Called Up

Our tradition doesn't talk a whole lot about being "called" to ministry. Other traditions seem to use this language more prominently. I've heard questions like: "When did you receive your call to the ministry?" I'm still not sure what they mean. Should I have a "call" story? Was I supposed to get a memo or an invitation or some kind of acceptance letter from God? Am I supposed to have one of those stories like in the Bible? There are some pretty famous call stories in the Bible of course. Abraham is living in the land of Ur before Yahweh calls him to leave the gods of his ancestors with the promise that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Moses is looking after his father-in-law's sheep in the land of Midian when the angel of the Lord appears to him in a bush that is burning but doesn't burn up. Samuel is just a boy living as a temple-servant when he keeps hearing God's voice in the middle of the night. David the smallest of all the sons of Jesse is summoned from the fields only after Samuel asks if Jesse doesn't have any other sons whom God could possibly choose to be King of Israel. Then there are the call stories of all the prophets where, over and over again, scripture tells us that "The word of the LORD came to _______." And in turn each prophet was commissioned to take that word to the people. An angel appears to Zechariah in the temple and tells him that his wife will soon bear a son (we call him John the Baptist) who will turn the hearts of the people back to God. Shortly afterward an angel appears to the young girl, Mary, and tells her that the son she will bear will have a Kingdom without end. When I look at all those stories (and that's not even close to all of the ones in scripture), I can understand why people have this expectation of a call to ministry. And yet I have no such story. I'm not aware of any burning bushes or visits from angels in the middle of the night or hearing the voice of God. Of course, knowing me, I could have just missed it. Right as I drove by the burning bush, I was probably messing with the car stereo. And God would have had to scream pretty loud to be heard over the sound of my snoring (just ask my poor wife). But that doesn't mean I've completely given up on this idea of being called to ministry. If anything I feel it more strongly now than ever before. I just feel that my call has been more generic in nature. It's the kind of call that Paul speaks of numerous times in his writings. I have been called to be a child of God. I have been called for his purposes. I have been called to serve the Lord. Only this call has happened numerous times and all along the way. I'm kind of glad for that. Instead of one giant invitation I have benefited from a consistent flow of gentle reminders that I am called God's child and I am called to serve others. This morning we're going to be talking about how God calls all of us to serve. We're going to be looking on as Jesus invites his disciples to come and follow him. We'll be listening for that invitation in our lives as well. I believe that, whoever you are, Jesus is calling you to follow him. I hope you can hear that Gospel/Good News this morning.

Connections Sunday

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16) Just before Ruth Ann was born, Rachel and I took a two-day trip to DC just to get away. As luck would have it, "Bodies: The Exhibition" was on display in Arlington, so we got tickets. Perhaps you've heard about "Bodies." Part science and part art, it features approximately 20 human cadavers captured in different poses and dissected in different ways so as to shed light on human anatomy. The point of the exhibit is to educate viewers about the wonderful complexity of the human body. As far as I am concerned, the exhibit was a success. I came away realizing just how intricately God has made us. The psalmist says it well: "(We are) fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)." One of the most impressive aspects of the display focused on the musculoskeletal system. Standing in front of a complex web of muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones, it was amazing to me all that was involved in even the simplest of tasks. For every bone that had to move there was a muscle or system of muscles for that movement. And each muscle was attached to its respective bone in just the right place so as to enable mobility. Finally, for every muscle that performed one action, another performed its opposite. Otherwise we would only be able to, say, open our mouths rather than close them or bend our knees rather than straighten them. Of course these muscles usually do their things without us even thinking of them. But it's really amazing when you think about it. That system of muscles is able to keep us moving. It lifts and pushes and propels our entire body in very subtle and complex ways. And it does so by working in concert. If the muscles didn't work together, human movement would be impossible. No one muscle is strong enough or sitting in the right place. It takes the entire system. Today is Connections Sunday. It's a chance for you to be better connected to this church. We hope that today you will find new friendships and new ways to serve God. Both are important. They are important to the church and they are important to us as individuals. It's no coincidence that Paul uses the metaphor of a body to explain the church. It takes a system of organs working together to make the church move. Without all of its parts, the body doesn't work as well. But at the same time, without the rest of the body no individual part can live up to its full potential. Today, if you haven't already, I hope you'll find your place hear at Norfolk Church of Christ. I hope you'll make connections. If you can, it will be a blessing to you and to this church.