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DFLC Sermon - Deacon Sharon Brennen - January 14, 2024

Sermon – God Loved Us into Being and Calls Us through Jesus

1 Sam 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-6; 13-18; 1 Cor 6:12-20, & John 1:43-61

 

Grace and Peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

It was hard, this week, to concentrate on just one reading. It seemed that this was one of those weeks when all of the readings were speaking at once… and loudly! I could not concentrate on just ONE! So I had to accept that God was calling on me to include all of them in His message to you today.


·        You see, today is all about “being called by God.”

·        Acknowledging God’s knowledge of each one of us.

·        How we “hear” His call and what we do with His “ownership and His creation of each of us, – AND -

·        How God calls us, through Jesus, not only to “Come and See” but to “Follow and Do”!


Our first reading is from 1 Samuel. We read that Samuel heard God calling him several times before he knew WHO was calling his name. But once he knew, he trusted that it WAS God and did not waste time answering God – and more importantly, listening to what God had to say! Sometimes it takes God a few times to knock on our door before we willingly open it. But once we let him in, amazing things happen. As it did with Samuel. Young as he was, a boy just growing into his faith, God called HIM, knowing WHO he was, and WHO he was going to be.

 

Then, my favorite Psalm of all – and one of the most beloved Psalms… 139. In fact, I love this Psalm so much, I chose it for my Mom and Dad’s funeral services. Some people thought it was an unusual reading for a funeral, but to me it spoke of God knowing us so intimately that He got to know us as He was creating us and determining who we would be. And how He is there at the end, to retrieve the person we had become, and bring us to himself in love and forgiveness… no matter what. We can’t escape a God like that… nor do we want or need to. Even in the depths of darkness, He is there to call us and help us find a way to Him. We can hear His voice in the midst of a noisy, distracting world OR in the quiet of a silent night. Like sheep, we know His voice and gravitate toward it, trusting the voice of our Father, as Samuel did.


God knew us before our lives began, and kept careful watch over us as we grew in body and in spirit. He gives us choice in decisions, and in the life we live. We are His and of that the Psalmist, David, has no doubt… even when he is facing doubts, as we all do. One of my favorite readings concerning doubts is in Mark, chapter 9. Jesus is asked to heal a young son from his demons. Jesus told the Dad, “All things can be done for the one who believes. The man replied, “Then I believe:  but help my unbelief.” – an answer we have all honestly given at one time or another.

 

It may be a little disconcerting to realize God knows us and sees us in all our nakedness of body, spirit and mind – the good and the bad. But if we believe God also sees into our heart and knows we are trying our best to be our best, then we have nothing to fear. God came into humankind, in human form… so He knows what we are up against as a human with our struggles and our joys. Jesus on the cross said, “Forgive them Father, cause they do not know what they are doing.” What a great love He had for us! He only wants our best… and when someone loves you that much, it is hard NOT to give Him all that you can. And with this knowledge, we can then embrace our identity and how God sees us. He sees us as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And once created, we become His to be His hands, His feet, and His heart in the world.


Even when we try to “climb a ladder to God,” God says, “Stay there… I am coming to you.” God is creating the story, the narrative of our life and He is the guardian of our days. We might falter and feel we have failed, but that is when God comes down and enters our hearts, to give us strength and courage to forge ahead and begin from a new direction. Our Corinthian reading gives guidance on how we SHOULD live our lives. Paul is trying to guide the Corinthians away from an attitude of “It’s all about ME” to one that focuses on God and on others. He also (as in the other readings) points to God as the source of our lives. It seems the Corinthians have heard it said that “Christ has set them free.” But their idea of freedom was that they could do whatever they wanted! Paul gives examples of overindulging in bad habits and decisions and how this eventually affects not only ourselves and our ability to have control over our lives… but it then invades the community as a whole.

And then we discover we ARE no longer free, but captive to what has, instead, overtaken our lives. Can we correct this, just by crying out to God? Yes and No. It is a beginning, and God hears us; but the way back to health, healing and faith is hard and takes time. That is why we are, again and again, told in the Bible to choose carefully how we will live. Does this mean it is impossible to come back? A big NO! God is always with us to help us work through our struggles until we are on our feet again.


Paul also wants us to see our lives and our bodies in the same way… as temples… as a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We are a Holy creation and should have respect for that truth, as we live and as our faith grows. Once the Holy Spirit is lit within us, its brightness just shines in our faces and in our actions. What drives us, motivates us and fills us… should be that light and how our lives reflect it.


Our Gospel reading in John tells us of another calling. This time to Nathaniel. One way God finds people is through God’s own people. Philip is the one here who knows Nathaniel. And he calls out to him, to “Come and See” this Jesus, the Nazarene. If we think about it, there must have been something magnetic in Jesus’s personality to draw so many to Him, even if they did not know him at all. Here, Nathaniel, very doubtful about a man who came out of Nazareth. (“Does anything good come out of Nazareth?" asks Jesus skeptically.) “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “I saw you under the fig tree.” Evidently, this alone… this short statement, is enough for Nathaniel to call him the “Son of God” and “King of Israel.” Nathaniel came, and saw, and heard, and believed!


I admire Philip for the invitation he gave Nathaniel. And for the openness he gave it, and his confidence that it would be accepted. Giving an invitation to someone already at the party is “nice,” but they are already there. Giving an invitation to someone standing on the outside looking in is brave, and affirming of one’s own beliefs and faith. This comes through as honest, and just as appealing as Jesus’s invitation to all of us. A spiritual life is not being alone one with eyes closed in prayer, Bible open, kneeling, and maybe even singing a hymn… it is being out and about in the world inviting others to the “party.”


All of these readings today have given us so much to think about and apply to our lives. Martin Luther King, whom we celebrate this weekend, had a strong faith that fed him, but even he had to give all to God, to do what God had planned for him. These are his words from his book, Stride Toward Freedom, detailing the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1950’s:

I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory:

‘I am here, taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid.

The people are looking to me for leadership,

and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter.

I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left.

I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’

At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying, ‘Stand up for justice, stand up for truth, and God will be at your side forever.’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared… and I was ready to face anything.”


Let us Pray:

God, grant all of us a strong faith… and assurance in your Word… and in your presence. Help our ears to hear your call, our feet to lead the way and our spirit to draw others to you. AMEN!

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