I speak to you in the name of one God: Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
While preparing this sermon, it became apparent that no matter how much or how long I try, nothing I say can convey just how much this community means to me: how much I love you and how much you have positively impacted and changed my life. Over the past few weeks, I’ve received messages and had conversations where people say things like, “we couldn’t have imagined this time in our church without you . . . You have been the glue holding us together . . . We’ve appreciated your caring presence throughout these hard years of pandemic.” All I can say in response is that I feel the same about you. I am honored and blessed to have journeyed through life’s ups and downs with you. You helped me learn the art of loving a community well by modeling that same love toward me and one another. Mainly, I give thanks that because of you the feelings of doubt and fear I’ve had for years about my call have disappeared; I leave you confident in my call to priesthood; God has a call on my life, and I am ready and equipped to continue doing the work God gives me to do.
*More on this in a moment, but for now I want to point out that having the guts to follow God’s call is no small feat, but then to be affirmed and confident in God’s call is one of the greatest gifts we could ever hope for. And that is what I’d like to emphasize today—no matter your doubts or fears, no matter how insecure or unworthy you may feel, God is calling you. And saying “yes” to God, no matter how hard, no matter how difficult it is to muster up the faith, hope, and trust in God, saying “yes” to God allows you to be transformed and then, with God’s help, to transform the world around you.
God calling God’s people is nothing new and recently, we’ve been hearing stories about call. You might have missed it, but last week we heard Jeremiah’s call narrative, the story of a young child who felt unprepared for and unworthy of the difficult task of being God’s representative to Israel. Today we hear God’s call to Isaiah. Isaiah feels unworthy of God’s favor in the presence of flying, six-winged seraphs, a temple filled with smoke, and the flowing robes which display God’s glory. It is no mistake that we are hearing theses call stories now.
One biblical scholar says that call narratives in the Hebrew Scriptures are important because each one tells us something unique about who God is—each one reveals something different about God. We hear call narratives during the revelatory season after the Epiphany because it gives us an opportunity to examine multiple truths that give a fuller yet still incomplete view of God. Each narrative tells us something about God, but none gives the full picture.
In Moses’ call we learn that God can be experienced as a burning bush, a miraculous sign in nature. In Jeremiah’s call, the Lord physically touches humanity and in doing so gives Jeremiah the words he needs to do God’s will. This week, Isaiah’s call provides a vision of God’s grandeur filling the entire temple with just the hem of God’s robe, to say nothing of the singing seraphim. Throughout the Old Testament, from one call narrative to the next, the view of God expands.
The ultimate revelation of God is the person of Jesus, his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Further, God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, making us part of the Body of Christ. This means that we partake in God’s will and can be the helpers and agents of God’s work in the world. When we respond to God’s call for us, we reveal something unique about God. Like the call narratives of the past, our calling adds to what we know to be true about God.
So, if we, as humans, can help reveal what God is like and share the Good News of God’s redeeming and loving works, why isn’t the world a better place? If saying “yes” to God reveals and brings about God’s work, what is stopping us?
So often, we know what God is calling us to do, but for whatever reason, we let fear or feelings of unworthiness guide our response rather than trusting in our loving God.
All Saints’ friends, the Good News is that we are not alone. While each call narrative is unique, they all have something in common, as well—call narratives teach us that God’s call for us will include uncertainty, some element of sacrifice and challenge, will elicit some level of fear, and will require faith.
Moses and Jeremiah were convinced that God had made a mistake. “I have never been eloquent, and I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” Moses objected. When God wanted to appoint Jeremiah as prophet to the nations, Jeremiah replied, “Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” And before Isaiah even knew what God was calling him to do, Isaiah responded to God’s awesome power and presence by crying out, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips!”
Many of you know this, but even though I felt called to be a priest from a young age, I believed I wasn’t smart enough to be a priest. I didn’t fit the mold of what I thought I priest should or could be. Like Moses and Jeremiah, I thought God was the one who was wrong—God had made the mistake—and from early on in my life, I allowed my fear and shame to dictate my actions.
Do any of these responses sound familiar? I don’t think I’m alone . . .
This is my last sermon here at All Saints’, and out of all the messages I could preach, this is the one I feel called to leave you with: No matter how scary, follow God’s call for you; Say “yes” to God.
God’s response in these call narratives is the same today as it was millennia ago, “Do not be afraid, fear not, I am with you.” The prophets of old followed God’s call, not because of our own ability, but because of God’s help. So can we.
These prophets—these agents of God’s work—only said “yes” because they were assured of God’s presence, love, and help, and this was no different for me. I said “yes” not because of my own ability but because of the support and assistance I received to make the first frightening steps toward transformation. I said “yes” to God who was present in the words of love and encouragement from my friends and family. I said “yes” because of the good and joy I felt and saw as I followed God’s call during seminary. I say “yes” now and again, confident in my call after experiencing God here, with you, in this community. We’ve been through so much together. Your struggles, your loss, your pain made with weep for you, but I also wept when seeing your faithfulness, vulnerability, tenacity, joy, and your strength. This alone strengthened my faith in God, but it is the GRACE I experienced from this community, even when I felt I was falling short, that gives me the confidence to keep following God’s call. In continuing to say “yes” to my call, you transformed me, and my prayer is that my ministry has transformed you.
This place is special. In being a part of this community, I have been changed for the better. Thank you. And as we know from our time together, God has a call for each one of us and for this community; there is nothing you can’t do, together, with God’s help. God is calling. Keep saying “yes.”