full, but after hours and hours, their best efforts were frustrated.  Other times, when the day seemed questionable, or when a stranger invited them to push out a little further or throw on the other side of the boat, and the haul was unimaginably large.

If that doesn’t sound like the life of ministry, I don’t know what does.  The qualities that made Simon Peter and Andrew good fishermen made them excellent fishers of men.  The same is true of almost every vocation.  If we are paying attention, there are parts of every job that teach us how to be a better disciple and a better witness to the Good News.  It when we begin to see how God is continually calling each of us as individuals to a life of ministry that we can then begin to then discern how God is calling us as a community to service.

Over the course of the next year, we will spend some time doing both of those things.  It’ll be important to do some work of individual discernment, looking at our own spiritual gifts and seeing how they fit into the call God has for each of us.  At the same time, we will be engaging in a process of communal strategic discernment, asking God how we can best use the many gifts we bring to build the Kingdom here in Bowling Green.  Some of this work will feel like a review.  “Didn’t we do this during the search process?” someone will invariably ask.  I’m sure you did, but this isn’t the same church it was when Holy Cow was here; it isn’t even the same church it was at Christmas.  Together, we will do the work of listening for God’s call so that unlike my call story, God won’t have to use a two-by-four to get our attention.  I look forward to the work ahead as we listen for Jesus’ call to follow him wherever he might lead.  Amen.

[1] Listening Hearts, p. 8.

Call Stories

A lifetime ago, back when I was in college and serving as a part-time youth minister, I used a book called Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner to lead a study with my kids.  The basic gist of that book is that the church needs to reevaluate what it means by calling and vocation.  His thesis is that the church has, hopefully unintentionally, created a hierarchy of vocation such that missionary and full-time, ordained minister ranks higher than everything else.  We’ve told kids (and adults, for that matter) that wanting to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, welder, or music composer isn’t a noble calling because it isn’t ministry.  Bob Briner thinks this is garbage, and so do I.

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Sunday’s Gospel lesson is a series of call stories that invites us to think beyond the specifics of who is called to what and maybe give some time to think carefully about each of our callings as disciples of Jesus.  Take, for example, the call of Andrew and Simon Peter.  Read at face value, this story can be used to tell people that their work as fishermen was not a calling, and only after Jesus comes and calls them to be “fishers of men” (the play on words is too good to get bogged down in the gendered language, imho) do they really have a vocation.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Instead, I believe that the many years they spent working hard as fishermen allowed them to become successful apostles.

Think about their work for a minute.  In the first century, as it is today, the life of a commercial fisher was difficult.  They studied the water, learning the ebbs and flows; the right time to fish and those days when it would just be a waste of time.  Even when the waters were favorable, they often worked long hours, sometimes overnight, to bring in enough fish to make a decent wage.  There were days when the conditions were perfect, when the fish should be biting and the nets should be full, but after hours and hours, their best efforts were frustrated.  Other times, when the day seemed questionable, or a stranger invited them to push out a little further or throw on the other side of the boat, when the haul was unimaginably large.

If that doesn’t sound like the life of ministry, you’ve not been paying attention.  The qualities that made Simon and Andrew good fishermen made them excellent fishers of men.  The same is true of almost every vocation.  There are parts of every job that teach us how to be a better disciple and a better witness to the Good News.  Whether it is days on end of dealing with the general public or hours crunching numbers, everything we do has the chance to help us grow as disciples and make us better apostles.  How has your vocation been a calling to ministry?  Where can you see God at work in your current job?  Even for those who are retired or unemployed, where is God teaching you in your searching, in your volunteering, and in your free time?  Every breath is a gift, a calling to the service of God.