Answering God’s Call
November 20, 2022
Before I was began my work in the church, I was a stay at home mom. I spent a lot of time in elementary school, junior high and then high school parking lots waiting for my son.
I went to parent association meetings and Science Olympiad meets. I volunteered with the strings program, riding the bus and carrying music stands and a box of safety pins for repairing uncooperative bow ties. I spent evenings camped out at youth orchestra rehearsals, knitting or writing or reading. I was busy, busy and happy. You see, I had a plan.
When my son graduated from high school and off to college I was going to write a book. I had years of notes and journals and poems. I had a plan!
I would sit and look out the window in the quiet house. I would drink tea and write. I had a plan.
And yet, here I am, a newly licensed local pastor. Things have not gone quite the way I thought they would. God had something else in mind for me.
But more on that later. First, let’s talk about salt.
The scripture we heard today “you are the salt of the earth” “you are the light of the world” falls just after the beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. And so on…
And as peculiar as the promises of happiness, or blessedness found in the beatitudes are they seem to rest in part on a kind of theology of discipleship | on the ability of the followers of Jesus (and now, that is us) to attend to the wounds of the world with the saltiness of God, to be the light that illuminates a way forward in impossible circumstances – and to do these things as if it is just who we are, like it’s second nature.
However, the passage Byrd just read is very clear. Jesus does not say you will be the salt of the earth or you can learn to become the light of the world. Jesus says you are, here and now, salt. You are, here and now, light.
This means that we are to bring some salt, some divine flavor, to our relationships with each other and to the world. We are to be agents of enrichment, preservation and transformation to those we encounter.
So then, what does it mean to be the light of the world? Sounds like a pretty tall order to me. I think of it like this – we as a gathered community, and as individuals, have the awesome responsibility to be a mirror, a mirror that reflects God’s light – so that everyone can see God’s great love and justice and mercy in action. We are tasked with nothing less than bringing light to a dark and broken world.
That seems like big work, doesn’t it? So how might we go about this?
Annie Dillard writes “ I cannot cause light – the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.”
And this is where we circle back to my story, remember? My son was heading off to college and I had a plan. | But God had a different plan.
At first, I had plenty of reason for shaking my head in a firm no. I had a plan. I was too old. But God saw something in me that I couldn’t begin to imagine and pursued me around this church with a persistent beam of light. No matter what I was doing, I would look and notice the illumination. Oh, it’s you again.
I continued to shake my head and remind God and anyone else who would listen, I had a plan. But God kept whispering this possibility into my heart and when I finally surrendered and stepped into this robe and into this appointment as your associate pastor, it was, to quote Annie Dillard again,
It was as if I had been my whole life a bell and never knew it until I was lifted and struck.
And here is something I know for certain. God has a plan for every one of you. I thought I was serving God in the best way I knew how as a Sunday school teacher but God kept calling me deeper and deeper into God’s plan. God had bigger work in mind for me – and God has bigger work in mind for you. God has bigger work in mind for this congregation.
And of course, when God begins to whisper into your heart or chase you around with a beam of light you can always pass. You can always say no thank you. However, it comes at a price. It comes at the price of staying right where you are, just as you are. To begin to see God’s plan for you, you have to be willing to risk a yes – even if it disrupts your plan.
What does it really mean to answer God’s call? How are we to live if we dare to say yes? These are good questions. I can assure you, saying a holy yes to God does not come with an instruction manual.
Although, perhaps, today’s scripture can give us a hint.
Be the salt. Be the light.
Listen for God’s quiet voice calling to you, or catching you in its beam of light.
Because, friends, has there ever been a time when saying yes to God was more important than right now?
Look around, we are engulfed in cultural and societal and economic rifts. We are divided by disagreements and politics.
And this is not the path to the kingdom of God. This is not where the church belongs and it is not where we belong.
We are in the business, God’s business, of flinging wide our doors and our arms of welcome, of gathering everyone in no matter what. We are in the business of spreading the salt of God’s love and reflecting the light of God’s justice and mercy. We are salty and well-lit followers of Christ.
I believe compassion and wholeness and love to be our truest song.
Perhaps there is salt and light that only you can share? Perhaps God is calling you into passionate participation in the kingdom work of this church?
Next Sunday, is the first Sunday in the season of Advent, a new beginning in the circle of the church year | and we will gather together to prepare our hearts to come close to the mystery of the incarnation, the glorious impossible, the great mystery of Christmas.
Is there any better time to tune your ear to the whispering, the gentle nudges toward the work that God is calling you to? During this season of waiting and watching and preparation I encourage you, lean in | listen. That beam of light, might just be looking for you.