Epiphany, a season, for those who went to Sunday School as children, of good old Sunday School Bible stories. Specifically, “call stories,” God’s call on the lives of his people, calling them into his service. Last week it was Samuel, who did not know the Lord, as he lay down to go to sleep under the sanctuary lamp, which was still lit to signify the presence of God (as our sanctuary lamp at the aumbry, when lit, signifies the presence of Christ in the consecrated Sacrament), “Jahweh, we know you are here.” And then in John’s gospel, Jesus called Philip and they call Nathanael. That was last Sunday.
The call stories continue this coming Sunday as we read from the story of Jonah. Called of God, as the expression goes, and finally being taught his lesson and surrendering to the divine will, Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches a message of doom: God is about to destroy the wicked city. The residents hear and believe, repent in sackcloth and ashes, and God is satisfied.
From ancient Nineveh we make our way forward several centuries to the New Testament Age and the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus calls the brothers Simon and Andrew, “I will make you fishers of men.” Going a little farther down the shore he calls two more brothers, James and John, whom one translation names Ya‘akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan. Fishermen all four, they drop everything and walk away from family and livelihood to follow Jesus. Pretty risky.
From these call stories, I suppose we are meant to realize that God has a call on our own lives, at least that possibility is usually made a focus of preaching, and to stop, look and listen for God’s train whistle. Might that be the same train that filled the Temple in the prophet’s call story at Isaiah chapter 6? If it was a coal-fired steam locomotive, that could explain all the smoke.
Although I won’t wander off into my own memories of train travel on hot summer days before air conditioning, of open coach windows that let in smoke and cinders, I have my own call story. Part of which, at the risk of being what St. Paul calls a fool for Christ, I have told any number of times in various gatherings -- including in our adult Sunday School class last Sunday morning as bait or a decoy to encourage others to tell their own stories if they wanted to; and folks did share. Coming up is not my Sunday in the pulpit, otherwise I might tell, again, a more personal part of my call story, the chapter that always leaves my hearers glancing sideways at each other and looking around for the exit just in case; but even that chapter still leaves untold the most personal chapters that are even more embarrassing and ridiculous.
Oh well. No Sunday School this coming Sunday, as we are having our Annual Parish Meeting with Breakfast.
Old fashioned railroad crossing sign of my youth pinched online. No offense.