Creekside Church
Sermon of January 26, 2020

"Consider Your Call"
1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Pastor
Rosanna McFadden

 

Good morning! This is a happy Sunday for me when I have the opportunity to consider not one, but two biblical texts which I feel are relevant to our lives, and to consider them not only separately, but in conversation with one another. The first is one we haven’t read in today’s service, but which you have probably heard before: it’s from the Old Testament prophet Micah, chapter 6 verse 8. Anybody remember that reference? You might know it set to music, or remember it from the benediction that Pastor David Bibbee shared frequently: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. I want to set Micah 6:8 alongside the text which Larry just read for us from 1 Corinthians 1. Verse 26 says, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters.” And that’s what I hope we can do this morning.

I can think of -- and you probably can too -- some of the most significant calls I have received from other people. The long-distance call I got at home in California in 1981 from the young man whom I met two weeks before at Annual Conference in Indianapolis; the cry of pain I heard sitting out at Pringle Park in Goshen while I was watching a girls’ soccer game and figuring out it was my six-year old son who had just broken his wrist; the phone call I got on Sunday morning June 2 last year from our daughter Katy in Michigan telling us she was in labor and headed to the hospital. A few calls I remember for what didn’t happen. Once when our children were little, Tim and I returned home after being out one evening and the high school student who was babysitting for us said, “Someone called and said you won a new Jeep Cherokee.” “What do we have to do to claim it?” we asked. “Oh. I didn’t take down their number.” So much for that call.

Of course, there are calls we remember because they brought news that we weren’t expecting or didn’t want to hear. Calls from the doctor with test results, or nearly any call which begins, “There’s been an accident . . .” Part of what is so difficult about a call like that is that it changes our image of the future for ourselves or someone we care about, but it does not give us a clear picture of what to expect. We may not know what to do next, or perhaps the only thing we can do is wait. I know that many of you have been in this position; I’m sure that some of you are feeling this way now. I know this because it is in times of disruption and uncertainty that people reach out to their pastor, and ask for the prayers and support of their family of faith. It is wonderful that you do this: that kind of prayer and support is one of the gifts of a family of faith.

I am pretty sure that the call which Paul is writing about in 1 Corinthians is not a phone call; but I think there is some significant overlap between a call from God and the calls we get from other people. A Call From God sounds like a dramatic, epic thing -- and maybe it is for some people. But a call from God can be as simple as somebody tapping you on the shoulder as someone did for me, and saying “You have a knack for telling children’s stories and getting a simple message across. Have you ever considered a ministry where you would speak to adults?” I believe that one of the ways God calls us is through other people, but it took a couple years for me to take action on that call: it seemed like a pretty indirect path from telling children’s stories and being a graphic artist taking care of little kids and running older ones around to school activities to going to graduate school and working in a church or some other ministry setting. I just couldn’t picture what my life would look like. If this was what God wanted for me, wouldn’t God lay it all out clearly so I would know for sure, and wouldn’t have to deal with uncertainty and disruption? Turns out the answer is No. God did not lay out my own call that clearly for me; but I did learn that negotiating disruption and uncertainty is one of the ways which I grew closer to God and stronger in my faith.

I have referenced mythologist Joseph Campbell before. He has written about the Hero’s Journey, which is the journey of becoming a mature person and the journey of faith. His words may speak more to someone at the beginning of that path than it does to some of us who are decades along it, but there is wisdom here for us all. I hope I would have taken these words to heart as I was considering my own call:

“If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's. If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path. You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Of course, we don’t make our path all by ourselves. Our choices are influenced -- and sometimes dictated -- by the people and the circumstances around us. They are also shaped by the gifts which God has given us. You can probably think of gifts that you have -- talent, education, experience -- but that is not where the path begins. God doesn’t wait for us to develop the skills we need before God calls us. Listen again to 1 Corinthians 1 beginning in verse 26: Consider your own call, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world; things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the in the presence of God. God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus.

The gift which we all start with, the greatest gift we are given, is the source of our life in Christ Jesus. This gift is significant because it is a great leveler: if everyone has been give the gift of Christ Jesus than no one should be boasting about their talent and ability. This counsel from Paul was especially appropriate for the church at Corinth, because folks who had more economic advantages -- that means more money -- were treating poorer folks with disdain, and some of the people who thought they were especially spiritual were boasting about their wisdom. What Paul tells them -- pretty firmly -- is that God is not so impressed by their wealth or their talent or their so-called wisdom. They have to let go of the life they planned and the respect they think they’re entitled to in order to have the life which Christ has given to them: a calling which might look foolish to those on the outside; a calling to follow and imitate a teacher who gave up everything in order to save people whom he didn’t even know; a man who loved and forgave his enemies even as they were killing him. Allowing yourself to be crucified on a cross when you are innocent is just foolishness--there is just no way to square that kind of behavior with the wisdom of the world. Even if we could live as Jesus did, even that would be through the power of God, and not by our own wisdom and strength. The best we can do, the best anyone can do is to be the people who are being called: to listen and follow God’s call in our lives.

And what is God calling us to do? I don’t have a specific roadmap laid out for me, let alone one for you, but I do have a couple of suggestions:

1. Do justice
2. Love kindness
3. Walk humbly with God

If I could add one from my own experience, it would be 4. Keep walking; God knows the way. One way to evaluate our call, our goals, our ministry -- whatever word you use to describe it -- is this: does it further the cause of justice and kindness? Does it help to bring about the kingdom of God? If so, it may be worth walking on that path, even if the details aren’t clear. Is the purpose of this call to demonstrate that I am smart and successful? Better give that one a yellow light. God wants to use our gifts, but for God’s glory, and not our own. And finally, will this call be destructive -- physically, emotionally or spiritually--to myself or others? If the answer is yes, there needs to be some serious soul-searching. There may be times when we move out of our comfort zone or even put ourselves in danger for the sake of Christ Jesus: that is different from intentionally harming ourselves or others.

I believe that God’s will is that every person hear and respond to the call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. No two paths to that goal will be identical; none of us get to a point where we’ve done everything that God required and we can coast the rest of the way -- we don’t retire from being God’s people. Only Jesus Christ completed his call on earth and walked that path without a mis-step. That is why only Jesus Christ can boast, and we can boast only in Jesus Christ. But brothers and sisters, when we walk with God, we are blessed along that path. That call might shake us up, we may not be able to see the path ahead, but if we are companions with God we will not fail -- we cannot fail, because our definition of success is not power or wisdom, it is whether or not we have walked with God.

As we go from this place, seeking our path, listening for our own call, may we be more like Jesus Christ as we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Amen.

 

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