Jan 26, 2014

What is Your Calling

Recently I was asked by a catechism student, “Why do we have homework for church?” First I was taken back with the question; asking myself, “Haven’t they had homework in the past?” But then I thought, this is a great question that needs attention. How many students would THINK the question but not be comfortable asking? Let’s take that a step further. How many people think that there are some questions that aren’t appropriate for church; maybe questions about dating, addictions, financial struggles, etc.

I think these questions say a lot about our society. It is a MYTH in our world that people think things of faith are to be discussed in the church building environment and things from everyday life are talked about outside the church walls. As if there is some kind of disconnect between our faith lives and home lives. The student thought homework for school was expected because school is necessary to get a job and to earn a living. Church on the other hand is a choice that is made regarding participation. Why would we have homework for church?

The student’s perception isn’t rare. Why is faith considered an option rather than a foundation of life? I would suggest that fewer people have the courage to talk about Jesus outside of the sanctuary. Grandparents and parents share little to no conversation about how their faith life is one and the same with their day-to-day life. How is the message about Jesus’ love and forgiveness supposed to spread? If faith life is simply perceived as something you are supposed to do on Sunday mornings, then we’ve all missed the boat! God calls us to be good stewards, worshiping Him not only on Sundays but in our personal and work lives as well. Jesus calls us to be disciples, sharing His message in our communities.

The first calling that we have is found in the beginning of Scripture, in the book of Genesis. “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth (Gen 1:28).”

It is a calling into relationships, relationships with God and one another to be fruitful and multiply. We know what it is to multiply. But what does it mean to be fruitful? Nourish our relationships with God through Bible Study, prayer, and worship. Yes, a heart felt relationship with God stretching beyond intelligence and beyond Sundays. Support one another in relationships that will blossom. Encourage each other to bring out their best talents, strengths, and characteristics given by God. Manage and maintain relationships just as Jesus continues to love, support, and show mercy to us. Stewardship!

Some people read ‘dominion’ as permission to do with creation whatever we want…that it’s for our control. Actually, the translation is more accurately directed toward stewardship. Manage and maintain creation rather than control it. It is not ours to control and misuse. It is God’s for us to manage and nurture. And it is God’s to whom we give thanks with joyful hearts.

You had no control over what country you were born in, what family you were born to, what time on the scale of history you arrived, and what environment you grew up in. God’s creation is His, not ours. We are in no place to take personal credit for our lives. As one author recently reminded me, God didn’t gift us with creation. Gifting assumes a transfer of ownership. Instead, God honored us with the opportunity to steward everything that is His. Period.

The second calling that we have is from Jesus. The first time we see it is as Jesus calls his disciples in today’s text. The Son of God came TO them and said “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” He didn’t say attract people to come to us, worship the way WE want them to, and join our comfortable and friendly atmosphere.

That is not the church that Jesus called. He emphasized the action that was necessary to share His Gospel message. Follow ME, and I will make you fishers of men (did you catch that…you will be fishing for people).” Following Jesus is a calling to share his Good News…not just in the church environment, but out where the people are. Fishermen go to where the fish are.

Again Jesus calls us in Matthew 28:18-20. “And Jesus came and said to them (this is after his resurrection), ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus is not disconnected from our daily lives. He is our source of salvation, freedom, purpose, peace, and joy. While we gather in the church building to worship with our families, friends, and neighbors on Sunday mornings, the door to our faith does not close shut after leaving the premises.

What difference does Jesus make in our daily lives? He forgives our past sins and discretions. What does that have to do with Tuesday mornings? His grace removes the burden to make up for our mistakes in order to be acceptable. Our past actions (good and bad) do not define the person. Jesus loves us as we are! We are free in forgiveness to live as we were created, even if our dreams or ambitions are different from the expectations of others. THAT is true freedom. Instead we seeing faith and worship as an obligation, something you are supposed to do, it is a freedom to enjoy and to experience! Worship is an opportunity to give God thanks and praise for all that He continues to give us.

On your offering envelopes there is a verse that says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” A cheerful giver is one that is thankful and one that is passionate about what they are giving to. And though generosity includes finances, it also includes our energy, our skills, our talents, and our passion. Jesus gave his life for you and there is nothing we can do to repay him. So let us give thanks and manage God’s creation in honor and glory to Him. Amen.