Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, January 28, 2007

This morning we hear the story of the call of the prophet Jeremiah to service for God. As is fairly common in the calling stories in the Hebrew Scriptures, we find a rather reluctant recipient of the call. And we can hardly blame Jeremiah for this response. Look at the treatment prophets get. When you think about it, a call from God is not necessarily such a great thing. People hate you. They persecute you. They ignore you. They taunt you. It seems that calls from God are not such a great thing. And so Jeremiah pleads to be let off the hook. He is young. He is not an eloquent speaker. But of course, God does not brook excuses. And God gets to the heart of the issue. Not only does God promise to give the words, but God encourages Jeremiah to not be afraid of “them” because God will be with him. God knew that Jeremiah knew the life ahead of a prophet and got to the heart of the matter.

I don’t think that things have changed all that much today. It can be a frightening thing to receive a call from God. Many of us are only too willing to make excuses and try and put God off. But that is rarely a successful endeavor. By our baptism we are all called to serve God in the church and in the world. Others are called to ordained ministry as deacons and priests. That is also a call many of us might like to fight off. I know I tried to ignore my call for quite some time. But God tends to keep after us and eventually it became clear to me that God would not let me off the hook.

Perhaps in your own life you have felt the call of God to a particularly ministry. There are many excuses all of us can use. I’m not good enough. I don’t speak well enough (a perennial favorite in the Hebrew Scriptures). You must be mistaken, you can possible mean me! I don’t have enough talent or time or ability. I am not capable enough. I am not something, anything enough! Our excuses are limited only by our imagination.

If you ever feel overwhelmed by what you think God is calling you to do, take hope. God promises to be with you. You see, God does not call us and then abandon us. God provides what is necessary to answer the call. Some of you today may be struggling with the call of God in your own life. You may be wondering how in the world you can do what God has called you to do. But God does not abandon us. God will follow you and bless you as you follow the path God has set before you.

It is not always easy to follow a call though. Aside from all our personal reservations and concerns we often have to deal with those around us as well who might question our call. Jesus himself had to deal with this situation. In the Gospel of Luke today people drove Jesus out of town, not a particularly warm reception. And yet in other places people were astounded by Jesus. No doubt that as we follow the call of God in our lives we will experience the same sort of responses. Some will doubt or scoff and wonder how in the world God could use someone like me. Others will be excited and supportive.

But when you think about it, that is really life. The key is to find and work with those who are supportive.

Is God calling you to do something? How have you been responding to that call? Are you approaching it willing and hopeful to do what God has called you to do? That is the response God is waiting for. But don’t worry, even if we respond like Jeremiah, or Jonah, or Moses God will still be there working in our lives. God will patiently continue to call you until you respond. To be honest I’m not sure if that should be comforting or scary, but it is true.

If you are worried that you might not be up to the task, don’t. God will give you what you need. Actually, I think God prefers to work through our weaknesses. When God chooses to use us in this way we are unable to try and rely on our own strengths. Instead me must rely on the strength of God working through us.

I learned a fantastic song last weekend. The words go something like this: You are loved. You are beautiful. You are gift of God, His own possession. You are gift to all mankind. His gift of love to them you are His. God danced the day you were born.” Never forget this. God calls us sometimes to step out of our comfort zone. But we always need to remember that we are loved by God and a gift from God. The idea that God danced the day each of us was born excites me.

We don’t serve a boring or scary or threatening God. We serve a God who danced the day we were born. So when God calls you, don’t make excuses (even if they happen to be true). Instead dance. Dance to answer the call of God in your life.

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