June 11, 2023 Sermon: Oh Sure God, Call Me!(?)
Rev. Steve Nofel
First & Franklin Presbyterian Church
June 11, 2023
Oh Sure God, Call Me!(?)
Matthew 9:18, As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax-collection station, and he said to him, “Follow me.”
One of the things that brought me to Baltimore Presbytery and now to FF is a very simple spiritual exercise that has had a huge impact on my relationship with Jesus and my life.
My dear friends and 20+ year partners in ministry Kris & Brian Peterson, who are elders, life coaches and church consultants, urged me to select a word that relates to God and life and center on it for a calendar year.
Honestly, I am way to impatient / flighty / shallow to have just one word for the whole year. So, I choose a different centering word for different seasons of the year.
From fall of 2021 through spring of 2022, my word was CALL. My guiding Scripture was Ephesians 4:1, the Apostle Paul’s urging to “consider the call to which you have been called.”
I sat down and listed gobs call stories in the Scriptures. Then I studied and I prayed through each of these call stories in turn. This helped me realize my calling is to Transitional Ministry. I came to MD. But that is a story for another day.
Today, I want help us all realize, we are all called by Jesus to “Come follow me.”
And there no one way to answer God’s call in the Scriptures or in life. There are all kinds of different responses to God’s call.
As the called we are in different places in life and in our faith journeys. All our backgrounds are different. We have all experienced God differently.
We certainly all have different levels of energy, enthusiasm, intelligence, and love.
Yet, all are called and all serve the Lord, sometimes with gladness and at other times through gritted teeth.
As I do an abbreviated roll-call of some of the Called in the Bible I ask you to reflect:
- Which of these called do you identify? Or have you identified?
- How can reflecting on our Biblical brothers and sisters inform and guide Christ’s call to you to “Come follow me?”
- How might you live into the calling in which you have been called?
Abraham & Sarah – In today’s first lesson, Abraham went on a road trip. Got away to talk with God and figure things out. Surrounded himself with loved ones and those whom he trusted. But, he wasn’t always so obedient or confident.
We are always quick to point out that Sarah laughed out loud when God came calling. So did Abraham. We are too darned old / Our time has passed.
And it seems we are all too something
- Moses – “Oh no, no, (stutter) no.”
- Gideon – How Can I? I have too many doubts.
- Ruth & Naomi – Not a good time for God to come calling. They were both mourning and in the midst of tragedy. More so, God called when Naomi was completely disappointed with her life and angry with God.
- Esther – I don’t have any real gifts to offer to God, and if I did, I am too scared to act. But maybe Jesus is calling for a time such as this
- Jeremiah & Timothy – I am too young.
- Circle back to feeling too old. Elizabeth & Zechariah / Anna & Simeon – Too Old School. Maybe God is asking you to bring wisdom and build upon on our legacies.
- One of my favorites is the Prophet Amos – God calls, Amos knee-jerks his reaction. Nope. I have enough to do and a real job. OK, Lord…
- Jacob & Judge Jephthah – God calls even those who are wily. And they show, even as God’s chosen, can still mess up.
- Speaking of sinning and falling short. The Psalmist cries out with perfect frankness, “A sinner I was born. A sinner I was conceived.” Ole Matthew, Zacchaeus, The Woman with the Hemorrhage and Mary M. and even the Synagogue Leader hear the voices around them and even the voices in their heads saying they are not enough, sinners not worthy.
In Luke’s version of Peter’s call story, he says, “Get away from me Lord, I am surely not worthy.” When I am reminded of this story, I always say in my head, “Who is worthy? If Jesus were looking for the perfect, he would be all alone, wouldn’t he?”
All of us are not public speakers or leaders of committees or natural elders and deacons. Joseph, the Husband of Mary is our hero. He was obedient to the nth degree, but never says a word in the whole Bible.
Then we have those who hear the call through ways some of us can never hear and live into the ministry in ways as individuals we can’t.
- The Prophet Miriam –through song. “Sing to the Lord, for God has gloriously triumphed.”
- Mary the Mother of Jesus – “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”
Some live out their calling not as leaders but as GREAT teammates:
- Aaron – spoke for his brother.
- General Barak following Judge Deborah. Also the Ministry Team (Luke, Mark, Timothy, Titus, Silas) around the Apostle Paul – Teamwork! We don’t have to do this alone: Think of the song “I will follow you.”
- Jonathan the crown prince, who supported his dear friend David – You’ve Got a Friend.
- Philip & Andrew – who lived into another song, Show Me the Way
- Joshua – Decades of apprenticeship under Moses. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!
- The Once Gerasene Demoniac – After being healed, thought he knew his calling – “Jesus, I am gonna go where you go.” But Jesus gave him another ministry. “You stay home and tell of what God has done for you.” Some of us are overseas missionaries. Others of us are stay at home evangelists.
God just doesn’t call the reluctant, but those with ego-strength as well.
- Isaiah – “Here I am send me!” Confident / Bold
- Lydia – Called to be a Pioneer: First European Christian, Woman Pastor
- John the Baptist – The first cradle Christian, was always bold sure of himself and his ministry.
- Paul – Knocked down / bowled over by God on the Road to Damascus. Yet in each telling of the call story, the emphasis changes because God is doing a new thing in his life.
One of my all-time favorites. Ananias – He is in Damascus praying, “Jesus use me.” When God does demand he live into his call by ministering to Paul. He says, “Oh no! I can’t do it.” And does ti anyway, no doubt with knees shaking.
One of my best brags is that I am a Presbyterian Woman. I mean officially, by action of the PW of Western Colorado Presby. And one of my favorite stories of living into our call of Tabitha also known as Dorcas, the first Presbyterian Woman – Following Jesus by doing what she did every day.
In Acts 9, Dorcas dies and the church in Joppa sends out an SOS to Peter. Come quick – disaster in our church. When Peter arrives they tell him Dorcus is dead. We can’t go on without her. Just look at the quilts, blankets and clothes she made for those in need.
Some respond to God and serving humanity by sewing. Before you leave today, come to the chapel and see this ministry in lived out.
I urge you to listen to Jesus saying to you! “Come follow me.” No matter who you are, no matter what is said about you, or what you say to yourself.
Jesus says to you, “Come follow me.” And remember there is no one way to follow Jesus. Some sing. Some can’t. Some preach through words. Others follow the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, preach at all times, and only sometimes use words.
Like the apostle Paul, I beg you to consider the call to which you have been called.
You are great in God’s eyes. You are called. You can do it. You are doing it.
ABOUT REV. STEVE NOFEL: Steve was originally ordained in another denomination 32 years ago. He has been a PCUSA pastor for 28 plus years. His wife, Kim, is also a PCUSA pastor. Right after they were married, they moved to her first call in southeast Nebraska. Steve fell into interim / transitional ministry and found his calling. He served as an interim minister for 11 years. Then Kim and Steve became co-pastors for 12 years in Cortez, Colorado. After leaving Cortez, he once again found his niche in transitional ministry. Steve has been serving congregations in Baltimore Presbytery as “Staff Interim” for the last year.