Category: calling

Let it Be

Sermon
Advent 4B,
Sunday December 18, 2011.
Ocean Forest

Luke 1:26-38
“Let it be with me according to your word”

On this last “normal” kind of Sunday together before we all rightly focus on Christmas I cannot help but imagine the young Mary and her words, “Let it be with me according to your word”. This is the way I am speaking to the Lord in these days of leaving and also pondering a new ministry and life challenge in God’s call.

As I said in the announcement of my decision to take the Call to Petri, it did and always does come down to the Lord’s call. Everything else is a distant second. I know from the Word, from my experience, from you and from the wider church that it is indeed the Lord’s will that I take this Call from him to serve in another place among another people.

I have been thinking this week that this Call from the Lord to me and you is a little less ground shaking than the Call he issued to a young teenager named Mary.

Yes, I have a Call from the Lord to continue serving him and his people in another place with its many unknowns and different size, shape, culture and its inevitable challenges.

Yes, you now have the Call from the Lord of the Church to re-examine your Call to be God’s people in mission here and then to Call another Pastor to work with you in your joint Calling to continue to be God’s people together in this place. But what about the Call Mary received to bear the Son of God in her own body and be remembered and honoured for that for all time by all who would follow him? Now that is a ground shaking Call from the Lord – literally – with angelic voices included!

As with all calls from the Lord, they create the uncomfortable sense of being. I still doubt my ability to live up the huge expectations of the Call to the new place. I know you are worried about your ability to continue as God’s mission people here and to receive another Pastor to come and serve here so that this community can thrive. No different with Mary (or any other person God called, by the way!).

Even though Mary was called by the Lord through this mysterious angelic visitation, Mary she was much perplexed by the calling words and pondered what sort of calling this might actually be. She was a little suspicious and not a little doubting of the Lord’s calling.

Yes, “perplexed”: troubled, unsure, confused, fearful for the future, fearful for the imposition of God’s Call on her life and what it would mean for her future…….

It is a good word to describe how we all feel when the Lord is knocking on our door to step up – step up to better marriages, better parenting, better conduct at work, at home, at church.

Mary asks the obvious question of God. “Is this Call you have issued me good news or bad news?” Will it be the Calling that makes me fulfilled, benefits people around me and brings glory to you or will it cause me to stumble and fall because I will fail at it?”

This is the question brought on by our natural human fear of so many things: ourselves, the unknown, others, God at times.

To us who are only human. To us who can only understand and see so little of God’s big picture and plan for our lives, those words of the Lord and his messenger that disarm our tendency to take flight and run away from the Lord’s call, like Jonah did, come as a gleaming ray of light in a dark place, or as a ray of light on the horizon as the clouds wind and sea calm and the storm is finally over.

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God”.

My Call to another community is surrounded by and motivated by God’s favour. Your Call to be his holy community of love and faith and hope in this place is a Call surrounded by the Lord’s love and blessing.

The Lord has found favour with this community enough to bring upon it this time of vacancy. Sounds strange doesn’t it?
  • We are all scared of vacancy times in the church. They are supposed to be avoided at all costs and as short as possible.
  • In vacancy we feel all at sea, leaderless, rudderless, unsure – a bit like the disciples on that little boat out on the Sea in that storm with a sleeping Saviour! Facing a vacancy time can feel like our Saviour is sleeping.
  • We wish he would wake up and calm the storm and restore normality – then we could all go about our lives as normal again – then we could all be comfortable again?
  • We could all slot back into how it was before when we were undisturbed by the Lord’s call?
Thank the Lord that Mary went with the uncomfortable Call from the Lord. She utters those immortal words of trust in the Lord and his Call… 

            “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Here I am: Here are you. Can you utter these word as Mary did and be at peace, without fear? That is the Call of the Spirit to you now for sure.

For the next little while you will be pondering Calls. You will be pondering that word. You will have “Call” meetings. You will “Call” a pastor or two or more. A Pastor will accept your “Call” as a Call from the Lord of the church.

I can tell you now that the “Call” meetings and the “Calling” of a pastor will not only be about one guy. It will also be a word about you – individually, in your family and as a body of Christ. When you hear that word, pray for that event, pray for that man and his family, you will also be pondering your own Call in this community – this church; this mission task.

A Call meeting is not about one man’s call. It is about a community’s calling too. Each of you will think about your place here and as you do, can I challenge to recall Mary and her Call.

She was troubled about the imposition of accepting the Lord’s Call on her life. So will you be if you’re honest because God’s Call is imposing and impossible – at least humanly impossible. However, it is a Call that is always backed by his promises and power to “be with you to the very end of the age” as Jesus says at the last (or was it the first?).

I am praying that you will come to where I have been brought to by the Lord and where Mary got to by the Lord. I am praying that you can speak her words for real and at peace and without fear;

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

I am praying that in this time of vacancy you will be uncomfortable in a way that provides the conditions in which the seeds of faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ can thrive in you personally and as a holy community of the Lord in this place.

