Paying Attention: Hearing Your Call Jeremiah 1:4-10

I don’t think boy Jeremiah dreamed of being a prophet as he watched his father conduct services as a priest of Israel.  I know because becoming a pastor was the furthest thing from my mind as I watched my grandfather pastor and my father lead worship as a lay person who loved the church.  I was all about sports and I still am; dreaming of walking the fairways with Rory and those other young flat bellies.  I never followed that dream.  I went to seminary to prepare for the ministry.  If anyone asks why; I respond definitively, God called me.  Some might ask how I knew God called.

There are things alike and things unique about God’s calling.  The common thread to all our calls is God took the initiative created each of us for a purpose.  God knows us and wants us to know the joy of living out that purpose.  The unique aspects of our calls are the particulars, which are a little more difficult.  Each person’s call is unique and it is necessary to pay close attention to the current call of God in our lives.

Most people live out their call; doing the work of Christ in the world.  Others do so; doing work of Christ in the church.  There’s no greater or lesser call.  The notion of a higher calling suggests your pastor is more useful than the person who cleaned our room this week.  I wanted the voice of preaching professor, Joel Gregory.  One of the finest preachers is Fred Craddock; a slight man with a voice he describes as, “the sound of wind whistling through a fence post.”  No one can tell a story like he, though I have tried.  God gives each unique gifts for God’s glory, the world’s benefit, and our delight and we have to pay attention if we are to discern God’s call.

I invite each of us to examine our current call from God.   I am asking you to answer a simple question in writing.  I want to read what you write and perhaps publish your call stories so others may hear your witness of what God is doing in your life.  The question is: What is God calling me to “be” or “do” over the next three to five years?  Some of you can answer the question before you leave; that would be great.  Others will want to take some time, that is fine since we are going to explore this question over the next seven weeks; walking beside the prophet, Jeremiah.

The exercise serves two purposes: 1.) It allows every person to reexamine how they offer their gifts to the church and community in order to strengthen the Body of Christ.  2.) It allows me to become acquainted with you who are answering their call at FUMC, Irving.  I hope to engage us into an ongoing conversation about the call God in our life.  Paying attention to hearing our call insures what we are doing is true to the person God fashioned and to specific purpose for this present hour.   Let’s unpack in some more detail why God calls and how we hear God’s call; using Jeremiah’s call as our template.

Why does God call us?-For a specific purpose.  Jeremiah was called from the womb to speak a prophetic word during a time of crisis as the infrastructure of the country was collapsing and being overthrown by foreign invaders.  If Jeremiah did not sense he was called for this specific purpose, he could not have endured an arduous and painful prophetic career.  During his forty plus years of forth telling and foretelling, no one listened to him and his family and kinsfolk turned away from him.  Jeremiah knew in his bones he was fashioned to answer this call.  He could not choose otherwise or he would have been crosswise with God’s purpose in his life.  The matter of whether it is hard or easy is beside the point.  The point is we must do this is the specific purpose for which we were made.

How we hear God’s call?-God takes the initiative.  Jeremiah’s call story begins: The word of the Lord came to me.  His call to be a prophet was God’s idea.  If there is a calling, there is a Caller.  God, the Caller, designs us with gifts and desires that can only be satisfied by tuning into the frequency of God’s voice and turn to the frequency of daily service of God’s world.  Since God made us in this way, it is fair to say God is more interested in our knowing our call than we in knowing it.  So, God comes in various ways; taking the initiative; so we might hear the voice of God that beckons us to offer our unique ministry to God’s world.  This is our one and only life; not someone elses.  A sure way to miss out on the call of God is to try to live another person’s life on their behalf.

When I was considering my call to be a pastor, I took a long look at how God had shaped me.  I knew as a boy I loved to go to church, I could memorize Scripture without difficulty, I was always called upon to pray, and I hated to choose up sides in games because someone would always feel left out.  Others also told me should consider the ministry, because they saw gifts in me that fit.  When I was honest with myself I was at home in the church.  When I said aloud God called me to be a pastor I was recognizing God took the initiative calling me for the specific purpose of being a pastor of a local church, a call I remained faithful to now for 30 years.

It is important to distinguish between a vocation and an occupation.  An occupation is something you can do; a vocation is something you cannot not do.  Vocation comes from the Latin “vocare”, to call.  There are lots of voices that call.  We are to pay attention to these voices; making sure they are not the voice of our mother who wants us be a doctor or our father who wants us in the family business.  The work we cannot not do is the shaping work in our life where God took the initiative and made us for that work because it fulfills a purpose in the kingdom of God.  It is about making a life more than making a living.  Frederick Buechner says: God calls you to the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.  Paying attention requires hearing our own specific and current call.

It is easy to feel as Jeremiah, too young, not from the right school, right stock, or the right sex.  Humility is a good since it makes us depend upon God to put words in our mouth if we are called to speak and it gives us a heart of empathy to work with people in need.  God will support our call by empowering and sustaining us.  If God has called, we are up to it-Period!  There is no need to fear, cause for arguing, or running from the call.

That brings me to the current call of God in my life.  I am currently working through of call of God in my life that is as sure as they day God called me to the office of pastor.  I have only experienced this sort of conviction about the call of God in my life one other time, which is when I felt the call to take leave from being a Baptist pastor to living out my call as a Methodist pastor.  (Long Story)  Before I ask you to convey your call to your pastor, allow your pastor to convey the call of God in his life for this present day.

God has clearly conveyed to me the day is over when people will come to the house of God.  God has been equally clear the church house is to go to the people’s houses.  I have been talking to God about what this means for several years.  My recent work with my Doctorate of Ministry has clarified what it means to employ those called to incarnational insurgent ministries in their schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, etc; shining the light of Christ into our community.  I believe God has led me to FUMC to live out the next steps of this call.  I do not know exactly what that means nor do I assume any outcome.  I am fine, not knowing how this will turn out.  So, invite others who feel called in like manner to join me in prayer and holy conversation next Sunday morning at 8:30.  I don’t know if this is the best, but I know this is something I cannot not do.

Now, the future may not make any sense if we follow the call of God in our life.  So we choose the wise road; balancing our earthly obligations with our heavenly pursuits.  It is easy to substitute temporal things for eternal.  We feel censored by circumstance or muted by family matters.  That’s why God is unbending in taking the initiative in our lives; calling us to live into the specific purpose for which we were created.

Graciously, God allows us to decide what we will do with the call of God in our life.  Points of decision come as God calls us to new places, ways, and days.  Our founder, John Wesley could have chosen to remain a priest in a spiritually dead church; quietly cashing his government paycheck taking a safe road to his future.  Instead not knowing the future he birthed a Methodist movement, which we are the benefactors today.  FUMC, Irving has made it for over hundred plus years, not by asking how we should we be faithful to our founders.  The essential question of call is how I shall be faithful to the Lord who is the foundation of the church in every age.

Barry McClenahan was a helicopter pilot who flew missions rescuing wounded soldiers and delivering medical supplies.  One night, while off duty, a ruckus broke out in the Officers Club.  Everyone was hauled off to the brig.  After a sleepless night, Barry was roused by the sound of his commanding officer’s voice: McClenahan, he said, speaking to the MP, “He is to be released immediately.”  When the guard resisted, the CO said he was needed to perform an important mission.  “He belongs to me, he said.  We belong to Christ!  Christ comes calls our name and we have important work to do in the Kingdom of God.  Are we paying attention so we might hear the call of God in our life?  Pay Attention!, for God’s sake and your sake!  God is calling all of us for a specific purpose.

Published in: on July 10, 2011 at 6:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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