Isaiah 40:12-17, 25-31, I Corinthians 1:17-30
January 20, 2008
Here we are at the third Sunday of the New Year. Last week, I asked you to remember your Baptism. Along with that, I asked you to remember the beginning of your life of faith. That’s what Baptism represents. And of course, if you were baptized as an infant, that was probably a time when you were too young to remember.
So maybe you’re like me and the memories of the beginning of your faith has to more to do with scattered images – memories of Sunday school, of teachers and other students, of certain classrooms, and of places like the church office and library. Maybe those memories are vivid. And maybe they’re just images, impressions, vague sights and sounds from long ago.
Or, maybe the start of your faith journey is much more recent. Perhaps you weren’t raised in a church environment. Maybe you came to faith much later in life, and your decision to follow this Jesus is much more “memorable.” Perhaps you can point to a time and a date when you became a Christian. Perhaps you can recall a certain event, an emotional time, or a powerful influence in your life. I can remember many of those powerful moments in my life, times when faith became important to me. But the more I think about it, the real “roots” of my faith began long ago at the baptismal font with my then young parents pledging to raise me in the faith – which they did!
I hope you’ve had a chance to think about those things. The general consensus is that we should take that time every year to remember our Baptism. And so we shall. In the meantime, I hope you’ve been thinking about that this past week. I hope you’ve taken some time to remember times in your life when it was all new and exciting and powerful! If not, I hope you will. And while you’re at it, I’d like to say to you married folks that it’s also good to take some time to think about the early days of your marriage. Remember the feelings and the joy and the newness you experienced then. Talk about those days. If you do, I think you’ll get a better appreciation for the importance of remembering the beginnings of your faith, as well!
Well, today I want to take that process one step further. You’ve remembered your Baptism. Now I want you to “consider your call.” And to help you think about what that means, I’ve chosen to read one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture – the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
Let me tell you that every one of us has a “call.” That’s the first thing we need to take from this. Paul is addressing the whole church in this letter and he says, “Consider your call, brethren.” And he’s not saying “Consider your call, you church leaders.” He’s not saying “Consider your call, you ministers, and you elders and deacons and trustees.” And even though he uses the word “brethren,” he’s not even saying “Consider your call – you men.” He’s saying “Consider your call – all of you!”
That’s the first thing. We have to understand that unequivocally. Too often in churches people take the attitude that only certain people are called by God. And that’s partially true. Because God does call certain people in particular ways. But, that doesn’t change the fact that he calls all of us to service in his kingdom.
Sometimes people think about God’s call on their lives and they say, “that doesn’t apply to me.” Or they think, “Yes, the Bible calls us to a life of faith, but…” And they give lots of excuses. “…but I don’t know enough.” “I don’t have that kind of personality.” “I don’t have this or that kind of gift.” “I don’t have the time to do that kind of thing.” Or “I just don’t think I can do it.” But none of that negates the fact that God calls all of us to the service of his kingdom. I hope you see that in this chapter.
Look what Paul says here. I love these words! “Consider your call. Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards. Not many of you were powerful. Not may of you were of noble birth.” “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” Not only is that incredibly wonderful writing, but it speaks the truth of our faith louder than any words could say! God places a call on the lives of all of his people, regardless of their apparent qualifications or lack thereof!!
The truth is that we all have times when we feel foolish, weak, low, and despised. We even have times when we feel like we are nothing. But God chooses us anyway! I think that’s amazing! And what does he choose us to do? He chooses us “to be his people, to obey his word, and to show his love.” And please remember that those are things that every one of us pledged to do at our baptism, and or our confirmation, and/or the time we joined this church. And if you don’t remember any of those times, remember that we made those same pledges again last week! We pledged to “be Jesus’ disciples, to obey his word, and to show his love.” None of us is left out of that – no matter how foolish, or weak, or low, or despised we feel! That’s the first thing.
The second thing is that it’s not us, anyway! God did the above things – chose what is foolish to shame the wise, etc, etc… God ordered his kingdom in that way, why? “So that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” We live in his power. In Zechariah 4:6 we find a similar thought. “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel. It’s not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” It’s not us! As followers of Christ it’s not our power that’s crucial. It’s God’s! Paul continues by saying that “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus.”
When we’re thinking, “I can’t do that. I’m not… knowledgeable, spiritual, kind, whatever…” God says, “That’s ok!” “It’s not your power to be those things that matters, anyway!” “I am the source of your life in Christ Jesus.” Isn’t that freeing, my friends? We don’t have to be our own source of power in our lives! We don’t have to be our own strength. So many people are going through such turmoil in their lives because they think they have to be. We don’t! But! (And this is huge!) We do have to be open to God’s strength in our lives. And that’s not as easy as it sounds! We have to be willing to put out of our mind those thoughts get in our way of being all that God wants us to be. We have to put out of our minds the thoughts of “That doesn’t apply to me.” Or “That’s for someone else.” Because as Paul concludes here, God made Jesus to be “our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption.”
My friends, that’s it! That’s our call. That’s all of our call! We are called to be God’s people, to obey his word, and to show his love. We are to live by his spirit, his power and his righteousness! That’s our call! And make no mistake, a call begs an answer! The worst thing we can do is ignore it! When the phone’s ringing, the person on the other end wants us to pick it up. God calls each of us to a higher wisdom, a higher righteousness, a higher love. Will we answer that call, and be open to him? Or will we let the machine get it, or just let it ring?
Please, I beg you, answer the call! Be people who live by Jesus’ power, by Jesus’ righteousness, and by Jesus’ love! Be people who let all of that make a difference in the way you live your life. Let it change your life. Don’t let this be like a “sermon” where we listen and think to ourselves, “That sounded great.” “I really liked what he said.” And then we don’t do any of it!
God calls us to be his body. God calls us to life differently than we would otherwise. So, what’s it going to be? It’s a new year. You know God’s call. Pledge yourself anew to live that new life in Christ.
Eternal God, you have made us your own. Help us to hear your call on our lives. Help us to live by your spirit, in your power. Help us to love one another as Jesus loved. Help us to encourage and support one another and to be the light of the world around us. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.