CALL (4): OBLIGATIONS OF BEING CALLED OUT.
Today completes a four-part mini-series of Sunday messages that we’ve been exploring around this theme of being called out. We began by speaking about how surprising, shocking even, it may be for us to realize that we are being called out by something/ someone who sees the very best of us – and who is constantly calling that very best out. That’s WHAT may be right at the very root of our faith – the reality of our inner, our very best, made-in-God’s-image-selves, being called to emerge. We then asked WHY God would do that, why are we being called out in this wonder-full way, and we saw how it’s because we are essentially so totally, deeply, loved that God longs to see us come to live into the fullness of what we have all already been made to be. Last week we looked at what may be the EFFECT of our realizing this may be. We spoke about how we may miss it because we are so distracted that we can’t hear, or we may resist it, because we are quite comfortable with just where we are, however compromised our living may be. Today we are looking at what our awareness of being calling out OBLIGES us to be and to do.
What are the obligations of our best selves being called out? We can sense the purpose of any call by looking at the one doing the calling; sometimes that purpose may be subtle and hidden and sometimes it’s obvious! So, when, in Jesus Christ, it’s God who is doing that calling, we can assume that it is a calling for us to become involved in God’s agenda – as revealed in Jesus Christ – it’s a call for us to be about the fulfilling of his purposes! It follows then that the more we know who Jesus is and what Jesus stands for, the better we will know what we are being called for – what the responsibilities, the obligations are of our being called!
That’s what brings us to our reading for today. I’ve chosen Psalm 23, hopefully, for reasons that will become clear. As David almost defiantly names ‘The Lord’ as his shepherd – he is saying that it is not the seductive callings of his culture, or the many and varied demands of his family, or the desire for popularity amongst his peers, or the accumulation of wealth, money, or anything else to which he gives authority as the calling guide of his life – the central datum reference point around which he allows all things to revolve – it’s none of those things – but God alone, the One whom he calls the Lord.
The call of the Christian faith is not essentially about Jesus inviting us to draw on him and all that he represents to fulfill whatever self-serving agenda we may have fabricated for our lives, even though, shamefully, I do think that we do tend to do just that. You know, instead of seriously investigating what Jesus’ agenda would be for us and then going hard to fulfill it, we tend to settle on whatever we think is God’s agenda and then expect Jesus to show up and to empower and to fulfill that plan – our plan…and when it doesn’t work out exactly according to our will, we become disillusioned and may lose faith.
Can you think of a time when you have done that – I wonder? Well, it seems to me that to be disillusioned is not a bad thing, because it means that we are getting to lose our illusions that we may get back to embracing reality!
As a ‘called out’ people, what are we being OBLIGED to be and to do as we look to the one who is calling us? It seems that there really isn’t too much of a mystery here. Surely, it’s to be like Jesus – do the things they believe Jesus would!
I was recently challenged by a Facebook post during this terrible cold snap that we had: A self-confessed unchurched someone expected all religious institutions in Vernon to become warming centres for the most vulnerable of our community. They went on to write that the city should withdraw the tax-free charitable status of those who didn’t. Clearly this was someone who was willing to confront the apparent hypocrisy of those who claim to be following Jesus but who appear to have priorities other than the one doing the calling!
As a ‘best-selves-called-out-by-Jesus’ people, we are not called-out just to see faith as a commodity to use for our own benefit. Neither are we called out simply to be the admirers or worshippers of the one who doing the calling – Jesus doesn’t need groupies – we are being called out in order to get busy with the agenda that his character reveals. It’s Will Willimon who speaks of Christ as being God in action, God on the move, and if we are going to worship Christ, we serve him by joining him in his active work in the world.
That brings us to an end of our series on being called out! But, please bear with me for one more thing! I love how in the Old Testament we read of a very interesting statement regarding the timing of our being called. Queen Esther was a very beautiful Hebrew woman who was made to marry the hugely powerful King Xerxes of the Persians and Medes. The King had been manipulated by others to cause terrible suffering among the Hebrew people.
That’s when the old Hebrew Mordecai spoke the following very powerful, prophetic words to the Queen as he appealed to her to help:‘…who knows, maybe you were made (and called) for such a time as this! I think that we are to be challenged by that!
As Christ followers, those of us who sense that we are or have been shaken by some sense of our best selves not only being loved but also called out by Christ, there is this awesome challenge right here for us – to be and to do all that Christ would have us be and do ‘at such a time as this! It’s for now! And no, it’s not just for what others may be pushing for, however comfortable or popular that calling may be, but for what Christ wants of us! With David, can we say that it is Christ alone who is our shepherd and whom we choose to allow to guide what is being called out from us?
In a world increasingly hostile to those whom it decides need to be marginalised and excluded, a world choked by hate and revenge and misogyny and racism and homophobia and economic domination and, and, and… we look to the one calling us out, and what we see is radical hospitality, inclusion. Remember, it’s for God so loved the WORLD… It’s we hear our best selves being called out by God that we become willing to respond in ways that reveal God’s lovingly fair, inclusive, generous, compassionate, healing, forgiving, reconciling loving purposes.
Dear God, open our eyes to show us what that means right now for us as individuals, as a faith community…
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