Bible Text: 1 Samuel 3, Micah 6:6-8 | Preacher: Rev.M. | Series: Getting to Know You | Well here we are. The first Sunday with the new pastor. I know some of you may be feeling excited. What new things are going to happen? How will Pastor Michael be different than some of our former pastors? And I also know some of you may be feeling worried or scared about what new things are going to happen. You may be wondering the same question of just how different this new pastor will be compared to some of the others we have had. But let’s face it, change can be a scary thing. As humans, we very often tend to resist the changes in life that come about, even the ones we set in motion ourselves.
We can see this resistance in the changes that occur in our immediate community and the larger world. Every four years our country holds an election for the office of the President. To the best of my knowledge, no candidate has ever been elected with one hundred percent of the vote. And when we look at the immediate aftermath, there are always those who are not pleased with the new change, just as there are those who are celebrating and full of excitement. Even a change as small as moving a piece of furniture in your home to a new spot can cause unrest, and if you are not careful stubbed toes or banged knees.
So just what is it about change that we seem to fear so much? Is it really just the inconvenience, or the unknown, or maybe the stubbed toes? Well, in the case of a new pastor I think it is much more than that. New pastors add or remove things from the service. I am sure by this point in today’s service you have already noticed some differences. And there may be more to come as we get to know each other better. But new pastors, they can be such a pain sometimes you know. They might pick weird songs that no one knows. They move things around in the sanctuary or other places in the church. They even look different and talk differently a lot to times. They are just kind of…different.
And all of these things, all of these differences and changes, they mean that sometimes, the important things to us in our churches and worship services may get lost or changed. These are things that are part of our identity, of who we are. And when they are changed, our identity is changed. Our history is changed. We are changed. And that can be scary.
But I need you to know, right now in this moment, that I do not make change for change’s sake. And I welcome input from others. That does not mean that I will always follow that input, but I do want to hear it and want you to know that I care about you and want to know your journeys, your struggles, your stories. Sometimes pastors will change something that to them seems simple or insignificant, but they end up having a dramatic impact on others.
So, as we begin our new journey together, working in God’s ministry, to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, I ask for grace. I ask for grace that I will not learn everyone’s name this first Sunday. I ask for grace that I may change something that is important to you. But just as I ask for that grace from you, please know that I extend that same grace to each and every single one of you. And I ask that you grant me the space and time to get to know all of you so that we can be vital to the work of God in the world.
Speaking of getting to know you, that is the title for our first sermon series together! For the next four weeks I will be using some of the scripture passages you chose and submitted for me. These are passages that you may love because of how they speak to you or maybe offer encouragement or comfort. But some of these passages are also ones that maybe you have struggled with, wrestled with how it informs your understanding of God, the world, or a myriad of other things.
My hope is that through preaching of some passages that hold meaning or importance to you, you will come to understand how I understand them. That you will come to see how my context, my life experience, my traditions, and my knowledge of Scripture work together in how I understand God, God’s relationship with humanity and creation, and God’s love and grace.
Now many pastors on their first Sunday will tell their call story, or the story of how they can to feel that they are called to serve God in pastoral ministry. But the truth is that pastors are not the only ones in this life who are called. We profess a belief in the priesthood of all believers. We are all called to serve and worship God using the gifts and graces that God has bestowed upon us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now that does not exactly mean that we are all called to pastors. But we are all called to serve God in ways that allow us to use those gifts and graces for God’s glory. People who are gifted musicians or singers may be called to lift praises to God, and often to help lead others in doing the same. Those who are gifted builders and fixers may be called to help maintain the sanctuary and church building spaces. Those who are good listeners and a calming presence may be called to counsel and support those struggling in life. No matter what gifts and graces you have been given, there is a call out to you from God to use those gifts and graces to join in working in God’s ministry.
Throughout Scripture, we find countless examples of God calling people to help out or do something in God’s ministry. Abraham and Sarah were called to become a great nation. Noah was called to help preserve life. Moses was called to lead God’s people out of slavery and into the promised land. David was called to rule and lead God’s people. Isaiah and Jeremiah were called to be prophets of God’s word to the world. And many, many, many more.
In our reading from first Samuel chapter three we find the call story of Samuel. This young boy was serving under the priest Eli and we are told that the word of the Lord was rare in those days, that visions were not widespread or regularities. But one night, God’s voice was loud and booming and calling out to this young boy. God calls to Samuel three times, but Samuel does not realize it is God, but instead thinks that Eli is calling to him for something. Eli thankfully realizes that it is God who is calling the young boy and tells Samuel how to respond if God calls him again.
