January 28, 2018
1 Cor. 8:1-13
I’d like to share a Facebook post I read in reference to the scriptures we’ve been focused on for the last couple of weeks:
“Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sarah was impatient, Elijah was depressed, Moses stuttered, Zaccheus was short, Abraham was old, and Lazarus was dead…
God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the CALLED.”
The Facebooker who originally put the quote up said, “Re-post this if you know you are NOT perfect but God is working in your life anyway…”
So, here I am, reposting it to you all.
You’ll recall that two weeks ago we read from John’s gospel about Jesus calling his disciples. Last week we read from Mark’s gospel about the same topic. Mark gives the disciples the professions we’ve come to accept. They were fishermen going about their normal business when Jesus approaches them without having had any apparent previous interactions with them and says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” They drop everything and they follow.
The congregation is left to wonder: Why them? Why do they follow? What about all their other responsibilities? John leaves us with similar questions, and as I’ve mentioned, we’ve been spending some time imagining what it is our authors have been trying to get across. John we said shows Jesus as the eternal expression of God, incarnate upon the earth, knowing these men beyond possibility and issuing an invite they cannot resist. Mark has Jesus inaugurating a new kingdom on earth and calling these fishermen to be pioneers in its establishment for the salvation of the world.
In both gospels there’s a mysteriously compelling force behind these callings, and I wonder if that force contributes to a sense we may have that callings are rare, mysterious, and predestined only for saints – for those men and women of unique faith, character, and capability among us.
If we have that sense I would like to suggest that we rethink it. I would argue that tradition has never seen it that way. And, I would even argue that ultimately John and Mark don’t either.
Still, it is funny; we have the impression that callings are for the select few. They are for pastors and the like. They are for Mother Theresas and people like her who are willing to sacrifice all that we wouldn’t want to so that they can go out and help God’s needy people. We admire them, but we don’t want to be them, we say. We’ll leave the callings to those kind of people.
In response to that impression Rev. Steven Bauman, who is a preacher I sometimes listen to, said in his sermon, “Friends, there is no more likely candidate to hear God’s voice than you.” There is no more likely candidate to hear God’s voice than you. He said it a third time just to make sure that everyone got it.
We are all called. The Mother Theresa’s of the world, me, you, all of us. “Follow me,” Jesus says, and he says it to every one of us.
But, if we are all called it seems reasonable to ask, Called to what? What am I supposed to do?
And, though that definitely seems like a reasonable question, I would caution against it – at least, I would caution against the doing part as our starting point. Our calling isn’t first and foremost about tasks and jobs. It is not about a mission that we can one day check off as done. Though callings inevitably give birth to action and naturally come to expression, callings are first something else.
To borrow again from Rev. Bauman: “Here’s a test as to whether or not you’ve actually heard it: you know you can’t stay the same. Something’s up…something big…something important. You sense there’s a truer version of yourself just up ahead.”
“Follow me,” Jesus says, into a truer version of yourself. “Follow me,” into being the person God has created you to be. A calling is a homecoming of sorts. It is a calling home into our truest self with God.
As we rethink that passage about disciples dropping everything and following, as we compare that image to our heavily invested lives, it occurs to me that our callings don’t need to be the radical interruptions we fear they may be. Drop everything and follow me might mean something like this: drop everything that keeps you from me. Drop all the things you’ve build up or held onto that so that your hands aren’t free to hold onto me. Following Christ is not a removal from our daily realities; rather, it’s an embracing of Christ in our daily realities! Follow me in your life as a partner; follow me in your life as a friend, follow me in your life as a parent, as a child, as a worker, as a saint, as a sinner, as a healer, as one broken and in need, as a believer and a doubter… follow me whomever you are so that you might be who you truly are.
But, “What about our qualifications,” we still wonder. “Do we have enough?” I mean, there is so much that we don’t know. In this life of faith we are – at least most of us might say – still essentially beginners. Wait a little longer God until I know what I’m doing, until I have more information, until I know what I believe.
Our scriptures have an interesting take on this whole notion of knowing. According to what we read this morning it seems that knowledge is a bit overrated. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue this morning and the people who are listening are struck by his message, by the authority with which he gives it. They are amazed. Who is this man? Is this some new kind of teaching? The only one who knows anything is the unclean spirit, and he’s quickly cast out. I know who you are, the Spirit says, but Jesus won’t have any of it. Away with you!
Here’s what the Apostle Paul says to his church in Corinth: “Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge, but anyone who loves God is known by him.” You see, it’s not what you know; it’s the fact that God knows you!
Paul knows that there’s nothing sacrilegious about eating foods that are offered to idols (that was one of the big divisive debates in his church at the time.) He knows it because he knows that those idols don’t really exist. He knows that they are only human creations. But other believers are in crisis over the issue; it’s giving legitimacy to the ways they have forsaken as they embrace this new Christian faith, so Paul abstains. It’s love that matters, not knowing that he’s right.
You know, I was taught the same thing when it came to healing prayer. Folks whose ministries focus on such prayer insist: it’s not so much what you believe that matters; it’s not the strength of your faith that matters; it’s your love. Your love is what makes healing prayer powerful. Attend to that love. Tie your heart, tie your thoughts to the root of that love and your prayer will be tied to God.
That’s the advice I received. I think it’s pretty good. The advice I’ll pass on is this – though its fairly simple for 10 minutes of talking – Love God! That is what we are called to do – all of us who are both saint and sinner at the same time. Love God. Let God be perfect. Love God for being perfect. And, let God love you as you are and where you are. That’s enough for right now. To be sure, things won’t stay the same, but you don’t have to worry about that. God knows what’s next. Just hear the call, and follow.