4th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

You know, being in a "call-based" community really makes us more aware at the prevalence of Call Stories in scripture.

This week, we're going to pick up where last week's KC worship left off. Last week's lectionary featured Jesus sitting in the temple in his hometown having read from the prophet Isaiah, declaring himself the fulfillment of that prophecy. We were reminded that this portion of the gospel story is sometimes referred to as Jesus' mission statement.

But not all of our individual calls come through so clearly. We are seldom able to state them with such resolve, and our own experience is that our calls morph and bend and change over time and experience. And sometimes we know what we are supposed to do, sometimes we know how we are supposed to do it, and sometimes we don't want to do what we are called to do, and sometimes we don't like where we're called to. And sometimes the guidance is how not what. It's a mixed up bag. And it seems that bag is kind of tossed at us this week in a jumbly heap.

Jeremiah's call story is like many of the prophets. He resists, insists that he is not prepared. In particular, he tells God that he doesn't know how to speak. And God's response is to give him God's words, quite literally, touching his mouth. Now watch for next week's passage, because there is a similar theme. Our mouths and our words must be an important part of call...and isn't it sort of human nature to feel ill equipped to be a messenger for God? God also leaves Jeremiah with hefty responsibility - "I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." That's big stuff.

The Psalmist's petition for God's refuge seems like sort of a fitting response to the weighty reality of any call. If we're going to take this call stuff seriously, we better be asking for this care and shelter and guidance.

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, we read a really iconic verse about love. And while it is a lovely sentiment, it's a little difficult to figure out why we're reading it in this lectionary collection. It turns out this is less of a Call Story and more of an explanation of how to go forward in your call....sort of a Call Equipping passage. If you read a little more - the chapter before and the chapter that follows - it starts to address call in some way. The preceding chapter is Paul's explanation of the church as a body made up of many parts. The chapter that follows is a description of the many kinds of spiritual gifts that we might have and the many ways they might be used. And nestled in between is an important reminder that our actions, our intentions, our relationships are nothing if not practiced in love. It's an important reminder of HOW we must carry out whatever we care called to do. In love. With love.

Finally, in our continued reading from Luke's gospel, Jesus follows up his revealed mission statement with a bit of a poke at the hometown crowd. He basically tells his hometown fans that he hasn't really come to serve only them - he recounts the story of Elijah and the Widow and Elisha and Namaan. And he points out that while there were plenty of Israelites that God could have helped through these prophets' actions, God chose instead to have the prophets work with foreigners. Not a bold statement of support for the home team! And the actions of both Elijah and Elisha were a little unorthodox - Elijah insisting that the widow feed him in a time of great famine and Elisha prescribing a ritual bath in the Jordan for Naaman of Syria. These prophets were called to do unexpected, unfathomable things and along the way to serve those that were not understood as the chosen of God. This call thing takes us to uncharted waters and sets outrageous expectations and somehow it all works together to make a difference.

Our community spends a lot of time thinking about what it means to Hear, Receive, and Respond to the Call of God in our lives. Most of us can identify with the anxiety and fear a Call sometimes creates. Most of us have calculated out the ramifications of following toward what we feel God is calling us to do. And still, God Calls us. God Calls us to love ourselves, to love each other, to love the world around us...and to love God. It is hard, and still God Calls.

God, this really can be difficult.
The world around me presents so many wonderful options
that have nothing to do with making it a better place...
things that are easy for me to do and that make my life
easier and softer and safer.
And then, when I look deeper, the world also presents so many
horrible things.
So many people and places and things that are in
desperate need to be loved and cared for and nurtured.
And often attending to the second option precludes
the first option.
This can be really difficult.
Like Paul, I know the things I want to do
and I often don't do them.
Guide me as I attempt to love You.
Help me as I attempt to love Your Creations.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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