Sermon for 1/22/18 Matthew 4:-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

I want to talk today a little bit about call and the foolishness of the cross. For reference, then, I will be touching a bit on our Gospel lesson as well as that lesson from 1st Corinthians. What constantly surprises me about God and God’s actions towards me are the ways that God prepares me for the tasks that I am called to or will be called to. Maybe part of the foolishness of the cross is that God does call and prepare me, a lowly sinner, for things greater than I can ever imagine. Everything in my life that I thought I couldn’t do or shouldn’t do, God prepared me for.

Let me start by talking about call. Call isn’t language we use in the church very often. We may say the words “job” or “passion” or even “hobby”. When I talk about call (and as I talk about it today) what I am referring to is the roles in your life for which God created you. My calls for instance are wife, mom, daughter, friend, sister, pastor, dog-mom, advocate, feminist, and humorist (just to mention a few). When I talk about call, it may not necessarily be something you are paid for or maybe it is. I am lucky that my call to be a pastor is something I am paid for. Maybe your 8-5 job pays the bills, but it is whatever you do after you clock out that really lights your fire or that really makes you feel like you have purpose.

Our Gospel today talks about the calling of the disciples. Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, and on both occasions the disciples stop what they are doing and immediately follow Jesus. Talk about faith! They didn’t wait until their 401K’s reached a certain amount. They didn’t wait until new fishermen could be hired. They didn’t even give a 2-week notice. They immediately went. It’s as if the disciples knew that they were being called to something greater than themselves. They knew that what they were responding to was their hearts desire. And the foolishness of the cross was that Jesus called a bunch of nobodies. Jesus could have called members of the empire, kings, the rich or well off. But, instead he called fishermen. While this was a noble profession, it certainly wasn’t popular or well paying.

One of the things I love about the call of the disciples is their actions. They don’t give Jesus a list of reasons why they shouldn’t be disciples or why they can’t be disciples, they just go. I don’t know about you, but when I feel God is calling me to something new, I immediately start to think God is wrong (which, by the way, is the wrong move). “God,” I thought “I don’t think I’m meant to be a wife, I struggle with self love.” Then God sent me Chris. “God,” I continued “I don’t feel that burning desire to be a mom. I doubt I’ll be any good at this parenting thing.” And God sent me Ellen. “God, I wasn’t even raised Lutheran…are you sure I’m supposed to be a pastor?” Then, God sent me to seminary. The foolishness of the cross is that God prepares the called and not the other way around.

I also keep saying the phrase “the foolishness of the cross.” This comes from our first Corinthians reading for today. It says “for the message about the cross is foolishness.” What is the message of the cross and what makes it foolish? No matter what you think the message is, it all boils down to one answer: love. The message of the cross is forgiveness. But we are forgiven because God loves us. The message of the cross is grace. But we are given grace because God loves us. The message of the cross is mercy, hope, salvation, and redemption. But, all of that is really just love. The love that comes from the cross and because of the cross is offensive. Seriously, it’s super offensive. The person you just can’t stand? God loves them. The person who you wouldn’t swerve to miss? God loves them. And most offensive? God loves you. Because no matter what you’ve done or not done, God loves you. The fact that God loves you is foolish.

The fact that God loves you, loves me, or loves any of us is foolish. But that is the message of the cross: love; and often, that message doesn’t make any sense, thus it is foolish. And this love, as I’ve told you time and time again, is something you receive without any strings attached and without doing anything or maybe (more appropriately) despite what you’ve done. This love is a gift: a life-saving gift. Because God loves you, God created you for life-giving, soul-enriching work. This, my brothers and sisters, is your call. Theologian Frederick Buechner says “the place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Think about that for just a moment: the world is hungry for something and the world can be fed by whatever it is that brings you great joy.

Our own foolishness, however, comes in the denial of this call. “No God, you don’t mean me” or “God, perhaps you meant to call someone else to this” or, worse yet, we do our best to just ignore God. Trust me when I say that if you try and ignore God, God gets louder. A call from God usually comes one of two ways: internally (where you just feel unsettled in your soul) and/or externally (when someone says to you “have you ever thought about…”). Don’t be quick to dismiss any of that. We serve a God who loves us (again, the foolishness of the cross). We serve a God who protects us. We serve a God who showers grace and mercy upon us. Do you really think that this same God would call you to a life, a vocation, a living that isn’t anything but fulfilling and life-giving?

So what is it that God is calling you to do? Maybe you’re already doing it. What is it that is causing the hunger in your soul? Are you feeding that hunger with excuses? “I’ll do it when I retire.” “I’ll do it when the kids leave the house.” “I’ll do it when I have enough time (or money).” The excuses do only one thing: feed our fear. Fear is fed by our excuses and the more we feed it, the more it grows. Fear is counterproductive to love. As our psalm said today, God is our light and salvation and the stronghold of our lives. Who can we fear? When God calls you to serve the world you answer. You rise up. The foolishness of the cross is that Jesus died for you. Jesus didn’t die so you could ignore the call of God. Jesus didn’t suffer so you could feed fear with excuses. Jesus didn’t bleed so that you could just go through life and going through the motions.

It’s foolish that God calls any of us to discipleship in God’s name, but that’s exactly what God is doing. It’s foolish that God loves any of us despite the amount of sins attributed to our name, but that’s the cross for you. The world is hungry and is waiting for your gifts. God is calling you to something greater than yourself. Yes, it’s scary and uncertain. But, it’s also rewarding and life-giving. And if whatever you think God is calling you to makes you feel foolish, never ever forget that you are in good company.  

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