I am praying that you and I can sing Mary’s song in our Callings… 

 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
                                                                                                               Luke 1:46b-50

You can end up with Mary and me because the Lord of the Church is behind the Calls we have and they are Calls of favour and blessing.

In your Calling to be Ocean Forest, a community that is bent on “connecting people with Jesus so that all may know and share his love, the Lord blesses you…. 

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen!                                                                                                 Romans 16:25-27

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 2

BETWEEN THE TEXTS

• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world.


• As we go through Exodus, we are following the Common Lectionary (or selection of Bible readings) that most mainline Christian denominations also follow. Hearing the Word as set down in the three year lectionary used globally, is one of the way we express Oneness (or the “catholic” – “universal” nature of God’s church. Our schedule of bible passages in Exodus has lots of bible texts in between each one! So it is an important to get what happens prior to our text each week.


• A very important thing happens before our text for this week begins. Read Ch 2:11-25.


• verse 11: Moses obviously grows up to be a young man. He grows up in the royal palace with all its privilege, and yet it seems that he has learnt or sensed that he is actually one of the ethnic minority population called “the Hebrews”. He is not an Egyptian.


• He does two things that show a certain passion and concern for the plight of his people. He first “watches” their “hard labour”. Moses is seeing what Pharaoh’s daughter saw and heard when she saw Moses in the ark and heard his crying and “was moved”.


• Both things Moses does are done in secret – at least he thinks they are. “He looks this way and that” checking to see if anyone is seeing him.


• The issue is really about authority. It is clear that when he kills the Egyptian slave master who is beating a Hebrew and then when he tries to settle a dispute between two of his countrymen, he has no authority. One of the two Hebrews who are beating each other up pop that authority question (verse “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” asks the Hebrew slave. And then in direct challenge to his actions, “Are you thinking of killing me like you did that Egyptian the other day?” Moses is found out and very scared.


• Pharaoh quickly turns on this adopted son of his daughter. But, as will become more and more apparent, Pharaoh’s attempts to deal with these Hebrews and their God will become less and less effective!


• Everything speeds up and is compressed together. Moses flees across the huge desert, somehow survived on the land way over in Midian and sits down by a well” (verse 15).


• Verse 19: This “one who was drawn from the water” now “draws water for some women at the well.


• He helps some women at the well (wells are always places of meeting in the desert communities). he meets a man who seems to have two names. here he is called “Reuel” and in other places he is called Jethro. He agrees to arranged marriage with one of Jethro’s seven daughters, Zipporah.


• “Zipporah” in Hebrew means “one who tweets”. Maybe she was a frequent Tweeter user!


• They have a son, Gershom, which means “alien there”. Maybe Moses is no getting as far away as he can from his Egyptian upbringing. After all, the king did try to kill him!


• Verse: 23-25: Again we hear of this crying out and now God seeing and hearing and “being concerned” about them. he is about to show his concern and do something about it…….


WEEK 2 Exodus 3:1-15 (TNIV)


The Calling of Moses (1 numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)
1 Now Moses was tending the flock 1of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness 2and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire3 from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see 4this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”



4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”


And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.


7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt 6. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 7


12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship8 God on this mountain.”


13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ 9Then what shall I tell them?”


14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. 10 This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”



15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation. 11
THOUGHTS
1. It is important to note that Moses is a shepherd. This is his vocation at the time of his calling. He will continue to be a shepherd – not of sheep, but of God’s people. The word “Pastor” come from the Latin word meaning “shepherd. Pastors are essentially shepherds of congregations.

2. The location of this burning bush (Mount Horeb or Sinai) moment is not known for sure, but is seems that it might have been on the western side of the Sinai Peninsular.


3. Flames: This is a very common way that the biblical writers try and give a visual picture of God’s presence. It happens again in Exod 19:18 when the glory/presence of God descends upon the same mountain and gives the 10 commandments. Later on in the desert journey, a pillar of fire will guide the community at night time. We New Testament people make a link with Pentecost Sunday and the “tongues of fire”.


4. Moses has “seen” God’s people in pain and now he wants to “see” this great sight. He will see the fire and see some other things as well! Note that God then “sees” Moses coming up the mountain. Interesting that the man who wants to discover something has now become the discovered one by God! This self-appointed shepherd who lacked authority to fulfil his calling will now receive God’s authority and power for the humanly impossible calling he will no be given!


5. Now we have the famous moment of God’s call and giving of the most precious gift he ever gave his people. Moses is given his commission to shepherd Israel in three ways;


o God is present: Moses is made aware of this (take off the sandals on holy ground)


o He is informed that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – God is a known God with a history of promises to and blessing of and saving people.


o God announced his intentions. Moses hears what God is wanting to do through him – save his people.


