Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Audio from Sunday, Sept. 21

Sermon from Sunday, Sept. 21

Abbreviated sermon this week--Sue Hegarty (ECBC member and ABC-USA missionary to Cuba) helped me to speak on how the church helps us to find our calling. My portion of the remarks are below--for Sue's portions, listen to the audio (above)!

Based on the last few verses of Ephesians 2, that grand picture of the church.

Last week, in talking about the stewardship of our spiritual gifts, we talked about a way to begin to discern where God has called us. Now this is not just something I’m blathering on about—it’s very important to our church and it’s very important to us finding a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. If we want to be happy, and if we want our church to reflect the Kingdom of God to the world, it depends on us knowing and living out our calling.
So to begin to get a handle on that, we talked about finding your calling where your deep joy and the world’s deep hunger meet. Where that thing that makes you feel uniquely fulfilled meets the deep needs of the world—that is where God has called you.
Today, I want to talk about something related to this, and that is the idea of the church. After all, if life is just about each of us individually running around and finding our calling, then there’s no real need for the church, is there? I mean, you can find your calling and I can find my calling and we can just all do that on our own. But to think that way sells the church short. God’s plans for the church are really quite grand; we are not just a bunch of people who get together and sing and preach and serve. Listen to the text that Val read this morning from Ephesians 2: “…you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” The idea is that we’re not just a bunch of scattered individuals, but we are members of a community called the church that transcends geography, that transcends time, and that all together, the church is God’s house. God lives in his people, over all times and all places, and each time we come together to worship, we show that God to the world in the way we live together. Think about that next time you want to skip church! Seriously, the idea is that we don’t come together because we have to, or even because we experience something special, but we come together because we are being built together into God’s house.
So the church is very important in God’s mind, and should be important to us. And many people who have found their calling will tell you that the church is very important in helping to clarify their calling. After all, if God speaks through his church, then we need to be listening to each other to find our calling. Today, I want to talk a little bit about two different ways that this works in my life, and I want to thank Sue Hegarty for joining me to talk about how she has seen the church help discern her calling as well.
The first way in which I believe the church is helpful in finding our calling might seem kind of funny, but it is that church is a safe place to fail. Now you may wonder what I mean by that; after all, when we take on act of service for God through the church, we want to succeed and do a truly excellent job. That’s true—it’s important to me that sermons don’t come out half-baked, that when my job calls for listening, that I’m actually listening—we want to do a good job.
Yet the church is always a silent reminder that God gives us a safe place to fail. Why? Because it is made up of people who get together every week to, among other things, remind each other that we fail, that there is a God who redeems us even though we are failures. Each week we look at the cross and we remember that we have failed but that God is good and has saved us when we could not save ourselves.
So that means that we should not be afraid to fail. When we are trying to learn our calling, trying to figure out what place of service is best for us, we can try things out and not be afraid to fail. Why? Because in the end, the mission of our church—to reach out and touch the world with the love of God—depends on God, not solely on us. Yes, God wants to use us to do His will, but when we fail in trying, he is good and very good at making the difference. I’ve asked Sue Hegarty to talk a little bit about this in her experience in Cuba…
(Sue talks 5-7 minutes)
Thanks, Sue. The other way that the church can be helpful in determining our calling is through stretching us. Last week I mentioned that we don’t know ourselves perfectly—we can’t see ourselves as others see us. Being in relationship with other people is an important piece in knowing your calling. We all need to know people who see talents in us that we can’t see, that say, “You know what, Mike? You’re really good at x.” And at the same time, we need people who will be honest with us and kindly tell us when we’re messing up! Church can be a great place to connect with people who will help us in finding our calling by stretching our ideas of what we can do, by making us realize we are capable of far more than we think sometimes. I’ll ask Sue to share a couple stories about this, from her time in Cuba and also her time in Exton.
(Sue talks 5-7 minutes)
All Christians thank God sometimes for their churches. Yes, sometimes they can be hassles, but all of us have known the privilege of having a people who will pick you up and care for you when you are going through a difficult time. It is my prayer that our church will not only provide that sort of comfort, but also will provide a challenge: it is my prayer that in our life together we will begin to help each other live up to the potential God has given us. We are not merely a group of people who get together on Sunday; we are being built into a living house in which the world can see God. I invite you now to join us in the Fellowship hall for our ministry fair, where you will have a chance to learn more about your calling at the tables that talk about our churches’ many ministries. You also will have a chance to take a personality inventory and talk with Pastor Mike and Pastor Herbert about where God may be calling you to serve Him in the world today. Thanks to Sue Hegarty for sharing so much about Cuba this morning during the Sunday School hour and for sharing so much of your heart with us here in morning worship. May God use you to follow his call and to lead others to follow his call too.