August 31, 2014 – Answering the Call

Exodus 3:1-15

        We live in a fast-paced world. Most of us are in constant contact with our friends and coworkers. The thought of sitting through a meeting or a movie or dare I say it a sermon is unheard of unless we are still connected with cell phones or I-Pods.  Yet in order for us to respond and acknowledge someone’s attempt to get our attention, we need to answer the call.

Your call – what is God calling you to do?  That sounds like a really strange concept.  What does it mean to be called? Aren’t only those who are becoming ordained considered ‘called by God?’ Can we ignore God’s call? Will God act in spite of us?  The Bible is full of examples of people who were called by God to do specific things.  Gideon was called to lead a small army of 300 into battle against thousands of trained soldiers.  David was called to serve as king over Israel, in spite of the fact that he was the youngest son of his household and doing the lowliest job of tending sheep. We find Moses also tending his father-in-law’s sheep when God literally called him into service.  Moses’ specific task was to lead the people of Israel out of slavery and into the Promised Land.

But what does it mean to be called by God? What are some of the classic responses to being called?  Moses’ call story is similar to several others.  The first characteristic of a classic call story is for God to get the person’s attention.  For Mary, it was through the angel Gabriel.  For Peter it was Jesus telling him to ‘feed my sheep.’  For Paul, it was a lightning strike and a voice from heaven.  For Moses it was a burning bush that was burning but not being consumed.  God uses various ways to get our attention, some more direct than others.  Is God trying to get your attention? Do you find yourself considering a ministry or have a passion for helping others in a specific way?  Maybe God is leading you to take up the cross of Christ.

The next characteristic of a classic call story is a response from the person being called. Note in today’s scripture that God did not speak to Moses from the burning bush until after Moses responded with curiosity to God’s attention getter.  Here is an animated movie clip of Moses’ call story. Watch how the scene unfolds. [Play movie]  When God calls us into action, we need to respond to this call or not.  Ignoring the call to ministry is a response.  We still maintain our freedom of choice, and for many of us perhaps God was calling for a long time before we finally responded.  I often wonder about my own call to ministry, having finally heard God’s calling as a second career not that long ago.  I wonder if God had been trying to get my attention for some time and I simply chose to ignore it, or couldn’t sense God’s presence among the noise of daily life.  It may be time for all of us to tune in to what God may be calling each of us to do.

Once we respond to God’s calling, God typically lays out the scenario and our part to play in carrying out God’s initiative.  But how do we know it is God calling us? How do we know for sure that this is God’s guidance and not just our own?  I have heard it said that it is discernment ad nauseas – whatever makes us the most nauseous is probably the way God is leading.  I’m pretty sure this was said in jest but the first response to any calling from God is usually objection.  We sense God is leading us in a certain direction, and our natural tendency is to pull away and set God straight on the numerous reasons why God’s path will not work.

We argue with God a lot even if we don’t realize it. Remember when we studied our Wesleyan roots that we learned of our natural tendency to turn away from God.  So it seems logical that when God calls us to a specific task, our knee-jerk reaction is to object.  I remember giving God a complete list of reasons why calling me to ministry was a bad idea.  I threw in everything from lack of funds to a fear of heights!  Moses also had a pretty impressive list of objections.  There is a very good reason why Moses no long lived in Egypt. Moses was a murderer.  Hear this account from Exodus 2:11-15:

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian. (NIV)

This was no accident – Moses checked first to see that no one was looking before he decided to act. That was a pretty good objection to being called to return to the scene of the crime.  But Moses had several other objections.  He thought the people wouldn’t believe him. He was afraid because he wasn’t that great of a public speaker.  He needed to see signs from God in order to finally be convinced that this was the path God was leading him to follow.

It seems like we do this as well. It seems we like to challenge God with our own perceptions of why we are the wrong choice for any particular ministry.  We seem to have it in our heads that there are perfect people out there that God should be calling instead of us.  But one thing I have learned for sure – God does not call the perfect; God perfects the called.

Once we process our objections to being called to a certain ministry, we get to the point of acceptance. Some will say that when God calls you, you have no choice but to follow. I have a hard time believing this because it seems we ignore God’s call quite a bit.  But with some wrestling and soul-searching, perhaps we can come to the point of accepting God’s calling for us to do something beyond our own selves.  Perhaps God is calling us as a church to go beyond our doors and our backyard to launch far-reaching ministry that will change lives for Jesus Christ.

So what is God calling us to do? What types of ministries do we see God leading us to follow? You may be thinking that we do enough. After all, the BackPack buddies program, and our support of the Nursery School and AA group is pretty impressive.  What about our Christian Education?  We have a Sunday School program that is going through a bit of a transformation as we strive to reach out to our young people utilizing tools that resonate well with today’s learners.  Just wait until you see our new look and exciting changes slated to add music and more fun activities to the program.  But we need your help. We need instructors and assistants.  We need you to boldly invite your neighbors to join us as we learn together.

The adult Sunday School class continues to tackle tough passages of scripture while lifting up and encouraging one another. How is it with your soul? Can you take the time to develop you spiritual health through group Bible study?  Is this what God is calling you to do?

What about looking at specific areas of study and spiritual development? Financial Peace University begins again September 24. This nine-week program can literally change your life and help direct you to manage your finances God’s way.  If you need a review of the course, just ask those who have taken it already.  Personally, we were able to eliminate 9 credit accounts including our beloved #1 used credit card with a $20,000 limit.  No matter where you are on the financial spectrum, this course can be life-altering. Is God calling you to get a handle on your personal finances?

Healthy living is at the top of a lot of folks list. We often think about this after the New Year when we have just indulged in the 2.5 month eating frenzy beginning around Halloween and plowing through New Year day. Does the Bible have anything to say about healthy eating habits and regular exercise? You bet.  The Daniel Plan begins October 2.  We are bringing this to Mayo at no cost for participants.  Is God calling you to this small group?

What about our confirmation class? We have 4-5 young people who may be proceeding through the confirmation process and each one will need an adult mentor who is not their relative.  You may wonder why. I find it helps our young people connect with at least one other caring adult in the congregation while strengthening their faith on this spectacular journey.  Is God calling you to serve as a mentor for one of our young people? I promise you will be blessed beyond measure.

Maybe these are all too big of commitments for you to consider. Maybe you want to start smaller – even if God is calling you to a more general ministry.  How about helping out with some one-day events like a trip to SERRV to help price and package goods from third world countries through the fair trade ministry? How about helping us connect with our community through the yard sale or ham and oyster dinner?  It is very easy to say ‘well, there are others who will help so I am not needed.’ The other thing I hear a lot is, ‘God isn’t calling me to that.’  Make no mistake about it, God is calling each of us to live as servant leaders – focusing on loving God and loving our neighbors. Will you answer the call as Moses did – “Here I am.” Amen.

 

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