Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amhert, NY
You have a call story – a story of God naming you and claiming you, setting you apart and sending you on a mission. Call stories are normally thought of in terms of the saints and rock-stars of our faith. It is clear to us that Mother Theresa was called and that Martin Luther King Jr. was called. Secondarily, we often believe that pastors, deacons, and other ministers are “called.” However, we don’t often see ourselves (and by “ourselves” I mean “everybody”) as called in the same way. And yet, it is true. You have a call story.
In the waters of baptism God called you by name. God named you as a son or a daughter – a beloved child. You were set apart; you were invited to walk a new path. And you were sent on a mission to live your faith in the world. Yes, I’m talking about YOU. You have a call story.
Like Jonah who runs away (Jonah 1:1-4), Jacob who wrestles with God (Gen. 32:22-32), or Jeremiah who questions God’s judgment (Jer. 1:4-10), we often struggle with our call. We doubt that God would have big plans for us. It seems insurmountable that we could do those impressive things we see from the superheroes of our faith. Like Jonah, Jacob and Jeremiah we give ourselves a free pass to run, wrestle and doubt. But that is what we have to remember… Every person who followed God’s call initially struggled with it. Even the rock-stars of our faith found God’s call ridiculous and impossible.
When God calls to Jeremiah, for instance, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God’s call to Jeremiah starts with so much affirmation it would make a Hallmark card blush. We might expect Jeremiah to respond with, “That’s nice. How exciting. Thanks.” But he doesn’t.
Rather, what Jeremiah says is, “Ah! Lord God! You have the wrong guy. I’m just a boy. I can barely put a sentence together.”
So, God lays it on thicker, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” Now, God doesn’t leave it at that. God won’t let mere logic, reason or reassurance be Jeremiah’s hope. God takes it a step further. Scripture says at this point God reaches out and touches Jeremiah’s lips.
God’s touch does not totally dispel Jeremiah’s doubt, but it is enough to inspire him to action. And from that point, Jeremiah’s story is one of courage and faithfulness (in spite of self-doubt).
In the same way that God reached out to Jeremiah, God reaches out and touches us. (Moreover, we ought to remember, our God chased Jonah and God will chase us too – our God wrestled with Jacob and will wrestle us too.) If a Hallmark card won’t work, our God will find a way to reach us, lift us up, and inspire us to action.
God’s call is initiated in the waters of baptism. God’s call is affirmed in the body and blood of our Lord at the altar. God’s call is pressed into our flesh during the passing of peace and present every time the Incarnate Word finds its way into our hungry hearts.
The call stories of the heroes of our faith are far less romantic than we make them. They include doubt, fear, failure, and struggle in the midst of hope, faith, accomplishment and new life. In that way, they are exactly like ours.
Inspired by God’s message and touch through Word and sacrament may you have the courage to live your call story. In case you are wondering where to start, here is what God called you to in the waters of baptism:
Will you live among God’s faithful people? Will you hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper? Will you proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed? Will you serve all people, following the example of Jesus? Will you strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
May we boldly reply together: We will and we ask God to help and guide us. You have a call story. Yes, YOU.
In the way, PSDH
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.