1-31-16 Vocation- Listening to God’s Call

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“Vocation- Listening to God’s Calls ” Jeremiah 1:4-10; Joshua 1:1-9  1-31-16

Key verses: Jer. 1:5-8- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.  Ah Sovereign Lord, I said, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.  But the Lord said to me, “Do not say ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you and say whatever I command.  Do not be afraid.”

Joshua 1:6-8 “”Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left. that my you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

If you look at it, God has often had a hard time getting people responding to his call- even people of great faith.  This is true of Bible times and our own time. Moses said he stuttered and was unable to speak.  Joshua, who was to be a general, was clearly afraid because God had to tell him three times to be strong and courageous and not be afraid.  David didn’t mind responding.  But when he went to fight Goliath his brothers told him to go back home, and Saul wondered about his not taking any armor.  His call as king came at the price of a civil war with Saul’s family.  Isaiah felt like he was unworthy to answer the call of God because of his sin and the sin of his people- and he thought he was going to die.  Zechariah didn’t believe the angel.  Peter denied Christ the disciples ran away and were shivering in an upper room until the risen Christ appeared.  Paul was persecuting Christians and actually had to be blinded to respond to God’s call.  Jeremiah thought he was too young.       I. GOD CALLS TO ALL- I am convinced from scriptures that God calls to all of us.  There is a universal call of the gospel- to all. The scriptures describe creation as “God spoke and it was so.”  His voice goes out over all His creation.  Romans 1:20 says that “God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  Isaiah and the Psalms speak of His justice being known throughout all the earth (Ps. 8:1; 105:7).    Whosoever will let them come.  The Gospel is open to all without discrimination.  But not everyone responds.  Jesus said, “Many are called but few are chosen (Mt. 22:24).  Jeremiah 35:17 says “I called to you, but you did not listen.”  As John Murray says, there is a universal call of the gospel to the whole world, but also an effectual call in which we respond. Part of that effectual call is the call to do something with our lives- our vocation.  Vocation comes from the Latin Vocare meaning “to call.”       II. GOD CALLS TO US IN BAPTISM- Baptism is a recognition that we have a relationship with the living God.  It is a symbol that the faith has affected us and that in fact we are whether we like it or not in covenant with God.  Much like if you are born in America you have an unspoken covenant with this nation as a citizen.  Some people chose to come to America, but most of us were just born here.  Some people choose baptism, but most were just brought up in baptism.  Baptism is a call also to listen to God’s voice.  It is a covenant to raise children up in God’s way and a call to us to follow in God’s way.  It is an admission that we have been taught about God, and that the Spirit behind the water baptism calls us to follow Him.  We confirm those baptism vows for ourselves in confirmation class or when we join the church.  That is when we commit ourselves and say we are “all in” in our answering the call of God.   It is in answering this call of God that we find our baptismal identity- our place- our reason d’etre- our purpose.         III. GOD CALLS SOME TO SPECIFIC THINGS- Joshua was called to be a general. He was not called to be a priest.  Moses was both a priest and a leader.  But the call of Joshua to lead the people meant that he should give up his fear and be courageous.  God tells Joshua to find courage by meditating on the Word of God day and night. We should find courage there as well.  Jeremiah was called to be a prophet.  He started making up excuses- I’m too young.  Some of you have been called by God to join this church.  I ask you to fulfill your calling.  Fulfill your calling by plugging in.  There are lots of places to plug in.  We need volunteers.  We need volunteers to be pew pals- clean up the pews during the week.  We need people to plug in just to get to know one another in FEAST Groups.  Have you ever thought of a FEAST group as a way to serve God?   It is, for it gives opportunity to reach out to new people and to love them.  Maybe God is calling you to teach Sunday School.  Maybe God is calling you to greet.  Maybe you have gifts in construction and want to work through GOoDWorks.  Maybe you feel a need for prison ministry and want to work through our presbytery’s prison ministry headed up by Phil Eason.  Maybe God has been tugging on your to do something worthwhile with your vacation by going on a mission trip to Peru or Mexico.  Maybe you want to help the hungry by volunteering for We Care or Snackpacks.  We need a some to step up and be advisors to our Middlers- who are a growing group but do not have any advisors right now.  I do not know how God is calling you.  I am thinking a lot about this because today we are calling a great guy as Associate Pastor.  I have known Blaine for as long as I have been in presbytery.  He was trying to start a church way on the other side of this county.  Perhaps you remember Betty and Gary Kendricks who left our church to move over to that side of the lake in 2006.  They were actually encouraged by us to be our representatives to help start that new church over there that Blaine was pastoring, Cherokee.  Clara and Bob Reynold’s daughter and family joined that church.  Wendell Ligon was a member here for several years.  I suggested to him when he got married and lived toward Gilbert that he join Cherokee and commended Blaine to him.  Blaine answered God’s call to go to Cherokee and after ten+ years his work there is now done.  He has heard God’s call to come here.  We tried to get him to come before but it wasn’t the right time.  Now it is. God calls us in different ways and different times.  Are we listening?  There is a long line of people who make up excuses why they do not answer God’s call.  But if God calls you to do something, you will not be happy doing something else.

