Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Our Calling: a Tuesday in Holy Week Sermon with Reference to 1 Cor 1.26-28, Oswald Chambers, Eugene Peterson and Jeremiah

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many 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. (1 Cor 1.26-28 ESV)
Some thoughts on calling: what is our calling considering that not many of us are wise, or powerful, or of noble birth either? What is our calling despite our foolishness, weakness and lowliness? What is our calling by which God will bring to nothing things that are?

First, know that we are all called to something; since before we were born, by name, just as Jeremiah was.

But “A sense of call in our time is profoundly countercultural” writes Biblical scholar, Walter Bruegemmann. We often avoid it.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest:
It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way in his Run with the Horses, (IVP, 1983):
We are practiced in pleading inadequacy in order to avoid living at the best that God calls us to. How tired the excuses sound! I am only a youth; I am only a housewife . . . (p48)
Even Jeremiah tried that. “I am only a boy,” he said. But, in his inimitable style, Peterson gives us the essence of God’s response to that excuse
Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition? Are you going to retreat when you find that there is more to life than finding three meals a day and a dry place to sleep at night? Are you going to run home the minute you find that the mass of men and women are more interested in keeping their feet warm than living at risk to the glory of God? Are you going to live cautiously or courageously? I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive toward excellence. It is easier, I know, to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of The Average. Easier, but not better. Easier, but not more significant. Easier, but not more fulfilling. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny. Now at the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit. If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence? What is it you really want, Jeremiah, do you want to shuffle along with this crowd, or run with the horses? (pp17-18)
In Jesus, God calls us to risk, courage, our best, righteousness, excellence, fulfillment, purpose far beyond what we think ourselves capable. We are not inadequate.

There is a difference between what we think we could do or can do—what we think we’re good at—and what we might be called to do.

Calling is not just “full-time church ministry.” Being a risk-taking, excellent wife or husband is a calling. So is being a mother or father. Being a nurse, a bus-driver, a realtor is a calling.
What are we called for?

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest again:
I am called to live in perfect relation to God so that my life produces a longing after God in other lives, not admiration for myself.
What are we being called to?

ArchBishop Curtis of Calgary in an address at a Clergy Retreat:
One of the distinctive features of the Christian life is the call to community — relationship with God and one another. Because we are called to live in personal relationship with Jesus, we are also called to live in personal relationship with the company of Jesus.
Why are we called?

Timothy Sherman, a wild-eyed prophetic type, speaking at workshop in Calgary:
My first calling is not to be a successful pastor, it is to give God pleasure.
So it us for us…we are called this Holy Week to be who we are in Jesus, to do what we are called to do, not to be successful, but to give God pleasure.