The Pastor’s Pen – February 23, 2020

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Called to Serve in Love

February 23, 2020

Scriptures: Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Cor. 2:9-13, Matthew 5:14-16

Today is a special day…not only is it the annual meeting of our fellowship where we have a chance to hear about all that God is doing in our midst…but it also is the time each year when we reflect on our own call to worship in this place, as a part of this fellowship.  A little later, we will have a chance to affirm our call together, using our Declaration of Covenant, but first let’s take a few moments to listen to what our readings for today seem to be saying.

Our responsive reading from Isaiah was strongly worded…written as if to a stubborn lot…to a people whose focus might have slipped a bit off of their responsibility to care for others in need.  It also reminds us that Jesus’ call upon us was to follow closely in his footsteps, seeking to do just as he did, to live fully, but to work so that others might fully live as well.  Isaiah warns us that ‘window dressing’ faith, or ‘once a week’ religious talk and behavior is insufficient and not true to the call within us.  The prophet also reminds us that our duty to God will not be fulfilled or complete, solely within this gathered fellowship in this space, but outside of the walls as well…in all of our travels, in our time at work, at home, and in fact wherever and whenever we are asked to stand up and declare or show publicly who we are as children of our God.  Isaiah brings to light the fact that ours is a faith walk that began as a gift of grace…but also one that grows and thrives only through the active extension of God’s love to others, which in truth, can be costly at times.

        And, as is so often the case with words given by the Lord to the prophets, today’s message ends with the full assurance that God is all loving and forever merciful…promising to be there beside us through every step of our walk, filling us with grace to share, and mercy to carry on.  Isaiah assures us that, “The LORD will guide us continually, and satisfy our needs in parched places, and make our bones strong; so that we shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.”  This is our call…this is why we come to this place…

In our reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he shares with us how it is that we are prepared and equipped to fully live into that call from our Lord.  Paul says that, “The Spirit searches out everything, even the hidden depths of God’s purposes.”  And further, “We have received this Spirit sent by God, so that we may know all that God has given us.”  The Holy Spirit…the portion or person of the Trinity that was given unto us, and which dwells within the depths of our souls…giving guidance and instruction, encouragement and discipline, is the same Spirit that searches and knows the depths of God’s purposes.  The Spirit within us already knows in advance what God’s hopes and dreams are for each one of us, and knows what we will need in order to accomplish those things.  And perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit sets in motion in advance, particular circumstances and opportunities for us to take advantage of, in order to be able to accomplish God’s good will. 

Paul says that “God has made known his secrets to us.   God has made known to us His plans for good…plans which are dependent on our willingness to openly and freely use the gifts we have been given…dependent upon our hands, our minds, our hearts, and our voices…all of which must be active in sharing the goodness that has been placed in our hearts.  So, it is the Holy Spirit then who readies us, who leads us into being tools of greater usefulness in the hands of God.

        Our second reading, from Matthew’s gospel, puts a framework around our call and the role of the Holy Spirit in preparing us…It is almost as if Matthew takes our call and our ability to meet that call as a given, and focuses instead on setting before us a way for us to walk, an actual pathway.  So, it is in these words of Matthew that we are sent forth

Focused solely on ‘light’, the passage starts with the unspoken assumption that there is in fact darkness throughout the world around us.  Darkness, that is much in need of God’s grace and presence…darkness that can only be dispelled by the light of Christ, as it works its way into being visible through our willingness to reach out in love and acts of self-sacrifice

Matthew also tells us that it is simply not enough to have this light of Christ within us, but rather that God’s light must be put out on public display…it must be put out there for all to see…for light cannot come against darkness, unless it is allowed to shine into that darkness.

The light of the Spirit within us is a gift of grace, and its proper place is never to be kept in hiding, even if we feel we lack the courage, rather it must be allowed to do its work, its own illuminating, its own God-empowered work of dispelling the dark through the action of our belief…dispelling the darkness resident within ourselves and others, as well as systemic darkness wherever it may be found as well.  In this way we fulfill our call as bearers of grace and carriers of the light of hope, and the promise of a life filled with new meaning…

So…we are called; we are equipped, and we are then sent out into the dark places of the world…sent to begin the work of transforming that darkness into light through our acts of loving. 

This then is our task…that truth and goodness might flow into our gathered human story as a result of our willingness to walk the path that has been set before us…both as individuals…and as a people together.

        Whether or not you know it…whether or not you admit it…we have all been called by our Lord…we have been filled within by the presence of the Holy Spirit of God giving us access to joy, peace, and instruction that far exceeds our understanding…and it is here that we have heard the call to let the light within us shine into all the corners of our own lives as well as into dark corners so pervasive in the world through which we walk each and every day.

Today is the day when we take the time together to affirm God’s call within our hearts.  Today is the day when we take a moment to reflect on our Lord’s call to serve and to live out that whispered call within our hearts to ‘Come, follow, and love’.  By affirming together our Declaration of Covenant we all publicly proclaim that this is where God has placed each and every one of us…that this is our time…and our place. 

Declaration of Covenant

(Please repeat after the Leader)

I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior,

I believe that He loves me and cares for me

I promise to follow Him in pathways of just and right thinking and living…seeking to share His love with all I meet,

I declare that I feel called to serve my Lord in this place…and as a part of this fellowship,

I will do my best to offer my life in service…seeking to bring about God’s plan and purpose

It is here that I belong…Amen

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