Sunday, June 26, 2016

Answering the Call of God

June 26, 2016, 9:30 a.m.
6th Sunday of Pentecost
Fr. Phil Eberhart


ANSWERING THE CALL


This morning I have to admit, my mind is on this evening!  An exciting and historic day for us here at REZ as we ordain two, Michael and Ethel, into their callings as priest and deacon.  Michael has been with us here for 5 years!  At a rehearsal yesterday he was talking about coming here and finding his home back in his Anglican upbringing.  He said to me, he remembered coming to me and telling me he wanted to be a priest... and I said, "VIOLA!!  And now your a priest!"  Only 5 years!

Seems like a long time when you're waiting.  Ethel felt her call to ordained ministry at an early age and so this evening will be the fulfillment of the dream of a lifetime!

I felt called into the ministry when I was 10, shortly after coming to Christ at my own bedside.  And "VIOLA!"  52 years later, I feel like I'm just beginning to plumb the depths of what it means to be "called to ministry" - or to "be a priest."

My point here this morning is that our scriptures this morning, the scriptures for the day are all about what is happening among us this day!  I'm floored once again at the providence of God and his oversight of His Word as it lives in our midst, even for us as a small group this morning.

Yesterday at a meeting of clergy and candidates with our Bishop, one of the newest candidates in our diocese, a man from Nigeria, simply introduced himself as David, a man who is "on Call!" to the Lord Jesus.  I will go wherever He sends me!  

We are all "on call!" to Jesus.

If we have given Him the place He deserves and demands in our lives, then we are "on call!"  

That is the force of our three REZ BE-ATTITUDES!

>   BE WILLING!

>   BE AVAILABLE!

>   BE OBEDIENT!



Jesus spends a good deal of time in his teaching trying to get across to his disciples the nature of this "call."

Our gospel this morning is one of the most pointed, filled with difficult meaning and challenge.  Jesus appears to be almost heartless in His responses to some of those who say they will follow Him:

"I will follow you wherever you go!"   Brave words coming from someone who knew nothing of where Jesus was going!  And so Jesus responds with a warning.  Sometimes we are like Peter, and we let our mouths run on without engaging our brain!  We are moved by sentiment and we don't understand the weight of the words we are saying!  Peter, on the evening of the last supper, told Jesus he would Never Leave Him... but we know how that turned out.

What Jesus is saying in his response here:  "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."  What Jesus is saying is that before you say things like "I will follow you wherever you go!" it is good to consider the facts of where Jesus is going!

"This world is not my home," the song goes, "I'm only passing through!"  Jesus followers who are doing what HE DID, almost always come face to face with this sense of "homelessness" in this World!  Jesus said to be a friend of this world, was to be an enemy of God!

Jesus said at another time that one who builds a house, considers all the costs of doing so.  One who builds a tower considers the costs.  One who goes to war, looks at the numbers he has and the numbers he is going up against!

This is why the first Be-attitude is BE WILLING!

Willingness is what happens after you have considered the sayings of Jesus from today's Gospel!
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 
"Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
 "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."


Willingness is the quality of having counted the cost and said "yes!"  Willingness is understanding the nature of "call" from God, that it is
all consuming, like the sacrifice on the altar (living sacrifice) and that it is our "reasonable act of worship" in light of all that God has done
for us in Jesus Christ.  "In the light of His mercies."

The last two lines of our NT reading from Galatians speak to this very thing as well:  
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

So once the flesh is crucified, as Paul said earlier in this same letter, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me..."

And so willingness must issue in the second Be-Attitude:

BE AVAILABLE!

Availability is about the conversion of our calendar!  When the Roman soldiers came to Christ and were baptized, they would take
their sword with them into the river and hold it up, out of the water as they were baptized, reserving it from the water.

What have you reserved from the water of your baptism?  For some of us its our checkbook!  For most of us its our calendar!

Face it, we are busy in America!  We've got people to see and places to be!  We are important, at least in our own minds!
And as a result we are often negligent when it comes to both the relationship we have with God in Jesus Christ and when it comes to the mission, the call of God on our lives.  I'm talking to people who have voluntarily submitted their lives to Jesus, and answered His Call!  I don't have these expectations for those who have not made that decision!  Not at all.

Availability is our handing over our calendar -  has anyone here ever worn a pager?  Do you have a cell phone today?  I call it my "leash."
Whenever anyone wants my attention, they yank my leash!  Even for me, Availability to God is a challenge!!  As much of an oxymoron as that is, I am just as susceptible to my attention being diverted from what is important, by the "tyranny of the urgent!"

I appreciate the image I saw once in a book by Steven Covey.  Choosing what you fill your day with is like filling a jar with stones and water.  If you fill it with water first, that's all that it holds, but if you have important things that you need inside (the big rocks) you need to put them in first. Then the smaller stones - then the sand and then the water!  

Availability is the quality of having chosen, of having prioritized, which are the big stones!  "If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit".  Another translation speaks of "Keeping in step" with the Spirit in our lives.

And finally BE OBEDIENT!

Actually this is a decision that is made from the outset.  This the the finish line!  And we have to have the finish line in view, as we run the race!

Yesterday, as Bishop Bill spoke to the clergy and candidates for orders, he said that this quality of obedience was the prerequisite to "hearing God's voice!"  

So many time, I hear from people that God doesn't speak to them!  I can't hear God speak!  What are you talking about, "God told you!??"  Don't you think that sounds a little crazy?!!  

Probably, from the world's viewpoint - you're just hearing voices - funny farm stuff, right?

But for you to hear God's voice, there has to be a point of decision in your life, when you say to yourself, to your heart and mind, to your life and your circumstances, I want to live my life in relationship to the Lord of the Universe - to the Lord Jesus Christ.

You know what the meaning of LORD is right?    its...  LORD!  We Americans don't really have a construct for LORD in our worldview.  Perhaps Boss, or Employer or in the military, C.O.  The point is this is someone who has a measure of control over your day!  Control over your actions.  Control over your calendar and appointment book.  Paul uses the military as an analogy of the Kingdom, in fact, in writing to his disciple, Timothy:

[2Ti 2:3-4 NASB] 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

Friends, we must make the decision of obedience as a part of the process of becoming willing!  As a part of the exercise of our availability!  We must have the obedience of our hearts in view.  It is the finish line to which we run!

So once again the sermon is about what I have named The REZ BEATITUDES!

BE WILLING -  BE AVAILABLE - BE OBEDIENT

This is the essence of following God's Call, whether you are a man or woman on the street or a Bishop in the Cathedral!  Whether you stand at your own table in your home, or at the Table of the Lord in the Temple!  Its all of ONE PIECE!

BE WILLING - BE AVAILABLE - BE OBEDIENT

AMEN.

Let's pray. This is one of my favorite prayers for the church and we need to pray it often:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:
Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.