And so, Samuel responds when God calls again just as he was told, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” How awesome is that response? “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Now I don’t know just how many call stories from pastors you have heard, but I think it is fair to say they don’t all go this way. In fact, it is often the exact opposite.
In my case, I felt a calling since probably sometime in my childhood, but I didn’t understand it, kind of like how Samuel didn’t realize it was God not Eli calling out to him. But here is where my story and Samuel’s go in different directions. Where once Samuel understood it was God calling him and readily accepted the call, I did not. I got really good at coming up with reasons, or excuses really, not to answer affirmatively to my calling.
It wasn’t a good time. I had just started a new job. How would I even go about it? I’d be starting over with so much. And so, I resisted. God never gave up on me thankfully and I would continue to feel this call even though I resisted it. Until one day when I came home from a very challenging day at work and I looked at Sarah and I said, “You know it’s days like this I’d like to quit my job and become a pastor.” And her response knocked me off my feet. She said, “So why don’t you?”
Now if you ask her, Sarah will tell you her tone and phrasing had more to do with her frustration with hearing me complain about my job and the politics there. But for me, I heard not the exasperated voice of my wife, but the voice of God saying, “Yeah, so why don’t you? I’ve only been calling to you for over twenty years, let’s get going!” And that night we talked about what that kind of change would mean for us in our lives, for our hopes and dreams, and concluded that I needed to start looking into how I could accomplish this and what it would take.
I will tell you that I slept better that night than I had in at least six months, if not longer. And the next morning as I made my way to my office door down the long hallway I was practically skipping. Thankfully I started at like six in the morning, so no one saw me. But I felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt God’s embrace, God’s love, and I was so full of joy. One of my coworkers who I had become good friends with noticed almost immediately the change in my attitude, my eyes, everything.
Fast forward through three years of seminary, five years at my first appointment, and here we are today. So that is how I got here. But what about each of you? How did you end up here? Did your parents or grandparents belong to this church? Did you just walk through the doors one Sunday and decide to stick around? Did someone invite you to come one week and join in worship? Each of you has your own call story too. You have a call story to this congregation. You have a call story to your faith in God and acceptance of Jesus as your savior, all through love and grace.
Now I said earlier that we are all called to different things based on our gifts and graces that God bestows upon us. Some are called to teach, some to heal, some to build, some to listen, and so on. But there are a few things that we are all called to do or participate in the same. Let’s jump back to our reading from the sixth chapter of the book of Micah for a moment. In verses sixth through eight we find the following:
“’With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Right there in verse eight, we find exactly what we are ALL called to. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” We are called to do justice, to stand up for the oppressed and broken. We are called to love kindness, to show love and grace to all peoples without any exception. John three sixteen says “For God so loved the world.” It doesn’t say “For God so loved the world, except for the following groups of people…”
And we are called to walk humbly with our God. That one is probably one of the harder ones at times. Not that I am saying we are all conceited or full of ourselves. Rather it can be easy to fall into the trappings of this world and become so focused on our own problems and situations, that we sometimes forget that God is always walking alongside us. We are never alone. There is no place in all creation that God is not, and that God will call us to go that God will not also be there with us every step of the way.
When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus replied to love God and love your neighbor. To love God, we must walk humbly with God. And to love our neighbor, we must seek justice for all people, we must show love to all people, we must emulate the love and grace that God so freely gives. We are also called to show love for one another by forgiving each other. We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus Christ if we are unwilling to love people and forgive each other. It won’t always be easy, but we are called by God to do those things, every single day.
Now one of the things that I have gotten into the habit of doing at the end of my messages is issuing a challenge to the congregation. Don’t worry, it’s not the like Hunger Games or even a trust fall exercise. But I want you to spend this week we are heading into and take a few moments to listen to where God might be calling you. You may never have felt God’s calling or are unsure what it might sound or look like. In truth, it can be different for everyone. Or maybe you have heard God’s call before and think you are following it just fine. But remember, God’s call on us may expand or change based on what God needs us to be doing in the world.
Listen for that call. And do your best to practice faithfully the universal calls God give us: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God, love God, love your neighbor. Do these things and may God continue to bless you in everything that you do, in every good effort you make, in every act of love you show. Amen.