Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Call from God

I have my phone up here with me today. I’m expecting a call from God shortly…
Brinnnggg, Bringgggg, Brinnngggg
Oh! Yes, here it is.
Hello?
Yes… uh huh… Yes, Lord, I can do that.
Thank you! Have a nice day.

Wouldn’t that be so nice, if God just called us up, told us what we should do, and then we could go on our way? Yea, but God doesn’t work that way. Jeremiah shares how God called him to a life of God’s service. Not exactly an easy phone call, a bit more awe inspiring and intimidating. Jeremiah is a small boy, with a large awesome God. Thankfully Jeremiah shares with us his discernment of his call to life in God, even his protest. Jeremiah protests by saying “Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy,” even before he knows what God is calling him to do exactly. We do that sometimes, afraid of what might be coming, we protest before we even know what we are being called to do. Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof whose calling was to be a faithful Jew in Russia in 1905 despite the cultural situation, we know that when God calls, the mission will not always be easy. Tevye cries out to God, “I know. I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?” Jeremiah is afraid of what God is asking him to do. But just because Jeremiah protests that he is too young, God does not let him off the hook. It is no wonder that God has to reassure Jeremiah that God will be with him once Jeremiah finds out that his call is “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” That does not sound like an easy task. It’s no wonder that Jeremiah is going to need God to be with him and to deliver him. Jeremiah knows very well that the young are not always listened to, especially when a young person is calling for change. Most humans know the pain that can come along with change and sometimes we become afraid of change even before it happens. We here at Thankful have been living through changes in the community in the last few years and it hasn’t been easy. Some of us are still grieving the losses and recovering.
But despite all these issues, Jeremiah accepted God’s call and spoke to the people of Israel in the midst of their troubles. God speaks to us in the midst of our troubles. Sometimes the best time to be able to hear what God has to say is in our times of troubles and confusion. These are the times when we look for help, for direction, for guidance. God will give us the help and direction we need, but we need to listen and pray to understand. God doesn’t make direct phone calls.
God does not only call Jeremiah this morning, Jesus makes a few calls too. He is in the synagogue, teaching and calling the congregation to repentance and life in God. That’s when this poor, bent over woman comes in. She too is called, called to new life in God. After 18 years, 18 years each of 365 days, of 24 hours and 60 minutes and 60 seconds, after 567,648,000 seconds of being under a spirit of Satan’s control, Jesus calls her to a new life in God by healing her. (And you thought the 720 seconds of my sermon was long.) What better day to celebrate a new life and calling than on the Sabbath? It’s no surprise that after 567,648,000 seconds with Satan, her first act without was to praise God.
But the best calling Jesus gives in the Gospel story this morning is to the leader and people after they protest: a call to real life in God by remembering the reason for the Sabbath. They are concerned about a Sabbath rule which says only work necessary for survival can be done on the Sabbath, the day of rest. Certainly we can understand if they got caught up in figuring out what work was only necessary for survival and not following the true purpose of the day, spending time with God, praying and listening to God. We can’t know for certain if that is what happened, but we all need time to think about the big picture of how God is calling us to live. My call story started with a feeling, deep down inside of my ten year old self, a feeling which told me that I am called to live a simple life of love and action within God’s world. This feeling pushes me to find a way to live in God’s kingdom even while on earth, which involves loving, caring, sharing, and encouraging my neighbors to live in God’s kingdom, and even though I have this feeling, I still need time to listen to God to see how I can live out my calling. I don’t know where that call will take me, but I know that I am in God’s hands. Jeremiah did not know where his calling would take him, but he knew that God would be with him. The bent over woman did not know what would happen when she walked into that synagogue that day, but she felt the calling to live with God and followed where it lead her. It is our turn, to listen to God, to hear the words of our calling, to see how each of us can follow our calling to live with God.

For we have no higher calling than life in Christ, life with God, life through the Spirit. We have “no higher calling than this: to be channels of God’s love and healing and salvation to every human being and to the whole of God’s creation.” (Br. David Vryhof, SSJE) This is the same calling of God that Hebrews reminds us of, if we follow the voice from heaven, God who consumes us with love and sets our hearts on fire will be with us as we follow our callings in the life of God. While discerning our calls is not as easy as a phone call, having to listen and pray means a deeper relationship with God and a better understanding of how God is with us throughout our callings.