Monday, January 30, 2012

Sermon Scraps Mark 1: 21 - 28

Once again I have been called to repentance for neglecting my blog. I will do my best to keep it up. I do not promise a weekly post, but I will (once again) try not to forget about it entirely. Thank you for your patience with me.
Yesterday I preached on Mark 1:21 -28. In the NRSV, it reads:
They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God. ‘But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He* commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him. ‘At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
In my sermon I said that anything that comes between God and you, God and God’s love for you, or God and God’s will for your life is not of God. Anything that separates us from God is not of God. This leads me to ask, what is it that we allow to come between God and us?
God has a purpose for us, a mission or a job that we are specifically designed and made to do. This is not to say that God has only one plan for us. The book that the Bend UMC’s Bible study group just finished last night discussed what it means to be in or out of God’s will. The author described a time in his life when he felt he was outside of God’s will. He left Austin, left his church and moved to Ft. Worth to work on his DMin. He felt that during those three years he was outside of God’s will. He said eventually God brought him back to Austin.
I am not sure that God’s will is ever that specific. Is it not just as likely that God will use what we give God? Here’s my logic: I have felt that answering my call to ministry was somewhat inevitable for me. I was made to be a pastor, and God has been preparing me for this vocation as long as I can remember. One of my former parishioners has told me when she was younger, she also felt called to ordained ministry. We have talked about it a great deal, and I can see such gifts and graces in her life, but she was reared in a denomination where women were not given the opportunity to serve as ordained clergy. Now that she is in the UMC, a denomination that would welcome her gifts, she feels she is just ‘too old now.’ Yes, she is near to retirement age. That she has not answered this call on her life the way I did does not mean she is any less faithful. Instead of becoming a pastor, she is a vibrant and enthusiastic church volunteer and leader. She has reared two boys and is now enjoying a beautiful granddaughter. She is a brilliant and dedicated public servant, and she can offer the church gifts of which I could never dream. Here is what I think: She was offered the opportunity to serve God in one way. She chose a different way, and God still used her gifts for the church, and still blessed her.
Here is another example. In our discussion last night, one of the Bible Study-ers said that she always felt called to be a pediatrician, but her brother talked her out of it. Instead, she became a music teacher. Were children any less blessed because she was a music teacher? I think not. I think God used her love for children to bless her and others in a new way.
I refuse to believe that there is only one path for our lives, and I refuse to believe that if wander off that path, there is no hope. The reality of our free-will is such that God does not interfere with our decisions, but instead God uses those decisions to work out God’s plans. Paul writes in Romans 8, “We know that all things work together for good* for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (NRSV). That does not mean that everything that happens is good or in line with God’s will and purposes, but God can and does work good out of what happens.

So to circle back to my sermon and the beginning of this post, it is not that we could do the wrong thing and interrupt God’s will for our lives. Yes, we can and do sin, which is contrary to God’s will for our lives, but that’s not what I’m going on about here. Instead, I am talking about fear. It seems to me that we are afraid to do much of anything for fear we will do it wrong, fail, or worse find out it was not what God wanted us to do. More than anything, I think God wants us to try, just try, be willing to step out in faith with an attitude that says, ‘I don’t know if I’m doing it right, I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I know I can do something.’ Not doing anything for the kingdom of God is simply unacceptable, and it is not of God. To that we should (to paraphrase Jesus) say ‘SHUT UP.’ We have a purpose and a job to do, and if we are willing, God will use us to build the kingdom.

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