A Man Called Peter

One of the greatest preachers of the last century was Peter Marshall who served a church in Atlanta before he went to New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. He was best known for being the Chaplain of the Senate during the early part of World War II. After his sudden death from a heart attack at the age of 46 his wife, Catherine became an author and wrote over 200 books, including Marshall’s biography, A Man Called Peter. In 1955, the book was turned into a popular movie that was nominated for an Academy Award. The Marshalls spent time on Cape Cod and Catherine Marshall spoke here at Pilgrim Church.

In her book and the movie that followed she recounted that Peter Marshall had a strong sense of call since he was a boy in Scotland. It came from an experience of falling one day, and discovering that the fall saved him. He was running in the dark and tripped on the root of a tree. When he got up and brushed himself off he realized that the root saved him from a much more serious accident because the root and the tree were right next to a steep and perilous ravine. Had he not been stopped in his tracks, he might have plunged to his death if he kept going.

Something about that near miss made Peter think about his life. He credited God with saving him. Before long he decided that God was calling him to give his life whole heartedly to God’s service. It was after that accident that saved him, that Peter decided to go to seminary and become a pastor and he traveled to the United States at the age of 24.

Throughout this fall we have been talking about examples of God’s call. The Bible is full of stories about people who have experienced a close encounter with God that caused them to question their ambitions, or re-think their professional goals. As we begin our second part of this series on God’s call we will look at people in the Bible who questioned their calls or ran from them. While the Peter Marshall story made good cinema, it was not necessarily typical to find young people who were so certain about what they believed God wanted them to do.

When I watched the movie based on the Peter Marshall story as a young girl I remember thinking that direct encounters with God were not unusual and God’s summons were pretty commonplace. But quite honestly, those sorts of experiences in life are few and far between. So I am more interested in the stories about people who wrestled with God, or ran from God. I am drawn to the people who were confused by God or who questioned whether God called therm at all. Those stories ring true for me and shed light on my own questions. As we dig a little deeper into the Bible stories about God’s call we will look at the stories about people who weren’t certain God called or who needed a few encounters to see that it was God on the line.

I hope you will join me for this journey. You can hear the next set of sermons on Facebook live every week or better yet in person at 9 or 11 a.m. in worship.

Blessings, Rev. Susan

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