"God Calls. Who Will Answer"?
Sermon Preached By Rev. Patti M. Smith - June 30, 2002
You have heard the story
of God’s call to Abram, Moses, Isaiah, Simon, Andrew, James and John and
of Paul and Ananias. These are but a few of the many scriptural stories
of God’s call upon the lives of God’s people. God’s call is unique for
each hearer, and yet the call is alike in that all are called to
obedience and faithfulness.
Abram’s call was to leave his ancestral home—everything he knew, and travel to an unknown destination for a mission he did not imagine to be possible. Abram left his comfort zone to go where God would send him to build a covenant people. His response was immediate and joyful. Some of us are like Abram.
Moses felt very inadequate for his assigned task and used every argument he could think of to persuade God to make a better choice! He was a tender of sheep. He could not speak well—probably had a speech impediment—the King of Egypt would never believe him. He felt he lacked the gifts for the task. Besides it would be far too risky to return to a place where he was wanted for murder! He begged God to find a better-qualified person to send on such a mission as this. He felt inadequate, reluctant. HE was resistant—GOD is persistent. You know the rest of the story. Some of us are like Moses.
For Isaiah the call was very dramatic and very visual. He, too, felt unworthy but after experiencing the forgiving and cleansing power of God, he was quick to respond, “Send Me!” Some of us are like Isaiah.
When Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John they did not give a second thought. They left all that was holding them and followed. Some of us are like Simon, Andrew, James and John.
Saul’s call was so powerful and dramatic it caused him to be blinded. He literally needed help to walk. Ananias was called upon to care for Saul but he knew of all the terrible things Saul had done to Believers and was not willing to participate in the saving of Saul’s sorry soul. But God had a plan for transforming Saul into Paul and take Jesus’ message far and wide. Ananias had a brief and urgent task to perform. Paul’s call was a lifetime commitment--a commitment to spread Jesus’ message of love throughout the known world. We are called to special missions of short and long duration, to tasks large and small.
At a Methodist Church Youth Camp in northeastern Oklahoma where mosquitoes were abundant and dedicated preachers brought God’s word and call to the hearts of teenaged boys and girls. On one of those warm evenings when Brother Max Stowe (in the south we called our preachers brother) said “God wants you to serve him in the ministry of His church. Won’t you come and give your life to him now?” There was a 15-year-old girl sitting on one of those hard wooden benches who took that invitation very personally, and filled with God’s love, presented herself at the altar to sign-up for life. She now stands before you with 40 years of ministry behind her and an unknown number of years ahead to sing God’s praise and continue to follow the ever changing and expanding call of God. My call, as I first head it was to youth ministry and very specifically to learn the skills needed to do that at Scarritt College for Christian Workers, in Nashville, Tennessee. Committed to my call, I took all the necessary steps to make it happen, including enrollment in the college seven years later.
My journey has taken me through four incarnations as the church has defined and re-defined the work of its lay professionals. First a deaconess, then a consecrated lay worked, next a diaconal minister. Three times consecrated—three different Bishops.
Many of you here this morning were a part of my next step. In 1997, after the denomination created a new ordained order. I made the transition and was ordained a Deacon in Full Connection. The call has not wavered, but the particulars of ministry have evolved. This did not come about by my own will and determination. I was nurtured, encouraged, affirmed by my parents, the pastors and members of my local church in Oklahoma. I was affirmed and nurtured by my district and my home conference and especially by the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministry. Without their support I could not have completed my education.
One of the things I do in this conference is to serve on the Board of Ordained Ministry. There is a common theme running through the stories we hear from individuals as they talk about their call to ministry. God’s words come through the words of leaders in their local church. There are people of all ages sitting right here in this very church who have gifts for ministry therefore, God’s call must be given voice by those of us sitting among and beside them. When you and I can see gifts in others we have a rich opportunity to participate in facilitating God’s call by saying to that gifted one, “I see gifts and graces in you and I believe God has something special in mind for you. I believe God may be calling you for a special ministry. Listen for God’s call upon your life.”
It may be You God is calling! Perhaps to a special short-term task or to a lifetime ministry. Listen for what God has in mind for you. God calls—Abram, Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Ananias, Paul. God called me, and myriads of others, in all times and in all places. Some well known and some nameless; all have answered, “Here I am Lord. Send me. I will go for you.”
Many of you have already answered. You teach Sunday School, you prepare and serve shelter meals. You volunteer for mission trips and you respond to God’s call in large and small ways. For all the “Yeses” you represent, we give God thanks and praise. We call ourselves disciples of Jesus and indeed we are, for a disciple is one who learns at the feet of the Master. Our call is to be apostles for an apostle is one who is sent out. A personal messenger commissioned to transmit the message of the commissioning agent. And that is us: the baptized. We are the commissioned. God has called us, you and me, to be the apostles of Christ in our day and in our community.
God calls. How will you answer?
Over the archway at my beloved Scarritt College are these words:
Attempt Great Things for God
Expect Great Things from God