This is the message from Sunday, Jan. 15. The scriptures were: Isaiah 49:1-7, I Corinthians 1:1-9 and John 1:29-42. The title was “God’s Call for Us.”
Most of you are well aware of the fact that I like to sew and knit and do other crafty things in fact far too many different ones if you want the truth. In fact I just finished up an orange headband and have a pink beanie quite close to being finished with the yarn that was in the church stash in the basement. And because of this like, or passion or hobby as some might call it, I have accumulated lots of “stuff” to go with the idea of someday creating this thing or that thing. Some of you might also know that I like to write and that I used to write more publically, but now mostly I write what is needed for church and I journal. This week I spent a little time looking back at some of my journals as I was pondering a purpose or a plan for this year, and how to resolve all the stuff that I have accumulated especially in terms of sewing and knitting and such, and I found that at least once a year, usually near the beginning of the year, I have written about how this is the year that I am going to clean out the excess junk involved with all my fabric “hobbies.”
After seeing all the times I wrote about it, I mostly decided that this year I will not hold my breath on the issue, something that James and the rest of my family stopped doing long ago. The truth is that I really, really need to do some sorting and mainly I need to finish more than just a few projects not only to prevent all of us from suffocating under the volume of what I have to work on, but so that the items being stored become of use to someone who is in need. So for the time being, I am going to take these projects as my “calling” to do something good for others. But maybe that is selfish of me because in the long run doing that is really doing something good for myself.
So what is a “calling” if it isn’t a decision or a plan to do something that is worthwhile? According to most Christian beliefs a calling is a summons to serve a church in some capacity or in a place that has a Christian, church like purpose such as being a chaplain in a hospital or on a college or university campus or in the military. In secular terms the word “calling” can also mean a vocation, an occupation, a job. So is there a way to resolve all these meanings into one. Could we be “called” to various occupations in general, to positions of civic leadership, to volunteer tasks, even to groups or organizations in order to be a Christian presence in the midst of a worldly place in order to bring a witness and example for Christ?
Last week I mentioned here during the announcements and Wednesday during the board meeting that our denomination is looking to change the definition of who is eligible to answer the call to be clergy. A change that may take years to implement, but if nothing else, it will force our membership to look at how we think of call and how we interpret leadership in our corner of the Christian world. I for one like the heading that is at the top of our bulletins where it says: Every member minister because in truth we are all called to minister to each other in Christian fellowship.
In all of the scriptures that we read for today “call” was the central theme. In Isaiah, in the second verse that we read, the prophet spoke of being called before birth. This gives us the idea that God chooses us before we even know what we are capable of accomplishing. God knows, and God pushes us towards what we are to do, if we will only take the time to listen, to hear and obey.
In I Corinthians, Paul talks to the church there and speaks of their call as a church to be saints for Christ. That is to do the work of Christ no matter the sacrifice, no matter the hardship. And in turn, Paul instructs those church members to call on Christ for strength and leadership and love and all the things they need to endure whatever they will be asked to endure, even the petty everyday disagreements that happen within any group of people.
The gospel lesson, which we read for today, is not a new story to any of us. We have heard it before. It is the story from John’s viewpoint of how Jesus called his disciples. It is the story of how John the Baptist was busy declaring the importance of Jesus when he came by and two of John’s disciples (one of them is later identified as Andrew brother of Peter) decided they would rather follow Jesus than John and so they did. The story also goes on to list others that took up the call to be Jesus’ disciples to accept whatever it would take to be part of that inner circle. In fact, according to this version by John, Jesus didn’t even say, “follow me” to some of them, he just walked by and they went. They felt this calling without a formal invitation. It was something they were willing to do, something they were inclined to do and if we are able to believe it, this was what they were destined to do.
If you continue reading beyond where we stopped, you will find the words, “follow me” in the calling of some of the other disciples, but today’s lesson didn’t have it. The words we read today give an implied “call.” It is sort of that intuition thing of just knowing without anyone needing to say the words. I am guessing that most of us here at some point in our lives just knew what it was we were going to do as adults in terms of jobs. We had this feeling of how we wanted to devote our time earning a living. Some felt the need to be in health care, some working in education, some felt the tug of the open spaces talking to the animals or riding across the fields planting and harvesting, or running a business or a household, or doing something where you were serving others or all the many things that any of us have done over the years.
In going through this whole business of “calling,” I can’t help but think of that phrase: If you choose a job you love, you will never work a day in your life. It doesn’t literally mean that you won’t work because sometimes what you do is hard work, but if it is something that you enjoy, it won’t be a burdensome work. I also believe that if we answer God’s call for our lives and if we complete our tasks in a Christ like manner what we do is not a burden. But when things are hard, and tasks are overwhelming, Jesus has another answer for us. Jesus calls us not just to work for him, but to come to him. In I Corinthians Paul spoke of being called as an apostle to go out and spread the good news of Jesus. But there is also the call to come to Jesus to lean on him and to learn from him.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus doesn’t call us only to endure hard, challenging or impossible tasks, he calls us to so the things we are capable of doing and when things seem too hard, we are able to rest in his love and care. Jesus wants us to be successful, but he also wants us to follow his example of kindness and gentleness and honesty and sincerity. He wants us to care for others in a welcoming and fair and just way. And actually, another thing that I have come to learn over the course of these three years is that when you do things with the attitude of caring and concern that Christ would have, burdens are a little lighter and smiles are a little easier to use.
At the end of this month after our morning service, we will meet in the basement to review the events of the church year of 2016 and make some plans for the coming year. The nominating committee has done their job to give us a full slate of officers and for those who have agreed to serve (those who said yes when called), I say thank you from me and on behalf of the congregation. For those of you, who don’t have your name on the list; don’t think that means there isn’t a task for you someplace in the course of the coming year. If nothing else we are expecting something good to eat at the meal after the meeting, or maybe after one of the Lenten services, and besides that there are several more quilt tops that need stitching up next fall. Just remember that song we watched a few months back, “All God’s creatures got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher…and some just clap their hands.”
One of the things we need to consider at our meeting is again what is our call as a church? We do actually fill needs in our community perhaps not as we once did or not necessarily as some think a traditional church should, but we have a real purpose, we have a real call. Let’s ponder that, let’s prayerfully ponder that between now and our meeting so we can all join in working together in answering God’s call for us individually and as this body of believers. In Christ’s name Amen!