Whoa. This is A God Thing beyond anything that I can wrap my mind around. A stretched-beyond-my-human-understanding sort of “whoa.” Pausing. Processing.
Here God tells us that even before our conception, in those dark, warm months in the womb, we were known. Now THAT is Holy Intimacy. Before the world knew us, before we knew ourselves, the Holy knew us. And before we were born, we were consecrated – by God. “Dedicated to a sacred purpose.”
A sacred purpose. You. Me.
The bible is full of these stories of revelation, or “call,” such as that we heard read from Jeremiah. Of God nudging. Of God shaping. Naming. To which… I don’t know about you and your experience with God, but it seems to me that a really common human response is, “Ummmm… Yeah. No God. Not me.”
How many stories like this have we heard? Today it is Jeremiah. God showing up in Jeremiah’s life saying, “Hey, Jeremiah, I need to have you go out and tell the Judeans they’ve messed up.” To which Jeremiah says (of course), “Yeah… no God. Not me. I wouldn’t have any idea what to say to them. This whole world is way too messed up. And… by the way… no one would listen to me. I’m too young. Generation Z and all.”
We can come up with all sorts of excuses, right?
- In Genesis (17) God shows up and talks to Abraham (Abram) about changing the world and Abraham laughs hysterically.
- In Exodus, God appears to Moses, and all Moses does is come up with a long list of excuses. He starts out with, “Why me?” and goes on to say, “What if no one believes me? Or doesn’t trust me? And… by the way… God… I am a really bad speaker.”
- Isaiah is horrified when he finds himself before God, and assumes that – as a sinner – he is doomed (Isaiah 6:5).
- Elizabeth initially keeps her call a secret (Luke 24).
- Mary was really confused at first. As she shook her head and cleared her mind, she began question God’s work in her life, “How will this happen?” (Luke 1:29, 34, CEB)
- Peter begins by protesting, complaining he is tired. When that doesn’t work, he tells Jesus he isn’t good enough (Luke 5:5, 8b)
And you? When called by God, what is your excuse?
I sure had one.
In my own faith journey, I had a specific “call moment.” Now, while not everyone has such a clear “ah-ha” moment in their life, I believe that God, the Great Divine, the Creative Holy that stretches beyond our understanding; however you describe that life-giving, life-forming Love, that God does work in and through us… and with us… and sometimes even despite our own lack of understanding and/or awareness.
But I had a very precise call moment. I know where, I know when. And I know that I was a lot like Jonah, who heard God’s call and ran the other way (Jonah 1:1-3). I did all I could do to avoid The Call.
Initially I was confused, and totally didn’t get it.
Then I started the Lay Academy, which is a wonderful program offered by the Wisconsin Conference UCC, at the conference center in De Forest. After my first weekend there, that consisted 2 days of talking about theology, this God stuff, as I left and walked out to my car in the parking lot I found myself energized. I found myself thinking, “I need a whole semester of this stuff!” This was followed by an immediate, visceral, “No God. I am not going to seminary.”
And… well… you can see how well that worked out for me.
My excuse? I wasn’t “church enough.” I wasn’t “Christian enough.” Or, at least not that kind of Christian… enough. I question. I question a lot. I love exploring and learning about other religious traditions. I liked my job at the university. What was God thinking?
How about you? What would your excuse be?
In whatever way you imagine “call,” of God’s nudging in your life… what has been… what would be… your excuse?
Pastor Kris opened up time for those gathered in worship to respond. Here are some of the congregation’s responses:
I don’t know enough.
I’m too old.
I’m set in my ways.
I don’t have enough time.
I already have a plan.
In the bible. Throughout history. Stories of revelation. Call. God’s divine commissioning received by each of us in some way, shape, or form, and by our wider faith community. Sometimes we know exactly what our response should be, and respond by launching a specific ministry. Other times that nudge to serve is as gentle as, “Hmmmm… I haven’t seen George in church for a while. I think I’ll give him a call.” Or send a card.
Sometimes congregations are moved by the Spirit to a particular need in their community.
Our authentic self
Reconnecting with the Holy.
That pulling together of your full-self, the person God calls you to be.
The shaping of community.
Us, as Church, being our best, authentic self. The Church Jesus is leading us to be.
That is our call.
Our pulling together.
The task before us today: to re-member.
This is the second week of our sermon series focusing on who we say God has called us to be as a faith community, using the words that we have posted on our own website. If you go to the main page of our website and click on “a bit about us” on the left-hand side, the first thing that you read says that Memorial UCC:
- … is a place for all — male or female, young or old, gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, healthy or not.
- We are a place where all people struggle together to understand God, Jesus and our lives.
- As much as we treasure our church community, we are deeply committed to the community around us.
- Underlying all of this is a continual effort to nurture our spiritual lives.
This is how we have worded our “why,” our call, the reason we are here as Church. These four points summarize for others how we experience the revelation of God in this place. This is us, being our best, authentic, self as the Body of Christ. This is how we sense God is shaping… calling… commissioning… our community.
No excuses. No exhortations that “we are sinners and we are doomed.” No justifications. No keeping quiet. There might just be a bit of Holy Laughter now and then, but our amusement is not because we do not believe that “God can” – but because there is great joy here even in the midst of Holy Folly.
I encourage you to take these lists with you this week: The list of our initial excuses, and the four points listed above from our website. Take these lists and (if you are the praying type) use them in prayer. Then ponder these words. How is God, where is God, prodding us today? Where might we be setting up excuses? And where are we openly taking Holy Risks?
Memorial UCC, this is us. Know that this is a sacred place of re-membering, of pulling together the Church body as one.
Reflection on Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke 4:21-30 shared on February 3, 2019
 “Consecrated.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed January 31, 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consecrated.