III. SOMETIMES THE CALL IS UNCOMFORTABLE     Someone asked, “Does God ever call you to a job you do not like?”  That answer is simple.  Does anyone ever like their job 100% of the time?  Sometimes your calling may get boring, sometimes tedious, sometimes hard.  Jesus was called to the cross by the Father- that surely was a job he did not like.  Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow me they must deny themselves, pick up their cross daily and follow me.”    Remember the story of Jonah?  Every body knows he was thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale.  But to you remember why?  God called Jonah to go to Ninevah- a wicked city.  It would have been like being called to Ferguson during the riots or to downtown New Orleans after Katrina.  But you know what Jonah did? He apparently had some money.  He booked a cruise to the Spanish Riviera- to Tarshish- a famous resort of his day.  It would be like God saying he wants you to go on a short term mission trip and your saying, “I want to go- but I want to go to the resort city.  Let me go to Mexico, but let it be to Cancun or Acapulco instead.”  See, it is a lot more comfortable to go to a comfortable place.  We deserve it.  But your restlessness and wanderlust will not be satisfied seeking your comfort- you cannot be comfortable enough.  Jonah found that out. He eventually responded.        Whatever God calls you to do- your vocation- see it as a response to God’s voice, and He will use you.  It will not always be comfortable.  Jesus’ calling involved a cross- but also a resurrection.  Jeremiah’s calling involved telling a people to repent who refuse and kept throwing him into mudpits and making fun of him.  But we remember Jeremiah- not just as the weeping prophet as a prophet of hope- who said, “I know the plans I have for you to give you a future and a hope.”  Someone asked, “Does God ever call you to a job you don’t like?”  If liking means being comfortable- the answer is yes.  Work by its nature has moments that are rough.  But work is not all about us.  It is about glorifying God.  Paul talked about earning money in order to be generous.  Some have great talent but they purposefully choose to help others instead of make more money.
JRR Tolkien wrote a story about a man named Niggle who was a painter.  He had a vision of a beautiful tree, but he was so perfectionistic all he did was paint a perfect leaf.  He also was super distracted helping other people.  He would rather help others than paint.  When he died his leaf hung in a lowly corner of the local museum.   But when he got to heaven there to his surprise was the tree he had envisioned.  When you teach it is not about grading papers and getting the grades in and the paycheck.  It is about touching lives.  When you work in a plant, it is not just about making your thing- but serving the needs of someone who would use what you make- and also caring for the next person on the line.  If you are in medicine- it is not just about the paycheck but helping someone through their pain and blessing them.   The purpose of work is not just to get more stuff and not have any time to enjoy it.  You don’t study so you can work so you can get more stuff. Make a difference for good in the world.           In the classic book “Habits of the Heart” It speaks of the rise of consumerism and sharp individualism- the “It’s all about me” idea.  The writer says that we need to get back to asking about the common good and the greater good.  The common good is the good of neighbor and society, but it is always secondary to the greatest good- the purpose of life- the glory and enjoyment of God.  To be called is not just for ministers or priests- it is for all people.  God calls to us with His purpose for us. Annie Dillard talks about vocation as “waking up to God.”  When we wake up to God, listening to His voice, we find our place in the world and in His purpose.  I invite you to faithfully listen and answer the call of God- it may be a call to a small thing or a great thing- but listen and answer.