The Call to Serve – October 10, 2021, Recognition of Leadership
Exodus 3:1-12, Ephesians 4:1-16
October 10, 2021
Last week, I talked about the beginning of Ephesians chapter 4. If you remember, I read the part where Paul begged us to “live a life worthy of the call to which we have been called.” And he told us about the “unity of the Spirit.” I wanted to read that part again today, partially because it relates to this next part, and partially because I don’t think we can hear it enough!
If you remember, Paul gave us the characteristics of the “life worthy of the call of God.” Do you remember? “Lowliness, meekness, patience, and forbearance with love.” I said last week that such things are foreign to so many people in our world. They have no idea how to do and be those things. They see no value in them. They see no need to aspire to them. But we are called to do and to be those things. And Paul begs us to do so.
I could talk about that for a long time. But I won’t today. Just keep them in mind. They are the characteristics of call that all of us are given as the people of God. They are the things that we all need to strive for in maintaining the unity of the Spirit. And know that, if that unity is missing, we can go back to those things, and see if any of them are lacking! Like I said last week, we need to ask ourselves, do we have “Lowliness, meekness, patience, and forbearance?”
So now, what I want to concentrate on today is this second part. Today we are celebrating “Leadership.” Today we are recognizing that there’s another way the word “call” is used in the scriptures. It is used to describe a call to a special office, or a special task, or a special way of service. We Presbyterians have adopted that word to refer to Pastor’s and churches. A Pastor’s actual written “contract” with a church is called a “call.” And the specifics in that contract are referred to as the “terms of call.”
In a similar way, we recognize that others are “called” to service within the church. Maybe it’s not as “formal” as a Pastor’s call, but it’s just as important. There are several places in scripture that refer to this special call. But I really like this one, because it is directly related to the call to live the “worthy life.” Because we can’t forget that. These two kinds of “call” are not mutually exclusive! And some treat them as though they are. They act as though the “specific call to service” of some, means that they are free from any kind of service themselves. And Paul would frown upon that!
Here in Ephesians, he adds an additional word. He refers to the different ways of serving in terms of the “gifts” that are given to those who are called to serve. “His gifts were that some should be Apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”
Now, I don’t want to get hung up in the specifics of those “offices.” Let’s just say that each church, and each denomination have adopted their own terms and structure for those things. In the Methodist Church, for instance, those who we would call the “Elders” of the Church are called “Deacons.” So, the names are sometimes different, and the structures vary a little. But the offices and the calls are the same, and we all have them. And as you know, we Presbyterians are very proud of ours!
But, however that works, Paul tells us that the purpose of those various offices is the same. Those “gifts,” that “call to service,” is not just for the “work of ministry.” It is for the “equipping the saints for the work of ministry.” No matter how you read that, it means all of the people! We are all the “saints!” Those called to offices are to use their gifts to equip all of us for the work of ministry. So much for any of us feeling like we’re free from any kind of service, like it’s someone else’s job!
That’s what I want us to think about today. As we recognize our leadership today, I want us to remember that their job is to equip all of us for the work of the church. As I’ve told the Trustees over the year, it’s not their job to do all the work of the building and grounds. It’s their job to see that the work of the building and grounds is done!
Sometimes we forget that. And sometimes those in those offices can forget that, too! Because sometimes it is easier just to just do the work. And the temptation is to take that route and forget to bring others into that work.
So, we recognize today that we are all called to live the life worthy of the call of God, and some are called to special work in the Church, to equip the saints for the work of ministry. And we celebrate that special call today.
I read for you today the call of Moses. I often think of him on days like this. Actually, I read just the first part of that story. It’s a long story! But I want you to think what this was like for him. There he was, minding his own business – well, actually he was minding the business of his father-in-law. And one day, he saw the burning bush. And as he drew near, he heard the voice of God, telling him to remove his shoes, for he was standing on holy ground! I love that!
As I said, we only read part of the story. I’ll let you go back and read the whole thing on your own. But the thing that stands out the most to me in that story is Moses’ reluctance. He answers God, saying, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” Remember, Egypt was the most powerful nation on earth at the time! Despite the negative thoughts we might have about Egypt, and the cruelty of certain pharaohs, Egypt was one of the world’s great civilizations!
So Moses said, “Who am I?” That’s the first reaction many people have to a call to service. “Who am I?” they say. “I’m not that important in the church.” “There are other people who are more talented, more connected with the church, and have a deeper faith.” Well, I would remind you what was once said about God. God doesn’t call great people to do things in his kingdom, he calls ordinary people to do great things!” I’m sure Moses felt “ordinary,” like he was of no importance. And no one is of no importance in God’s kingdom!
If you read on, you will find Moses’ second objection. He felt that he had “short-comings,” things that would prevent him from doing what God was calling him to do. “I cannot speak,” he said. Many believe from reading this passage that Moses had some kind of speech impediment. He many have been a stutterer.
If you haven’t seen the movie “The King’s Speech,” I highly recommend it! It’s about the rise of King George VI, at the time of World War II. It chronicled his struggles with being a stutterer, and how he overcame that difficulty to help hold a nation together in a time of great crisis. I can’t help thinking of him when I read the story of Moses.
I’m sure each of these people we have recognized today, can see their own inadequacies. If they have a realistic view of themselves, they know that they need God’s strength if they are going to fulfill their call. And I ask all of us to pray for them in that regard. And remember, that Moses’ first concern was not, will Pharaoh believe him, but would his own people believe him?! We need to reassure our leaders that we are with them!
Finally, in Exodus 4:13, we hear Moses’ final plea. After the whole plan of God is explained to him, and it maybe even seems feasible somehow, Moses was still overwhelmed by the enormity of it all and he just blurts out, “Oh Lord, please send somebody else.”
Our leaders will be overwhelmed by the enormity of it all from time to time. I guarantee that. Please pray for them in that regard, too! And for you leaders, when you feel like that, know that you’re not alone! Actually, you’re in good company! So many of the people God called in the scriptures, and in all the years since, have felt inadequate. And yet they did what they did, because they all had the same thing, which is the same thing you have at your disposal. They all had the power of God!
In the end, it is true that God does not call great people to do great things. He calls ordinary people to do great things. He doesn’t require that we are talented, or important, or even knowledgeable. He only requires that we are willing. And that’s what you were when you accepted the call. You were willing. And thank you for that! And may God bless you, and strengthen you, and inspire you for the task ahead, for his glory, and for the equipping of the saints for his ministry.
Eternal God, it is not by our might, nor our power, but by your spirit that we can do your work. As we seek to serve, help us to be in tune with your spirit, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. For we pray in his name and for the sake of his kingdom, Amen.