6. Again we hear for the third time since Exodus began that God has seen and understands the plight of his suffering people (they are “crying out” – like Moses in the ark). He is now going to “come down” with one intention – RESCUE. Pharaoh’s daughter was indeed a sign of God’s rescue when she found Moses.


7. Moses does not receive his calling well. He objects – three times in all. He knows he needs God’s authority and power to do this humanly impossible thing called shepherding God’s people! First he asks “Who am I” for this task. Answer: A nobody! God responds with a promise of assurance. “I will be with you”.


8. This calling and this giving of God’s name is all about Worship. Who will God’s people serve/worship? They are doing “hard service/labour” to pharaoh and the gods of Egypt and it is killing them. God is going to act to gather them into his presence in a new way so that they can serve/worship him. The service of God will be rest, not slavery. God does the giving and the blessing and the healing in worship p- not the people. They attend to worship not to appease the Lord, but to receive from him the good things he promises. in this way they “rest in his presence” as he rested from his labour on the seventh day.


9. Moses does not seem convinced! He asks the obvious question of God. Moses has asked, “Who am I”. Now he asks, “Who are you”!


10. Now comes the giving of the greatest gift that God ever gave to human beings besides their very existence. “I AM WHO I AM”, or “I AM WHO I WILL BE” is God’s personal name (YHWH: in English)


o It has never been uttered before and by giving Moses his personal name, God ushers in a whole new era of relationship intimacy with humanity.


o God has many names in Old Testament: El Elyon – God Most High, El Roi – God who sees me, El Shaddai – God Almighty, El Olam – God Everlasting,


o By this personal name (YHWH – Yahweh), Moses and human being will have unprecedented access to his presence and being.


o This name is really as mystery. It reveals God in a new personal way, but it also conceals God. God is still God but closer. It is untranslatable and in Hebrew it is unpronounceable. It has four letters and has been called the “Tetragrammaton” (four letters). It would become the holiest and most guarded name and the name to only be used under very strict ritual/worship conditions for Jewish people.


o This is a huge risk for God. Once his gives his personal name he is open to more personal abuse. It is like us giving our name to a stranger. Once it is done, we are more known – and open to our name being abused. Same with God.


o By this name Moses will have authority to save and shepherd God’s chosen and blessed people.


o In most English translation bible, this name, in English “Yahweh”, is usually printed “LORD”.


o Moses still objects a little after our text. Moses says he cannot speak well enough. God fixes this my telling him have his brother, Aaron, as a spokesman for him in his calling (Exod 4:1ff). God also gives him the first part of the program of “sign and wonders” that Gods will employ to begin the battle Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.


11. God will never withdraw this special name, no matter how much it is abused. he will never deny personal access to his presence for his faithful people. In New Testament terms, the name YHWH is translated “Kyrios” (my Lord). This is name by which people address Jesus. “Lord, have mercy on me”, (“Kyrie, eleison”). In John’s gospel, jesus says the seven great “IAM” statements – I AM the God Shepherd, I AM the gate for the sheep, I AM the Brad of Life, I AM the way the truth and the life…..

REFLECTIONS
• We are drawn out of the water in baptism. Baptism is our commissioning as God’s shepherds for others – all with different vocations, families and communities in which to be God’s name bearers for others.



• We are all priests in the sense that we have access to God’s very presence by his grace and mercy. We pray for people to God on their behalf. This is why on Sunday we pray ”The Prayer of the Church”. Here we actually perform a public service in praying for the world in God’s gracious presence.


• Worship of any god other than YHWH – or Jesus Christ the LORD, kills people, enslaves people and destroys relationship with God and each other.


• Worship is primarily an act of the Lord to which we respond in prayer, thanks and praise – not the other way around. “Liturgy” is a word the New Testament writers chose from their culture to express what they believed was going on when we gathered in God’s presence around the Word and the Holy Meal. “Liturgy” means “public work”, or “work of the people”. We respond to God’s good gifts of forgiveness, life, teaching, guidance, and healing by doing our public work – never only for ourselves but for the whole world and for others present.


• With this biblical view of worship, worship can then become what it was established to be by God – REST!


• It is no merely human thing to be called and commissioned by the Lord for service in his church or his world. Moses objects three times. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, and Jesus himself asked for their calling to be taken from them. Someone once said that anyone who willingly wants to lead God’s people is either full of themselves or just plain unaware of what God is asking them to do!


• But God promises to be with the ones he calls. He gives them his own personal name, which means access to his blessing, power, wisdom and hope to fulfil their calling.


Are you resisting God’s call to serve at the moment? What are your fears? What are your excuses?


Are you resting in God’s personal presence in worship or are you labouring in some kind of slavery in worship? Why?

When you come to worship, is it more about how well you do stuff for God, or more about letting God give you what he wants to give you?

How are you representing the needs of your family and friends before the Lord and seeking his blessing and healing for them in prayer – in worship and through the day? You are a priest like Moses by faith in Jesus and by virtue of your baptism – your commissioning day. What might it mean to be a member of the “priesthood of all believers – practically?