Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Year B Lent 4 WED Get Over Here and Work

Year B Lent 4 Wednesday, 14 March 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Get Over Here and Work”
O Lord our God, you sustained your ancient people in the wilderness with bread from heaven: Feed now your pilgrim flock with the food that endures to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
John 5:19–29
Jesus said to the Jews, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

One of the biggest parts of being a Christian leader is Discernment. Too often, we hold the conversations and training about Discernment to the Clergy. In fact, I would argue that we should work on Discernment with our very youngest. How we hear the call from God is so important. We worked on this a bit in our Wednesday Lenten group last week.
And, hand-in-glove with that is how we respond. God can call and call and call. But we need to not only pick up, but also respond. Think of Jonah. God called him to Nineveh, and he ran as far as he thought possible, to the end of the world as he knew it. That is not the response we should make.

So the question each and every one of us need to make is how to we “hear” God, and how do we respond. Part of this may be our metaphor. We live in the age after Alexander Graham Bell, and last week I even made the joke of my phone ringing in the middle of our talk about God’s Call. Telephone literally means distant sound. And the call of God, biblically speaking, is much more like this.

Picture someone you can see, someone at work, and they see you and call out, “Why don’t you come over here and help me!” God’s Call is not distant, or unattached, or far away.
God’s Call is local, within eyeshot and earshot, and seeking us to come and join in the effort for the task at hand. God’s Call is not for us to start something on our own, but rather, to join in the work that God is already doing. This is a very different way of thinking, and what I feel Jesus means when he says: “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.”

We are being invited in, and what a privilege, to be at work in the fields of the Lord. We are called alongside to labor and bring in the harvest. It is not under our power, or responsibility, or to give ourselves credit, or what our culture might call success. We are called to be faithful, and do the work God has set out for us to do. This is another part of the hard work of following God. We can be called to be a part of what to the rest of the world is a failure, for we cannot see where things are going or what can come from the work we are given to do.

Once I was serving in Germany as Youth and Young Adult Minister at International Baptist Church in Hamburg, West Germany. One of the members of our Singles group was a pain. She wrestled and argued about everything. She really had me on my toes all the time because of her opposition. In fact, the 9 months I worked there while I was in the middle of college was hard work and I did not see much to show for my time.
However, several years later, on my way to Israel, we had an overnight layover in Switzerland and we stayed at the Baptist Seminary in Rüschlikon, Switzerland. And, lo and behold, the pernicious young woman from my group was in her second year there. God had called her, and little did I realize the impact I had on her. She said, though, that my work was what gave her no excuses. After Bible Study at the Church, the burglar alarm came on at 9:30 and we started at 8 pm. So we met at the church, and then moved the meeting to the pub across the street so that we could just hang out. I brought along a little game called Schweinerei, which is call Pass the Pigs in America. You roll two little pigs like dice. And she said, if someone like me, who could have fun and place Schweinerei could be a Christian, she had no excuses. God can work through anybody, even me. Even in our ridiculous idiosyncrasies. And now she has been a pastor for 20 years. Thanks be to God.

We never know when God calls us to join him in the work at hand what could and will come of it. Trust God, and leave the outcomes to him. He calls us to be faithful, not successful. A hard lesson to learn. A necessary lesson to learn. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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Blessings, Rock