Eger and her family went to a concentration camp when she was 16. Both her parents were killed. Miraculously, she and her sister survived.
After World War Two ended, Eger married a wealthy man. But then the Iron Curtain descended on Eastern Europe. She and her husband fled, leaving all their wealth behind. They made it to the United States as refugees, and she set about making a new life for herself.
Eger had hoped that living in the United States would solve all her problems. But when she arrived in the U.S., she had no money and no marketable skills. She had not graduated from high school. She spoke no English. She had a baby. And she was just twenty-two years old, one year older than my oldest son. That is amazing to think about.
Worse still, the multiple traumas Eger had faced left her suffering from what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. Her symptoms included depression, survivor’s guilt, flashbacks, and more. With the benefit of hindsight, she commented, “I had escaped. But I wasn’t yet free.”
Remarkably, Eger got free. In her book, she tells her story of trauma and then of healing. And she is clear what she wants her reader to learn from her story. Terrible things may happen to us. Terrible things did happen to her. But, she insists, “each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond.” We can remain trapped by our wounds. Or we can choose freedom and life.
It took Eger years to get there, years to experience true inner freedom, to choose real life. But what I took from her book is that every moment is pregnant with possibilities for healing. In every moment, in ways big and small, we can choose life and love and forgiveness and hope. It is not easy. But it is possible.
Eger didn’t say much about God in her book. But her emphasis on choosing freedom and life in the big and small moments of our lives makes a lot of sense of our recent readings. Last week and this week, our readings have been all about the call of God and the different ways that people respond.
In our gospel reading, we meet Simon and Andrew, James and John—ordinary folks going about their ordinary occupations. And then Jesus calls. Jesus says, “Follow me,” and “immediately” they follow. In that moment, they choose the freedom and life that comes from life with Christ.
Sometimes that is us. We hear God’s call, and we respond.
Unfortunately, even the good people are not always so faithful. When God first commanded Jonah to prophesy to the Ninevites, Jonah refused and tried to run away. That is what got him swallowed by the great fish. Only after a couple of days in the great fish did Jonah change his mind. Jonah repented, the great fish spat him out, and then, as our passage has it, “the word of God came to Jonah a second time.” This time, Jonah heeds God’s call!!
And sometimes that is us, too. God calls, and we know what we should do. But instead we do the opposite.
But most often we are somewhere in the middle. That’s what we saw in our Old Testament reading from last week. God called the Samuel by name. But Samuel didn’t recognize the call as coming from God. Samuel thought his master was calling him, so Samuel ran to Eli. Three times! The third time, Eli figured it out. Eli advised Samuel to answer, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Only then did Samuel actually hear God’s call for what it was.
And that’s how a lot of us are with God. We get a call, but we don’t know it is God, and we don’t know what our unknown caller is trying to tell us.
What Eger’s story helps us to see is that God is calling us in each moment to choose life and freedom and joy, to choose Jesus, to choose love.
Sometimes God’s invitation to life is almost impossible to hear. Those are our Samuel moments. Eger had plenty of those, and so do we.
And sometimes God’s invitation to life seems impossible to accept. Those are our Jonah moments. Eger had some of those, too, and so do we.
But always we have the choice. In this moment, do we listen for Jesus’ voice? Do we answer his call? Do we choose freedom and life and joy with him? Or do we turn away?
And two things are clear. First, God’s call is not a one-time deal. We may have chosen to follow Christ in the past. But that is no guarantee for the present or the future. The disciples answer Christ’s call in our reading for today. But on that day they did not really know what they were getting into, they did not realize that they were embarking on a life-long journey, they did not understand that answer Jesus’ call is something we do in each new moment. In fact, despite their resolution in our reading for today, the disciples refuse Christ’s call all too often. And we do too.
But the second thing is that there is always hope. Jonah rejects God’s call, and God’s calls him again. Samuel misunderstands God’s call, and God keeps calling. The disciples fail Christ repeatedly, and Christ keeps calling.
The good news of these call stories is that God keeps calling. The good news is that healing remains possible despite our wounds, that freedom and life remain possible despite our blindness, that in this moment, we can once again heed God’s call and choose to live in Christ, no matter what we have done in the past.
And if we can bring ourselves in this moment to choose Christ, to choose life and freedom, to choose love, over time we will get better at it, better at hearing God’s call, better at following Christ, better at living the full and faithful lives that is God’s will for us.
Next week is our annual meeting. We’ll hear reports, and talk about issues facing our parish, and elect new leadership. But the most important thing we will do is think and pray about what God is calling us to do as a parish in 2018.
The following week, we will dedicate our “declarations of time and talent.” That is an opportunity to volunteer for the different tasks we need to do here at Saint David’s. But the most important thing about the declaration of our time and talent is our effort to hear what God is calling us each to do individually and our promise to God that we will try to do it.
My prayer for us, as individuals and as a parish, is that we can always remember that God calls us, in each moment, to freedom and life and love. My prayer is that we can get a little better at hearing that call, and choosing life in God, and experiencing the healing and love that comes with knowing Christ.
And I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who always calls us to love and in love. Amen.
 Edith Eva Eger, The Choice, 131.
 Edith Eva Eger, The Choice, 156.