Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sermon: Embrace the Call

Embrace the Call
We all have different journeys. Different cards we are dealt. Each of us, because of our upbringings, have assets and gifts that we bring to the table from our personal histories. We also have challenges and limitations we face based upon our personal histories.
God was good enough to bless me with a wonderful wife, two super cool little kids, and a dog named Jake. Now, I don’t worry too much about the dog, but I do, at times, get concerned about my wife and children.

One of the things that I get concerned about from time to time is how their life has been altered because of my choice to accept the call of Christ to full-time Christian ministry. Sometimes, I believe it is an asset to be in a preacher’s family. Other times, I believe it is a burden that has been placed upon them.

With Jennifer, I worry about expectations people have for her. You know the expectations. Big poofy, bouffant hair. Perhaps a beehive. Playing the piano. Having a southern accent. Dressing her husband in a shiny suit with a pinky ring. Making sure his toupee is on just right. All while playing the piano perfectly. And, of course, Jennifer fits none of those expectations.

Then there are the kids.The other day, Karis and I were playing on the floor. “Pastor,” she said, “could you come here for a second.” 

“Don’t call me ‘Pastor’ Karis, call me Daddy,” I said.

But she kept insisting. PASTOR. PASTOR. PASTOR.

Jennifer asked, “What does Pastor do?”.

“He talks to people, and tells them what to do,” she said.

The conversation went from there. I thought I was in some clerical twilight zone, where my child was having some alien, aberrant experience on Planet Pastor. It was creepy.
I think of my friends who are PKs. One is a fundamentalist pastor in the country near Kannapolis, NC. He and his brother married sisters from one of the countries that lived on the Eastern end of the former Soviet Union. The other two are atheists.

I say all of this concerns me at times, and it does. But I am also aware of this, God has called me for as long as he has called me to do full-time Christian ministry. And that will have its challenges and its joys for all of us. But, it is our job to EMBRACE THE CALL. The call of God to say what he wants me to say, to go where he wants us to go, and to do what he wants us to do.

Jeremiah was a son of a priest. He grew up in a town called Anatoth. Anatoth was known for having a priest that was on the wrong side of a battle for who would be king three hundred years before Jeremiah was born. The priest Abiathar, after David died, stood on the side of Solomon’s brother in his quest for the Kingdom of Israel. When Solomon took power, he banished him from Jerusalem and sent him back to Anatoth.

Jeremiah grew up a pastor’s kid. And then, while he was young, perhaps in junior high, he hears God call him into the ministry. God says from the moment he was conceived God had a plan for Jeremiah. He was to be a prophet to the nations. He was to tell people God’s Word, often stepping on their toes, and he was to say what God told him to say whether the people who listened to Jeremiah wanted to hear it or not. And almost immediately, Jeremiah balks.

“Ummm. God…first of all, I am not a good speaker. Secondly, I am too young…” You see, Jeremiah was a priest’s son. He had seen the life prophets had. He had been the preacher’s kid, and so he was making the excuses on why he could not do what he felt God calling him to do.

I know how he feels. Why would God call me? No matter how much I try and improve my voice, I am still going to sound like I grew up among a bunch of loggers and mill workers in Southern Oregon. I am fat and balding. There is no way I am going to have that glossy, full-head of hair like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, or David Jeremiah.

“Don’t say, ‘I am too young’” God replies in the middle of Jeremiah’s excuses, “you are going to say what I want you to say, you are going to go where I want you to go, and I am going to be with you” He actually says that he would rescue Jeremiah, which if I were Jeremiah I would start to have questions about what I am going to be rescued from.
God tells Jeremiah he is going to be used to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. His words will be powerful Words. Hard words. God’s words.

God’s call comes to Jeremiah. It is not an easy call, but he has the courage to take it on. He embraces the call of God.

Now, with churches that have positions like a pastor, as ours does, or elders, or bishops, or deacons, it can be easy to think only some special ones of us are called by God. The rest of us, well, we are just along for the ride, trying to do what that strange creature called the “Pastor” tells us to do.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that each and every one of us, as we began this summer discussing, has gifts from God, to be used in God’s service, to bring God glory.

Each and every one of us, Psalm 139 says, was knit together in our mother’s womb. Each and every one of us has been given skills, abilities, as well as gifts from God to serve Christ and his kingdom. Each of us has also been given opportunities, whether we feel gifted or not, to do our part to be a signpost for God, speaking his word, pointing with our lives like an arrow to heaven.

The book of Revelation calls us a kingdom of priests. Each with a unique call that God has given us, to be who he has made us to be. He calls each of us into small and large acts of obedience in service to his church and his kingdom. I challenge you: EMBRACE THAT CALL.
You know that person you have been avoiding, because you know if you say hi to them or drop by their home they will be talking with you for an hour about every ailment they have and every difficulty everyone around them is going through. You know God is leading you to visit with them, because you know they are lonely, and they need your attention and your Christian love. Obey that prompting of the Holy Spirit. EMBRACE THE CALL.
You have thought about going on a mission trip for years. Maybe to Haiti. Maybe somewhere else. You are nervous about travelling. You are afraid you are going to get sick. You wonder if the people you are going to work with will like you, or want to deal with you. You think maybe you are too old for such ventures. STOP with your EXCUSES. If God is leading you to go, EMBRACE THE CALL.

You work with this person who has gone through a lot in the last year. And because they have had to struggle with a lot, they are beginning to wonder if there is more to life than just working, eating, running errands, and going to sleep. You sense that they might be open to hearing about Jesus Christ, and how having a personal relationship with Christ can change their life for the better, adding hope and joy and purpose to their lives. You are nervous about sharing your faith. You are wondering if your friend would think you are a freak, or you worry that you will not find the right words when you need them. Put your excuses behind you. EMBRACE THE CALL.

You know what God is leading you to do. Writer Fredrich Buechner says ““The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And for many of us I think that works. Have courage to do what God is leading you to do. EMBRACE THE CALL.

 I would say that if we follow the example of Jeremiah, sometimes our deep gladness plays a lesser role than the fact that we love God so much that we have to be obedient to him, happy or sad, and simply EMBRACE THE CALL, and trust that God will work through us.

God calls each of us to take on the role he has called us to play, and to be obedient to what he wants us to do. We have heard that, I hope, more than once, this summer.

But as believers, we are called first and foremost to be disciples of Jesus Christ. And so we come to this table. Some of us are joyful. Some heartbroken. And we recommit ourselves, not to a number of tasks, but simply to devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we read Jeremiah, it is God’s call that leads him, God’s strength that sustains him, God’s power that compels him to embrace his call. Everything is born out of a relationship with God.

The same is true of us. So let us come to this table, and let us take time with Jesus. Let us remember what he has done for us. Let us remember why he did it. And let us be renewed in our commitment to him. Then, as we go, mysteriously we will be empowered to EMBRACE THE CALL to serve the one we worship, adore, and love. Amen.

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