God’s Call Changes Everything

Nicole Weber, my “co-preacher” today is a senior at Owatonna High School and was a part of our team that went to the ELCA Youth Gathering this summer.

Hi, I’m Nicole Weber. Over the summer I went to the youth gathering in Houston. We focused on a general theme each day. And then, at night in NRG stadium, the speakers would share messages revolving around that same theme.  One I will share about today is that “God’s call changes everything”.

 People are called in many aspects of life, but the main thing I think most people associate call with is their profession. I think this goes hand in hand with acknowledging your gifts and qualities. You don’t need to have a quote  unquote “God sighting” or some other big event that happens to hear or see his call for you. I want to do something in the medical field. I am a very curious person, constantly googling random questions in exchange for a piece of information that I probably could get by in life without knowing. This correlates with medicine because doctors are always trying to figure out what is wrong with a person and how they can help. Researchers are looking for answers for as to why the body does this thing and perform that function- and that fascinates me. I also care a lot about people- this obviously is important as you are looking out for the wellbeing of people and their lives. And of course this will go along with many years of school… but I don’t find that daunting because again I am curious and learning more and more about science and also being able to care for others sounds like the right fit for me and I think this is my call in life. But then again, I may be called in some other direction later on. I think it is perfectly fine to not know the answer to what you want to do with the rest of your life, and it’s also ok to change what you once thought was right for you- because call can be unexpected, and we are not limited to one calling that defines our whole life.

I think service is a big area of call as well. Service is something I believe everyone is called to do because the reality is that our world will always have injustices and hardships. Service is not one size fits all, there are many ways to help and improve the lives of others. To stand up for and to help those who don’t live with ideal circumstances. On the Houston trip we went to a community and set up a book fair for kids to get books and help with their education by raising their reading levels. Some of these kids were 10 years old and had never had a book before. It was really cool to see the sheer excitement on their faces. This is just one example, but one thing I know is that when something doesn’t sit right with you, you can do something about it- explore that feeling and share God’s love through that call. Even if you don’t take a physical action, learn about the issue, because being aware is better than ignoring the existence of a problem.

We all have many callings in life- some unexpected and others we find have been with us our whole lives though the gifts we’ve been given. But the greatest calling is to pursue compassion and to love. Be the light,  because sharing GOD’S LOVE is how we leave our mark on the world and each one of your voices is a key part of your calling.

Pastor Todd:

Thank you Nicole, for sharing from your wisdom and experience.

The scriptures say that Moses was just minding his own business.  He was “keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro.”  Now, we know that it was because he was on the run…he had stood up to an Egyptian guard who was beating an Israelite slave, and he had killed the guard.  So he took off and was doing his best to keep a low-profile.

He took the flock to a place called Horeb, presumably because he was looking for fresh grazing land.  And there, it happened.  The scriptures tell us that a big, giant bush burst into flame, and that an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the flame, but that while the bush was on fire, it wasn’t being consumed.  And a voice called out to Moses, reminded him that he was standing on holy ground, in other words, in the presence of God, and then gave him his task: to lead the Israelites from slavery into freedom.

This story is frequently referred to as the “calling of Moses.”  And while it’s a powerful story, and an important part of the history of God’s chosen people, sometimes I think it’s done us a disservice.  It has sometimes given us the perception that receiving a call  is like having a burning bush kind of experience.

For us to grasp this idea of what it is to be “called,” first I think we need to de-mythologize the term.  When we hear the word “called,” or when people talk about feeling “called” to something, we associate that with something that is both spiritual, and unapproachable.  We think of it as something that happens to other people…not to us.  Maybe we think of pastors and deacons who are in the “call process.”  But the rest of folks?  They just get hired for jobs.  Right?

Well, that’s what the world would have you believe.

In the waters of baptism, each and every one of us received our first call.  We are called “child of God.”

But the baptismal call, at least compared to the story of Moses and the burning bush, can be pretty subtle…and much more gentle.

To be honest, throughout my life, I personally wouldn’t have minded a little less subtlety from God when it came to figuring out my sense of call.

I remember trying to sort out direction for my life.  What college am I supposed to go to?  How about grad school?  Where should I look for a job?  What kind of person do I want to be? Should I really be a pastor, or a deacon?  Or something completely different?  God, am I really supposed to pack up my family and move to Owatonna?

At these moments, I didn’t want subtle…I wanted big, bold and specific.  I want the burning bush…I wanted God to write letters in the sky…or at least an email…or a text message….”Do this, Todd…I’m not kidding.  Love, God.”

But I think what Nicole described for her sense of feeling called is much more the way God works.  God doesn’t often send big, flaming, obvious signs.  Sometimes God’s call is a nudge.

Walter Bruggeman, one of my favorite theologians and authors, has talked about the “sweet spot” within our lives:

He writes that we all have gifts.  There are things that we are, quite frankly, gifted in.  It may be math…it may be listening…it may be compassion…it may be public speaking…or writing…or problem solving…or working with your hands…the list goes on and on.  We all have gifts.

And, we all have passions.  We have things that we feel strongly about.  What is it that crosses your news feed that catches your attention?  What brings you joy?  Or what fills you with a holy discontent?  I was talking with a member at Trinity a couple of weeks ago who is aware of some of the issues young people in our community are dealing with.  She was asking me about our plans for some of the unfinished space downstairs here in our building.  I talked about some possibilities…different ways we could make use of the space to better serve the community.  She looked me square in the eye and said “Pastor Todd, when we get serious about doing stuff to for high school youth in Owatonna that are homeless, you call me.  I want in on that.”

In that moment, I knew exactly what her passion was.

What’s yours?  What is your passion?

This connects with the third thing that Brueggeman talks about:  The world’s need.  There are needs, problems and issues in the world that can be filled only by other people.  Looking at the news is like a catalog of the world’s need.

Brueggeman says that if you put these three things:  your gifts, your passions and the world’s needs, into a venn diagram…you know, 3 circles that overlap.  The center section…where your gifts, your passions and the world’s needs overlap?  That is your spiritual sweet spot.

Even more than that, I would argue that this might be your call.

It’s a need.  It’s something you care about.  And you have the gifts to do something about it.

Like Nicole, it may be something related to medicine and science.  Like that person I spoke with 2 weeks ago, it may be something about youth homelessness.  Like me, it may be pastoral ministry.  Or, it may be completely different.

  • I believe plumbers can feel called to be plumbers.
  • I believe doctors can feel called to be doctors.
  • I believe accountants can feel called to be accountants.

It’s wherever your gifts, your passions and the world’s needs align.

Your sense of call may come in something like a burning bush, big and obvious.  But more likely, it will come as a nudge.  It will come as a discovery, when you align your gifts, your passions and the world’s needs.  And as a nudge, it may be harder to detect…but it’s no less valid than a burning bush.  To discover our sense of call, we pay attention to gifts, passion and needs.

However you discover your sense of call, the story of Moses and the Exodus reminds us that God’s call changes everything.

For Moses, his life was turned upside down.  He went from being a criminal on the run…laying low and tending the flocks, to become the man who confronted the pharaoh.

And this simple act…God’s call, changed everything for the Jewish people.  They were set free from Egypt, and they walked, literally from slavery to freedom…from a land of pain and death, to the promised land.

Your sense of call may not result in anything quite so historically dramatic.  But always know that in the waters of baptism, God spoke your name.  God did so because of His great love for you.  He called you his beloved child.  And he continues to call to you, every day.  He continues to draw you close and to nudge you along the way; because of love.

And this action…this call from God…this changes everything.

Thanks be to God!

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