Part of the Call – January 18, 2009
I Samuel 3:1-10, John 1:35-46
January 18, 2009
Are you excited about your faith? In a more modern expression I would ask, are you jazzed about your faith? Do you talk about your faith with others? If you do, why do you? Do you talk about it because you’re obligated to do so? You get the message from the pulpit that talking about faith is something we should do. You’ve heard it said – you’ve heard me say – that there are wonderful benefits to our faith, and there are people out there who need to hear about those benefits.
But, is that the reason we talk about our faith with others? Do we talk about it because we are obligated to talk about it? Do we talk about it because we’re told we should? Do we talk about it because we know somehow that people need to know the benefits of faith that we know? Or do we talk about it because we are so excited about it that we’re bursting at the seams!
I have a friend from High School who is involved in the Coalition for Space Exploration. He has an office on capitol hill, and he gets the movers and the shakers together with the scientists, to advance the cause of space exploration. His organization sent me a survey just this week asking for my opinion on the rationale and goals for the space program. (Boy did I feel important!!)
Well, I was a child of the space race. Sure, I know we learned a lot of things, and developed a lot of new technologies through that program. But I think there’s no doubt that the greatest thing we did was to inspire the human mind! What we did was we jazzed people! I was jazzed! And as I thought , about that, it seemed that was exactly what I was getting at in this sermon – a sermon I had started working on days before! God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t he?!
A friend of mine told me his wife came to him and asked why he loved her. He said he thought a lot about that, how he was attracted to her, how they shared common interests and goals, how they had a history together, and how they were creating their own history. But is that why he loved her? The more he thought about it, the more he realized it’s this same thing. He loved her because she touched his heart! He said, “That’s why I tell others about her? Not because I feel it’s important for people to know my status? ‘Hey, I’m married.’ It’s because I’m excited that she’s my wife!” It’s because he was jazzed? It’s this same thing!
We read today from the first chapter of John’s Gospel, and I love this part of Jesus’ ministry. Because it’s all about being excited. It’s all about being jazzed! People were just learning about Jesus. It was all just beginning. And they knew Jesus was a great man somehow – or at least he was a great speaker. But did they know who he really was? In John’s Gospel they seem to know something. “We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote!” But still, was it just a matter of intellectual confirmation? Or was it more?
In John’s Gospel, there a little different twist to this story. When the other writers tell of the call of the disciples, they tell us how Jesus approached certain people, said to them “follow me,” and the people rose up and followed. But John, who often “fleshed out” his account more than the others, John, who gave us more of the thoughts, and feelings, and heart, showed what else happened when Jesus called people. When Jesus called people, when he touched their lives, they went and found others and told them! And again, why? Was it because they had been given intellectual confirmation of who Jesus was? Or was it because he had touched their hearts, and they were excited?!
So, in John’s Gospel, the way Jesus called people it wasn’t just one to one. It was one to one – to one! The characteristic of this story is that which characterized the church – especially in the early days. When someone learned about Jesus, they went and told someone else. And it wasn’t a matter of obligation. “Oh gee. I’m supposed to go tell people about Jesus today.” It wasn’t that! Lives were touched! Hearts were inspired! People were jazzed!! And the word spread like wildfire throughout the known world. That’s what has happened ever since – people telling people.
So Andrew told Peter, and Philip told Nathanael. And the last part of this chapter is Nathanael’s story. We didn’t read all the way to the end because it’s a bit long. But I encourage you to do so. Because there you’ll find the story of how Nathanael was convinced by the miraculous vision Jesus gave him that he was the Son of God. And what does Jesus tell him? “You will see greater things than these!” It’ll be even more exciting! “You will see the heavens opened!” Nathanael was excited, too! He was jazzed!
And can we even imagine what it was like for the boy Samuel, hearing the voice of God. Visions and messages from God were “rare in those days” it says. But Samuel heard God’s voice! He was just a boy serving in the Temple when the “call” of God came to him. But his heart was touched!
That was the way of it throughout the Old Testament. God called people to ministry. And when he did, he always gave them a vision. Moses saw the burning bush and heard the voice of God. Isaiah had the vision of God enthroned in the Temple. Jeremiah received his vision. So did Elijah, Elisha, Jacob, David, Solomon, and on and on I could go. They saw the vision, they heard the voice. They were excited. They were jazzed!
Jesus came and he too called people to ministry. And he still does. And we are part of that call, too. All of us! Sometimes when we think of the word “call” or “calling,” we think about someone “special.” We think about Jesus’ disciples. We think about pastors! In fact, a pastor’s offer to come to a church is traditionally referred to as a “call.” The contract to work at a church is referred to as the “terms of call.” But this story clearly shows that “call” is not an exclusive thing. All of us are called by God. So I would ask you, as Paul asked the Corinthian church, to consider your call.
Last week, we celebrated the baptism of Jesus. And in that celebration, I asked you to remember that time when you first came to faith. Well, this is the next step. It is to examine your heart. It is to ask why you came to faith in the first place. Did you come to an intellectual realization of God’s grace? That may have been part of it. But the real question is, did God touch your heart? Were you excited? Were you jazzed?
In John’s later book, The Revelation, we read the “Letters to the Churches” in chapters two and three. And in the very first of those letters, the one written to the church at Ephesus, the spirit says this, “I know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:3-4) They were doing all the good things of faith. But they had lost the excitement. They had lost the vision. In other words, “They were not jazzed any more!”
Friends, everyone who calls themselves a Christian should read those words from time to time. Everyone should ask themselves from time to time how excited they are about their faith. From time to time everyone should ask themselves, “do I have the love for God I had at first?” “Am I excited?” “Am I jazzed?!”
That makes all the difference in how we live our faith. And it makes all the difference in how we share our life of faith with others. So many Christians wonder why faith doesn’t seem to work for them. They wonder why others seem to be more excited about things and live the joyful life, but they can’t seem to get it together themselves. And then when Paul says something like, “rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances,” that makes no sense at all!
It’s all about where our hearts are. It’s all about our level of excitement. And if we don’t have that excitement, if we don’t have that joy, what do we do to get it back? That’s a tough question. In our entertainment oriented society, we think excitement has to be given to us from the outside. We think we have to be “entertained.” We think the way to be excited is to watch or to hear something exciting. But let me tell you that the other way is to know something exciting! And I think having the ability to know the God of the universe personally, is exciting! I think that goes a long way in remembering the love we had at first.
The other thing we need to do is to put ourselves in a position where God can touch our hearts. We need to be sure we are being intentional and continual in our contacts with him. That’s how we make ourselves open to his touch. We need to stop in the busyness of this life and recognize his blessing and his hand in our lives. We need to take time to notice his creative hand in our world. Those things are essential in knowing the joy of his kingdom. It’s way too easy in our busy world to forget to do that.
So I ask us today to remember to do it – and not just here and now. But out there, and always. Spend the time in your faith to concentrate on God’s presence. Take time to be aware of his hand in your life. Remember how truly exciting it all is. Stop and ponder the mystery of God’s infinite love, and amazing grace. Think of what it means to you. If you do that, you’ll be more likely to share your faith with others. And people will be more open to hearing about your faith when it’s something you are excited about, rather than when it’s something you’re just “obligated to say.” (They can tell!)
We are part of the call of God – all of us. And as part of that call, we are part of the excitement of being his people. I challenge you all to see it that way, and to know that excitement!
Eternal God, you are amazing. Your love for us is everlasting, and your faithfulness never ends. Help us to remember the love we had at first. Help us to grow in the excitement of our faith, and the joy of your kingdom. For this we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.