1st Scripture Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40 (VU p.764)
Let’s take a moment this morning to look at our mission statement. If you don’t know it, you’ll find it on the front of your bulletin. It says:
To foster spiritual development of all members of our community as revealed in the Bible.
That is our mission statement, brothers and sisters in Christ. That is the work we have felt called to do in this church. If this is true, then we have a pile of work to do! And I am impressed by your willingness to engage in outreach activities that support this calling. I think of all the musical events, the Christmas dinner, the work of the United Church Women, the Healing Pathways group, and the support for the Food Bank and First United in Vancouver.
The prophet Isaiah said: “I will give you as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” We believe that there are many ways to shine the light of Christ beyond our church doors. We serve others, we include others in our celebrations, we offer radical hospitality to all who come thru our doors. We work on ourselves to ensure that we are adequately reflecting the light of Christ into our community, into all our spheres of influence: family, work, organizations for community service, politics, health care, hospitality industry, and more.
And so we are continually comparing ourselves to that ideal image of a “light to the nations”, and asking the Divine within us to guide us and shape us as we strive to do God’s will as followers of Jesus the Christ.
For didn’t the psalmist say: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” We must learn to look within our hearts for God’s will for each of us individually, and as we join our hearts with others to do God’s work, we must learn to listen for the Spirit’s wisdom as we plan our collective efforts.
We need to tune in to the Spirit’s guidance, and acknowledge that this higher wisdom is at work in our lives, and essential to our spiritual growth. For there is no salvation for us without turning to God. God’s wisdom and mercy are not available to us through our lesser beings. We acknowledge Jesus as both human and divine, and in this age I believe we are called to bring into consciousness that understanding that Jesus tried to teach us, that we are like him – branches of the same vine – capable of all that he has done and more – if we will only grow into that awareness – if we will only believe that we are in him and he is in us.
When we let the power of God loose in our lives, then there is nothing that can stop us – no limit to what we can accomplish.
Hymn #150 MV “Spirit God be Our Breath”
2nd Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42
The Apostle Paul tells the early church at Corinth that: “God is faithful, by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Does this idea of being “called” puzzle any of you? It sure did me for awhile! What does it mean to be called by God? I didn’t get a phone call, or an email, or a letter – did you?
Some things you just know. And it’s not by our ordinary ways of knowing. I like to tell people that there’s more going on than we can possibly know with our ordinary ways of knowing. Our physical senses can’t tell us everything we need to know.
Jesus told us to “read the signs”. We can “know” things by paying attention to what is going on around us. And part of that is listening – and not with the ears. We need to listen for the wisdom that comes thru our hearts – for God tells us that the knowledge of what is right and good has been placed there for us to access.
So when we perceive that what is happening around us is not good, then we also usually have some sense of what needs to be done about it. And that might be what a “calling” looks like to someone. A child who is strongly drawn to a life of service, say as a doctor, might understand that as a “calling”. An older person, finished with the work of providing for a family might respond to a need in the community for volunteers – and that might feel like a “calling”. A person who has been actively seeking a spiritual life might commit to a life of monasticism, or service as a spiritual leader. Does this look like a “calling”? God’s work demands our participation in some way.
John the Baptist had a calling, “to prepare the way of the Lord, make his ways straight.” He knew from an early age it seems that his service to God would be in preparing the people to be receptive to the teachings of Jesus – teachings that he understood would be much more important that what he, John, had to offer.
And in our gospel reading this morning, we heard how the first two of Jesus’ disciples were called to follow him – to follow Jesus whose own calling had been demonstrated just the day before, as John baptized him in the river Jordan. John had been waiting for his coming, but did not know him until he “saw” the Spirit descending like a dove, and remaining on him. John “read the signs” and recognized Jesus as “the lamb of God”. Somehow the naming of Jesus as “the lamb of God” resonated for the two who would become the first disciples, and they set out to follow him.
So it’s not hard, is it, to see the hand of God, of Divine Purpose at work in all these callings. “God is faithful,”Paul said, “by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is a direction, a trajectory to all of this, and it is toward the realization of God’s peaceable kingdom on earth. We may think it is moving very slowly, as we look around in dismay at all the darkness that is around us, but God’s ways are not our ways – and God’s timing is not always clear to us. What is clear is that we have been called to be this tiny church – and we still have work to do. Let’s shine up our mirrors, buckle on our courage and our compassion, and listen, listen, listen for God’s will for us in these days.
Hymn #567 VU “Will You Come and Follow Me”