Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sermon: Our Baptism, Our Call

John 1:29-42, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

In the movie Dr. Strange, without giving away any spoilers,

Life throws him a huge curveball. Everything that he valued about himself is lost, and all he can think about it how to get it back. His friend, Christine Palmer says to him, “This isn’t the end. There are other things that can give your life meaning.” She is trying to help him see that he needs to change his focus. Unfortunately, he has a very hard time seeing that.

Most of us understand what Dr. Stephen Strange is going through because to an extent I think all of us struggle at times with finding our calling. It could be because life has changed. Or we may have a job, we may have hobbies and volunteer work, but something is still lacking, because it doesn’t fulfill us the way we think it should. We may have even had that passion and that meaning once, but over time it has slipped away and we find ourselves searching again for that true calling, that source of meaning in our lives where we feel like we are making a difference.

As Christians, the sense of calling has particular importance.

We can look at bible story after bible story and see how God literally recruits people to do important work in critical times. We read about how immediately after Jesus is baptized, he begins calling his disciples. And they follow him because they are searching for meaning, for understanding, for the Messiah. One of the important reminders of this passage is that Christ calls everyone who follows him. There is also a deep connection between our baptism and our call into ministry. It isn’t just pastors who are called into ministry, but everyone who has been baptized. The calls may be different, but they are equally calls to ministry. Pastors in their ordination are specifically called to preach the word, to organize and keep the church in order, to provide the sacraments, and to be examples of servanthood. But all who are baptized are called. But to what?

Many religious leaders over the years have contributed to that

Dialogue. What is the main calling of the Christian? Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran church who lived 500 years ago taught that “your calling was to do whatever your station in life dictated. If you grew up in a cobbler shop, your calling was to devote yourself to making shoes. And doing so, you participated in the work of God by covering the feet of [God’s] children. Luther believed that virtually any type of work could be a calling, so long as it rendered service to [humankind].’

“John Calvin elaborated on Luther’s ideas in a way that may make them seem a little more applicable to us today. For Calvin, it wasn’t our position in the social structure that determined God’s calling for us. Rather, he argued that God endows each of us with particular talents and gifts, and that it is our calling to discover those gifts and to seek out ways to use them in the service of [others].”[1]

We can even see that in the scripture lesson as John the Baptist testifies to what he has seen, “That Jesus is God’s son”, the disciples immediately recruit others, and so forth. They are using their abilities to share the good news, to use their spiritual gifts for the building of God’s realm, and for the service of God’s people.

The Apostle Paul actually comes out and explains that such

Witness is part of our calling in his opening to his first letter to the Corinthians:

To God’s church that is in Corinth:

To those who have been made holy to God in Christ Jesus, who are called to be God’s people.

Together with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place—he’s their Lord and ours!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always for you, because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus. That is, you were made rich through him in everything: in all your communication and every kind of knowledge, in the same way that the testimony about Christ was confirmed with you. The result is that you aren’t missing any spiritual gift while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also confirm your testimony about Christ until the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and you were called by him to partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our calling is to live lives that are a testimony to Jesus Christ, and that means using our gifts in the service of God and others. He reminds us that we are called to partnership with Jesus Christ, just like the first disciples. That is one of my favorite phrases in this passage. We are partners with Christ. We work with him even as we follow him. We aren’t passive absorbers of his wisdom, but partners in his work. I think that is vital to understanding our calling in life.

My other favorite phrase in this passage is when Paul explains

that we aren’t missing any spiritual gift. Perhaps the people in Corinth were questioning their gifts, and that is why Paul had to remind them. You might also be questioning your gifts. Heck, there are days I question my gifts. There are a whole boat-load of them I think I am missing. But what the gift of baptism tells us is that each of us have a place in serving. You have a ministry. Whether it is teaching children, or helping with finances, or showing hospitality to those around you, or testifying to what God has done in your life – you have a call to be in partnership with Jesus Christ.

You have the gifts you need for your ministry today. You may look at people who are further along the journey, who have gifts you think you want and need, and you may ask, like Dr. Stephen Strange, “How do I get from here to there?” To which the Ancient One replies, “How did you become a doctor?” Almost immediately he answers, “Study and practice. Years of it.” The implication is that if there are gifts we want, if there is a place we know that we need to be we need to study and practice to get there. But for today, God tells us, you have all the gifts you need for ministry. Don’t wait to serve just because you aren’t ready for tomorrow’s ministry – do what God has called you to today – even as you prepare for tomorrow.

When we do this,

As a community of faith, when we heed the call of God, when we recognize the gifts that each of us bring, and when we use them in partnership with Christ, we find the meaning in life that we are seeking. When I see us doing that I echo the words of Paul, “I thank my God always for you, because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus.” You are God’s people: from your baptism to your call. We are God’s people, not lacking any spiritual gift, but facing the world before us, testifying to the grace and love of God.

[1] Jeffery Thompson,

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