Sunday, April 07, 2013

Who's Calling? (Luke 1:26-34)

This sermon is one of three using ideas from Scott Chrostek's sermon series "R.S.V.P.: Responding to God's Invitation with Power and Grace."

Of course, sometimes people don't answer God's call because they're pretty sure what God will ask of them and they don't want to do it. In many cases, we know what God's call is for us because we know what it has been for others in the same position. God calls us not to lie to someone to gain an advantage or get out of trouble and we already know that. We just don't want to do that, so we don't answer his call.

Sometimes, though, we might not answer God's call because we don't really understand who's calling us. Sure, we might know it's God, or at least it's the understanding of God we usually work with. But have we considered just Who -- capital "W" -- that might be? Let's look at some people in the Bible.

Moses started out life under a death sentence. Pharaoh declared all Hebrew male children were to be killed, but his mother hid him for awhile before she had to risk his life on a wild chance he might be found by someone who could better protect him. He was so found, and raised in the Egyptian court. But one day, enraged at the mistreatement of a Hebrew slave, he killed and Egyptian and eventually had to flee to the wilderness of Midian. There he made a life and family for himself, working with his father-in-law Jethro and tending their flocks.

Until the day he met God in the burning bush. God told Moses he was going to free the Israelite people, which sounded like great news to Moses until he saw the spot on the organizational chart labeled, "Tell the world's most powerful ruler to free his slaves" had his name on it. He had a mixture of objections. Some of them came from him just not wanting to do it. That's why he at last asks God to send someone other than him. But some came from his genuine concern about how he, a lowly shepherd and a fugitive from justice, was supposed to talk the mighty Pharaoh into parting company with a valuable asset and receiving nothing in return. Who was he to do such a thing?

"I'll be with you," God said, and when even that wasn't enough for Moses God identified himself by name. "I Am," he said. "Tell them I Am has sent you." And at first it seemed like Moses' worries were justified, because Pharaoh paid him no attention whatsoever. Then God began to reveal just who I Am was and eventually even Pharaoh bowed before his power.

Mary is a young girl, very likely no older than 15 or 16. She lives not in the bustling city of Sepphoris but in the no-account village of Nazareth. Whether or not she's ever heard the phrase "nobody from nowhere," she would understand why someone mightapply it to her. But then she meets an angel, a heavenly messenger, who tells her she has found favor with God -- she is most definitely somebody. She will, in fact, be the human being by which God will enter his creation and identify with it as completely as anyone might ever have imagined. She will bear God's son!

How can this happen, Mary wonders. She isn't even living with her betrothed husband yet as they have not officially married. She knows that unmarried pregnancy can have serious, even lethal consequences in her culture. So how can she be pregnant, and if she is, how can she possibly manage to live long enough to have her baby, or how could she ever support herself and a child if she did, because Joseph will know the baby's not his and he might not even marry her now.

But the angel tells her the Holy Spirit will come upon her. God will be with her. It's not only a description of how she will become pregnant, it's a promise that God will take care of everything. And once sure that it is indeed God, the creator of the universe and the all-powerful Lord of Hosts, who seeks her obedience, Mary agrees.

I've found my reluctance to answer God's call often comes when I forget Who is calling me. Moses, Mary and many others in the Bible require reassurance that their calls actually come from God, but I seem to require reminders that the God calling me is the Lord. Am I called to an uncomfortable situation? Am I called to risk ridicule? Am I called to do something difficult or to face a reality about myself I dislike? If the one calling me is the Lord, why should I fear? Even death was no barrier to his love for us and if that love is with me, what harm could I face that would keep him from me?

In older cultures a king's messenger carried some kind of sign or token he was on royal business and not subject to lesser requirements. He was protected because anyone who obstructed or harmed him faced the full force of the royal power. I need to remember that though there are times when I rest in God, I am also called to serve him. And the One I serve is indeed all-powerful.

So we have some business, Christian, wouldn't you say? Our King is calling us.

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