Call. It is such a personal thing and yet it is not. Call. It is about our relationship with God, and yet it is about our work in the community of Christ. Call. It is about who we are as a church, as a congregation, as a people who follow Christ. Call. The thought of it gets us entangled up in the shoulds, the have tos and the oughts, instead of freeing us to take our place in the work of God.
God’s call is issued to us in baptism. God’s call affirms Whose we are and what our purpose in Christ is. God’s call stakes God’s claim on us and in our affirmation of baptism, we say a resounding YES to God’s call in our lives.
However, we listen to other’s stories of how God’s call came to them, and what it looks like and we compare. We measure and feel either as if we are left wanting or as if we are better than others. We believe in our own publicity and think that we are either not listening or have blocked out God’s call or we feel we are better off than someone else because of our self-importance based on call.
As the church, we narrowly limit the call of Christ to “preacher” or pastor”. We exalt this call over others and neglect the call that each one of us has in Christ Jesus, the one that today, we affirm in our own lives.
In doing so, we negate the call of Christ in our own life. In doing so, we negate the call that collectively, we as a congregation have. And we forget that each of us have pledged, in our own affirmation of baptism, to follow where God calls; to follow where God leads us. We forget and we neglect to take our part in the work God calls the church to.
A couple of years ago, I came across a television program called, “It’s a Living.” The host of this show followed around ordinary people around as they go about their work. It was fascinating to see these people tell about their work and how much they love what they do. Many describe how they found their sense of purpose in that work. Many that this host interviewed described their work as sacred.
The story that caught my attention the most was about two brothers in their late 60’s and early 70’s that discovered 40 years ago, the love of their lives- their jobs. These men, who at the time, took rejected rocks and with a large hammer, found the weakness of those rejected rocks. They then, cracked open those rocks to reveal what was hidden on the inside. Those cracked and broken rocks then revealed to the world all the beauty that couldn’t be seen until they were broken open. Inside, those weak and rejected rocks spilled forth the beauty of God’s handiwork.
I was particularly struck by the joy these men found in breaking rejected rocks wide open, discovering their beauty, and sharing that beauty with others. I was struck by the sacredness of this activity for these two men. Through the toil of these men’s hands, they were doing the work of God and in sharing those beautiful rocks with others, they were demonstrating to the world, the handiwork of God. The work that those men do is a calling, and it is no less a holy and sacred work than preaching and teaching because in what those men do, they are showing forth God.
We get mixed up when we read stories like Isaiah’s. We think that our call has to be like that of Isaiah’s. We think that in order for God to call us, we need to have a great vision. We think that the way will be pointed out to us with flashing neon signs. We sift and compare and when our call isn’t “spectacular” we doubt that we have a call at all.
We forget about the stories of God calling people in more subtle ways like Christ does with many of the disciples – like he does with his conversation with Nicodemus that night.
Those stories remind us that in our daily activity, Christ calls us to follow. We forget that our call places us in the midst of our everyday world to follow God, whatever the work that we do – whether it is school work, mine work or other work. Jesus calls us in the midst of our lives to recognize the work of God and the Holy Spirit and to share the love of God with the world. We forget that in our baptism, God calls us to follow God’s way.
And like those rejected rocks, God broke open the lives of Isaiah and Nicodemus to reveal God’s work to the world. Nicodemus wasn’t a shining example of following God’s call perfectly and neither was Isaiah. Yet still they answered God’s call in their own way and in their everyday lives.
Nicodemus certainly didn’t have it all figured out and was confused that night when he when he visited with Jesus. The bible doesn’t even tell us the full story of what happened to Nicodemus after his conversation with Jesus. All we can know is that he stood up to the authorities for Jesus during a particular controversial event and also, in Christ’s death, took spices to embalm his body. Somehow, Nicodemus was changed by God’s call. He was different because Christ had opened him up by calling him and in his everyday life, he showed forth Christ’s way, not perfectly, not consistently but in a way that glorified God.
All we know is that, Nicodemus recognized the call of the divine and responded in light of Christ’s death to take up Christ’s cross and follow him.
Through Nicodemus, God’s handiwork shone through.
Through Nicodemus, the beauty of God was revealed.
Through Nicodemus, God’s love could be seen.
God has also called each of us in our baptism. We may not have it all figured out. We may not understand it all. We may even feel like those rocks that were rejected for things of great beauty. But, since the work is God’s work, the Holy Spirit is here strengthening and keeping you to bring about the work of God. God will be with you doing whatever it takes for the world to know God’s glory. We can be assured that God isn’t finished with us yet, even if the way seems bumpy and as if we are going in the wrong direction.
God claims us for His purpose. God has called us in Christ. In our baptism we are God’s and Christ is made known through us. In our baptism the Spirit has marked us for God’s purposes. In our reaffirmation of baptism, we accept yet again this call to God’s will and God’s way. Our call may be personal but it is also public as it is about God’s work in the world. And Spirit will be faithful to complete that work in us as we gain promise to follow Christ.
God has called you. God has called the people who gather at New Stockholm. God has called his church and will be faithful to that call.
Through you, God’s handiwork will shine through.
Through our congregation, the beauty of God will be revealed.
Through the universal church, God’s love will be seen.
Thanks be to God.