GO!

When Cody and Brittany got married about 5 weeks ago, we talked about the change that would occur as they stepped out of their comfort zones. The two of them were entering a new phase of life, leaving parents and the nest of safety to risk a new relationship of love. And while their families and friends were still near and sources of support, the new couple would tread unfamiliar ground and be asked to make decisions in ways that they haven’t experienced before, compromising personal desires out of love for the other. There are no guarantees in this new venture; there is risk...it is a step of faith.

How is God calling you? God’s calling in our lives is not something of complacency and comfort. It is a call to action. What purpose have you been created for? What gifts, skills, talents, and convictions were planted inside of you? Your calling is more than a job. It is your passion! Your calling runs like a thread through a sweater, it is entwined in every ounce of your being. If you follow your calling, you experience a deep sense of commitment and conviction toward something in ways that you can’t describe. It will show up in your personality, in your work, in your family, and in your
free time.

Are you following your calling? Abraham and Sarah were in their 90’s when God called them to leave their families and all that they knew to start over in a new place. Talk about stretching comfort zones! Abraham could have easily said, “No thanks, God! I’ve lived a long hard life and it’s time to retire.” But God’s plans were different than Abraham’s. God planned a family for this old barren couple that would seed future generations of the earth! Abraham and Sarah’s lives were changed forever, in abundance, because they followed God’s call. It wasn’t the easy way out. It wasn’t a
life of comfort. They were challenged and life was inconvenient. But God’s calling in our lives does not put us at the center of the universe.

Moses had been in slavery in Egypt with the rest of the Israelites when he got into a confrontation and killed an Egyptian guard. After fleeing for his life and traveling far away, he became a shepherd for many years in the wilderness. He was safe and comfortable. And then he saw the burning bush and his life changed forever. This quiet man who had a deep sense of justice was called to lead the Israelites out of slavery.

Who? Moses? This shepherd of low social class, with little credibility, a rap sheet that included murder, and couldn’t utter a sentence without stuttering was called to stand up to one of the world’s most powerful men in the Pharaoh? Moses turned over his desires for God’s calling and God provided all that Moses needed in abundance to accomplish his task.

In today’s Gospel text, Joseph follows God’s will as he takes Mary and baby Jesus in the middle of the night and escapes to Egypt. Herod was known as a ruthless killer. He killed his own sons because of his insecurity that they might try to take over the kingdom. And so Joseph and Mary put their own plans aside to follow God’s calling...to save this baby in the midst of chaos and murder. But they didn’t stay in the land of safety. They returned after Herod’s death, where Jesus would be challenged and persecuted for the rest of his life in the name of the Father. Imagine if Abraham,
Moses, Joseph or thousands if not millions of others had decided to ignore God’s calling!

How is God calling you? What sparks curiosity and intrigue within you? What lights your passion? What interests have you always had that you put on the back burner because they weren’t going to make a living wage or they wouldn’t be acceptable to your family and friends?

Unfortunately, we have succumbed to the thought that our purpose and meaning in life must be related to financial security. Our culture basically believes that from the time we are born, our basic purpose is to earn enough that we die with an inheritance to give. Is that God’s calling? Were we simply created to earn for ourselves? Is that what life is about? What a cold, lonely, and selfish existence! 

Life is bigger than the person that stares back at you in the mirror. For that matter, can you look into the eyes of the person in the mirror? Are you able to recognize the difference between who you WANT to be and who you really are? Can you face imperfection and accept it, knowing that God created you just as you are, loves you, forgives you, and wants you to prosper?

He wants you to live abundantly. But God’s definition of abundance is not the same as ours. We tend to equate abundance with ‘big bank accounts’. It doesn’t necessarily mean home ownership and driving a new car. Abraham never owned any land. His family purchased a plot for burial, yet he was wealthy in blessings. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt but never entered the Promised Land. God let him overlook the land from a mountain before he died. Joseph was a forgotten figure in Scripture after the birth story, but do you think he was blessed beyond measure?

As we enter a new calendar year, it would be wise to start by getting REAL with ourselves. That means taking the time to learn the difference between who we are and who we want to be, individually and as a faith community. Getting real with ourselves means acknowledging that we are NOTHING without God and that we are called to be good stewards of His creation. It means recognizing that we are sinners in need of God’s grace daily. It means spending more time thanking God for our blessings and asking forgiveness for our sins than pointing out the deficiencies in others. Getting REAL means getting over ourselves and becoming humble, giving more credit to God and less to ourselves, and releasing our anger and fears to the ONLY One with the authority to judge.

Beginning tonight, let’s get real by sharing a handshake and a hug with our neighbors who are in the same boat of life as us, each with their own fears and dreams. And rather than telling them that their fears and dreams are wrong, let’s build each other up in support of God given gifts (even if they are different from our own). Moving forward, lets commit to giving credit where credit is due (God), trusting the One who provides everything we need in abundance, responsibly managing God’s possessions, and faithfully and joyfully giving to God what is his.

In closing, hear the words of the Prophet Jeremiah. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God bless you. Amen.