When God Calls

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Our scripture this morning is about God's call to Jeremiah... a call to ministry... to serve God as a prophet. A prophet... in Old Testament times was a person to whom God spoke... he received God's word... and in turn... he declared God's word to the people. In those days... a prophet was God's highest appointed office.

You might be tempted to compare the office of prophet in the Old Testament to the ministry in our modern day. However... being ordained as Minister of the Word and Sacrament does not confer any special spiritual status. Those of you who have been in my Search for Significance groups... I'm sure... are becoming aware of that. A Minister of the Word and Sacrament is called to be the leader of a community of believers... and my task is to enable you to be God's ministers in the world.

Did you know that you were called to be ministers? As Presbyterians... grounded in Reformed theology... we believe that all Christians... and that means you... and you... and you... are called by God to ministry... or "loving service." That's why your bulletin says on the back... "Ministers to the Community....... The Congregation." That's right... all Christians are called to spread the Good News... through their words... and their actions... of God's love... reconciliation... and friendship. And... as your leader... it is my job to help you recognize... reinforce... and enable your call to service in the world in God's name.

I'd like this morning to use Jeremiah's call to help us examine our own call... the call to discipleship... to proclaim, teach, and heal... to communicate God's love in Christ... to share the burden of suffering people.

The first question that comes to my mind about God's call to ministry is "when did it happen?" If I am called by God to do something in my life... but am not aware of it... does that mean that I am not called?

In our story about Jeremiah we read:

5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

And that's not the only place in scripture where we learn that God instigates our birth with a plan in mind. Samson's conception and birth was foretold... as was the birth of Jesus... and John the Baptist. Paul claims to have been "set apart." Psalm 119 tells us that God made us and formed us.

In Isaiah 43 we read:

20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Did you know that... first and foremost... God called you... specifically... to serve him. Did you know that God had a meaningful plan for your life... even before you were born?

An ancient legend tells of a king who walked into his garden one day to find almost everything withered and dying. Speaking to an oak near the gate, he learned that it was sick of life because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine was upset, for it could not bear delicious fruit like the pear tree, while the pear tree complained that it did not have the lovely odor of the spruce; and so it went throughout the entire garden.

Coming to a pansy, however, the king saw its bright face full of cheerfulness. "Well, little flower," said the monarch, "I'm glad to find at least one that is happy in this discouraging scene."

"Your majesty, I know I'm of small account, but I decided you wanted a pansy when you planted me. If you had desired an oak or a pear tree, you would have put one in my place. Therefore I've determined to be the best little flower I can be!

You are a unique person... there is no one else exactly like you in the world... and throughout your life God has provided opportunities for you to minister to others. You have been "set apart" to live the gospel. How have you responded to God's call... and his plan for your life?

I've invited a special guest this morning to share his story with you... but first I'd like to read from Acts 1:15-26 to provide the setting.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)
16 and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus--
17 he was one of our number and shared in this ministry."
20 "For," said Peter, "it is written in the book of Psalms, 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,' and, 'May another take his place of leadership.'
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22 beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."
23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.
24 Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen
25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs."
26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Please welcome Joseph bar Sabbas... who prefers to be called Justus.

Dramatic Reading Ben Diebold
Why Did God Chose You?
by Lavern E. Brown, Jr.
When God calls... choose well, indeed. Amen
A Sermon Preached on August 23, 1998
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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